Today Cisco Live! in North America kicks off in Las Vegas with about 14,000 attendees. This will be the first of a number of worldwide Cisco Live! events this year with others planned in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. All around the world, Cisco Live! has evolved to become an event where Cisco experts can interact with us and each other, learn technical skills, and stay up-to-date with what’s relevant in the industry. This year’s tag line, “Learn. Connect. Collaborate Together”, applies well to the Cloud market as we bring forward a smarter, stronger, and faster methodology for service delivery. Together.
If you’re going to be here in Las Vegas this week for Cisco Live!, here are some sessions I suggest you check out:
Exhibit Floor: Open all week, I hope you will swing by the World of Solutions. The World of Solutions has demonstrations from a number of innovative cloud partners. As an example, you can see our Service Provider Cloud pod with a demo showing our work with BMC on the Integrated Cloud Delivery Platform and my team will be glad to talk to you about where you stand today, opportunities for us to work together on, and answer any other questions.
Movie Theater at our Partner Pavilion: We have great videos to share with you, including a 3D movie called “Journey to the New Services Universe” and great videos from SAVVIS, NaviSite, Qwest, CSC, BT Global Services, and Terremark to name a few. While over at the theater, please check out what some of our other partners including PAETEC, SunGard, NEC, and Dimension Data are there to talk about regarding the Cloud and their specialties in improving your business.
Enabling the Service Provider Cloud Evolution (Wednesday, Noon-1:30 PM PST): A registration-required lunch event where Cisco invites you to join a distinguished panel of experts (including Jeff Spagnola, VP Sales – Cisco Cloud and Managed Services, Alex Rigaldo, Chief Operations – Orange Business Sytems Cloud Computing, Jesper Andersen, Senior VP – Cisco Network Management Technology Group, Dave Lively, Director – Cisco Systems Development for Cloud/DC, Sidney Morgan, Cisco Distinguished IT Engineer, Vikrant Karvir, VP, Cisco Global Cloud/DC Virtualization Services, and myself) to discuss the latest advances in Cisco’s Service Provider Cloud Architecture. Cisco’s approach to cloud opportunities includes helping to build out the data centers powering the cloud, as well as applying capabilities in the network to enable intelligent connectivity within and beyond the data center. Please use session identification GENSP-4743 to register for the event.
The Network’s Role in Cloud (Tuesday, 8-9:30 AM PST): A brand new session directed at the Service Provider crowd led by Pat Adamiak, Sr. Director, Cisco Service Provider Data Center/Cloud Marketing, on the pivotal role that the network plays for Service Providers in the creation and delivery of differentiated services. The session will cover innovations within the network that enable cloud services, discussing core features, instrumentation, and intelligent automation services to leverage the full capabilities of the SP network and capture the cloud opportunity. This session is listed under BRKSPG-1701 in the event agenda.
I started my professional life using a mainframe. Back then the people running the mainframe world were known as the “data center guys.” These guys had a certain DNA combination that created an expanding waistline, a retreating hairline, a belt buckle the size (and shape) of Texas, and a penchant for big iron. This crowd ruled the data center for a long time, but virtualization in the data center is now driving a radical shift that seems to be changing everything.
Instead of having an application running on a dedicated tower of hardware power, apps are now free from the limitations of the infrastructure underneath. Hardware is evolving rapidly into dynamic blocks of utility computing (and storage and networking) that can be standardized, widely deployed, and efficiently utilized. This change is good news, as it can cut data center costs by 50 percent or more. If the big iron crowd from the mainframe days doesn’t adopt this fundamental shift, they’ll be hanging up their Texas belt buckles in the computer museum next to the punch card, the VAX, and a replica of the ILLIAC.
The same shift is also happening with security. Since most security products are primarily software based, it is not much of an effort to repackage these products as “virtual security.” But merely repackaging security products misses the point. Today’s security architecture was built at a time when the workplace was very different than it is today. End users would come into the office and work on a PC, which sat on a desk and was connected by a wire to a port on the wall. At this time, the IP address was a pretty good proxy for the user’s identity. And applications would each run on their own tower of power—hardware that was often running in a unique data center rack or racks. Therefore segmenting the data center in this era was relatively easy; it was based on IP address ranges and, later, on virtual LANs (or VLANs).
But the workplace of today (and tomorrow) looks very different. We’re no longer tied to a specific lump of hardware. We expect to access our apps in the cloud from any device, at any time, from anywhere. Therefore the IP address is a less useful means of defining data center boundaries.
We need a new capability that allows the security team to maintain its meaningful policy enforcement capability, while enabling that policy to be relevant across all infrastructure—physical and virtual. An important nuance here is that the policy should be consistently enforced across physical infrastructure as well as across virtual infrastructure from any virtualization vendor. This level of enforcement requires special access to the hypervisor. Without this access, a virtual security solution can’t see traffic between two virtual machines (VMs).
How the various security vendors plan to address hypervisor access is still an open question. And how that question gets answered is significant—and is likely to reshape the security vendor landscape.
So as we consider various virtual security solutions, simply repackaging today’s security software as a VM running in a cluster of other VMs is extremely uninteresting. Instead we must reimagine the way that we build and deploy security solutions. How do we bridge the policy model from today’s hardware-based firewalls to the virtual firewalls of tomorrow? How can we maintain a separation of duties, so that security policy definition is separate from traditional network operations? And how will we orchestrate all of these components in the dynamic, nimble data center of tomorrow? These are not small issues. But of course, that’s what makes my job fun.
With its integrated Wi-Fi, 4G data, 720p HD video, and interoperability with Cisco TelePresence systems, not to mention its inclusion of one-click access to WebEx meetings and AppHQ, the new application ecosystem built specifically for Cius, the Cius can be a powerful tool that can help customers collaborate and work from remote locations, both seamlessly and securely.
The Cius enables multiple opportunities for partners to drive sales, offer professional services and expand their customer base, according to Richard McLeod, Cisco’s senior director of collaboration sales in the Worldwide Partner Organization. He says there are opportunities for partners to upgrade their customers’ networks, particularly since it cuts across Cisco’s technology architectures: Collaboration, Data Center and Virtualization, and Borderless Networks.
And that’s definitely what I heard when I chatted with Ken, as well as with Steve Reese, director of solutions marketing for partner Nexus IS, Inc., about their experiences using the Cius and selling it to customers. Ken and Steve also offered advice to partners looking to include in the Cius in their portfolio.
Ah, weather – one of life’s multi-purpose tools. Conversation filler (“Quite the weather we’re having.”), alleged indicator of world’s end and source of inspiration for comic book writers to empower heroes and villains alike.
Weather can also be a Data Center’s best friend. Solar energy can be harvested to help generate power, for instance, such as is happening at Cisco’s Data Center in Allen, Texas. (Look for the 100 kW solar array on the right side of the Data Center’s roof.) Wind energy as well. Rainwater can even be collected for cooling system usage or to irrigate landscaping.
I must confess, the first time I heard about virtual desktop infrastructure it made me think of a scene from the 1985 movie Brazil. (The movie is old enough that I trust I’m not spoiling anything here. If it’s sitting in your Netflix queue and you don’t want anything revealed, though, skip the next paragraph.)
In the scene Sam Lowry, the movie’s main character, struggles to work at his too-small desk that adjoins a nearby wall. The desk shifts, and begins to retract into said wall, causing Sam to yank mightily on it in hopes of recovering some usable desk space. After a brief tug of war, he discovers the source of the problem.
Fortunately, that’s not how virtual desktop technology truly works.
This week’s Data Center Deconstructed question raises the issue of how to determine the ratio of physical servers to virtual desktop instances. As my meandering thoughts of Brazil indicate, I’m not your go-to guy for such information. Ashok Rajagopalan, a product manager in Cisco’s Server Access Virtualization Technology Group, steps in to addresses the topic.