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ACI addresses the Data Center Agility Gap

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Revolutions are usually led by challengers, not incumbents.  But Cisco’s Nov. 6th mega-launch of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is sounding revolutionary as described by some experienced industry watchers.  Any revolution must transform the experience of its participants – in this case , the Application development teams, DevOps and CloudOps that are provisioning new applications in many mid-to-large Enterprise Data Centers.  As John Chambers said at Interop “The ability to create an infrastructure that is agile, simplified, automatically programmable and able to scale on demand is critical to enabling the application model”.  In this blog, we’ll zoom in on “Agility”  as an experience.

The growing agility gap

In the last decade, Cisco and other equipment providers have greatly improved the agility of data center infrastructure – the ability to respond quickly to new demands for scale, performance and security.   Technologies such as a unified fabric, virtualization and infrastructure controllers augmented by intelligent Automation and Governance have greatly simplified the management of the infrastructure.

But there is strong evidence that the demand for agility is increasing even faster – creating a growing agility gap.

RateOfChange

Compared to traditional backoffice applications, new Mobile, Social and Big Data applications  are much more dynamic due multi-tenancy, higher demand peaks, more distributed users, broader device support, varying performance needs,  24x7 global usage, and changing security vulnerabilities.    Furthermore, to run economically at scale with performance and availability, these applications need a mix of virtualized and dedicated, “bare-metal” resources.  And the reality is that only 40% of workloads are virtualized anyway in most enterprise data centers.

These factors are driving more distributed workloads and storage across the data center, more frequent changes to ports, LANs and subnets, more re-configurations of security and load-balancing, more application and flow optimizations and more monitoring and diagnostics to ensure application metrics.

Data center teams are getting overwhelmed.  IDC’s 2011 research showed that total Data Center spend has shifted to these type of management and administration tasks – and that was just for virtualized servers.  New bare metal workloads will increase this spend further as they move to scale, unless something is done.

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In Between the Numbers: Big Pipes and Lean Stores

June 24, 2011 at 9:02 am PST

 Thinking about the ICT future of the store with my colleague Bharat Popat.  Doodling at the mental whiteboard.

 Current state in the lower left.  It’s client-server architecture. Three to six servers per store, depending upon segment and store size. Fat-client POS and desktops. Fans and hard drives. Ongoing break-fix maintenance contracts.  A network pipe just big enough to each night send out batched transactions, inventory, and other performance data, and download the price-item files, promotions, and performance reports.

 Now, a line from the lower left current state all the way to the upper right future.  From the “as is” to the “will be.”  Figuring three to five years.  An assumption that a retailer will want to lead the segment and compete worldwide. 

 Hmmm.

 Grab the pen and draw the line, and as you do so, calculate the evolution of technology and of consumer expectations.  Calculate the impact of global e-commerce, of multi-channel and omni-channel, of smart phones and tablets, of social networks and social shopping.

 Calculate the impact of content clouds and IP video, of augmented reality and “mashops” of virtual into the physical. Calculate the impact of right time data analysis. Calculate dynamic video messaging.

 Calculate how to cut time-to-capability down to weeks, not years.  Calculate how to do more and spend less.

 Now multiply it all by the demographic weight of the tech-savvy Millennial generation.  

 Do the math.  Yes, I’m prejudiced -- I’m a proud Cisco guy.  But it’s the math (not the badge) that leads me to this future state: a retail store that’s a living, breathing website.

 A retail store that’s built on a lean, network-based architecture and a significant increase in network capacity to and from the store.  

 Lean store and big pipe.  

 More about these calculations in weeks ahead.

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