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VersaStack Solution: A Foundation for Innovation

The growth of cloud, mobility, and Internet of Things is accelerating change in the data center. The challenge is to have IT infrastructure that can keep pace with this change. IT leaders want infrastructure that is easy to deploy, increases operational efficiency, and offers the versatility to meet the dynamic requirements of the business.

In order to address these challenges, Cisco and IBM are joining forces to introduce the VersaStack solution, a new integrated system that combines the performance and innovation of Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure—which includes the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), ACI-Ready Cisco 9000 Nexus switches, Cisco MDS switches, and Cisco UCS Director—with the versatility and efficiency of the IBM Storwize V7000 storage.

Why now?
It’s actually quite simple: market momentum and customer demand. Cisco is the leader in the integrated systems segment based on the tremendous success of Cisco UCS. Integrated systems help customers accelerate the time it takes to deploy IT infrastructure and integrate new technologies while reducing risk. Our mutual customers and channel partners have been asking for an integrated system that combined Cisco UCS with IBM Storewize.

What is available today?
The first reference architecture (or Cisco Validate Design) is targeted at virtualized infrastructure by combining Cisco UCS integrated infrastructure and IBM Storwize V7000 storage with VMware vSphere hypervisor. The solution connects Cisco UCS and networking in a redundant, high available configuration with IBM Storwize V7000 storage delivering real-time compression and data analytics capabilities that increases storage utilization and performance.

What can we expect in the future?
One of the exciting things about VersaStack is that it provides a foundation for innovation between Cisco and IBM. The VersaStack solution will provide a platform to bring our unique capabilities together. Obviously, Cisco and IBM both bring more to the table than network, compute and storage technologies. For instance, Cisco will provide innovative technologies such as Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Intercloud Fabric (ICF). IBM will contribute software tools for network and information management, big data and analytics, and mobility. Essentially we have the opportunity to innovate together beyond the hardware stack. The goal of the VersaStack solution is to deliver an integrated system that will simplify cloud, big data and mobility deployments.

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Two #IoTChat events this Wednesday Sep 10!

IoTChat Sep 10 with IBMIn the same way that the number of devices connected to the internet is increasing with Internet of Things, the discussions of IoT are likewise proliferating! 

This week, there are two #IoTChats!  On our weekly #IoTChat (Wednesdays 11am PT / 2pm ET) we’ll be joined by Internet of Things World Forum Platinum Sponsor IBM for a discussion of how data storage and management are changing with #IoT.

Cisco has a solution we call ‘data in Motion” which is basically a way to describe the devices coming online that are fast-moving.  If you think about it, the data created by a fast-moving device has a few hurdles to overcome.  There may be a lot of data created that may not all be relevant to transmit.  Also, for fast-moving devices, the data created often has a very short useful lifespan. So you need to have a good way to analyze that data and determine what should be transmitted, what should be kept, and what discarded. I think it’ll be a fun hour of discussion with your weekly host @Cisco_IoT and special co-host @IBM_Informix!

Tweetchat-September-(IoT)LATESTAlso, earlier in the day, @IBM_Informix is holding a special edition of #IoTChat, “How Data Will Power the Internet of Things” with Gary Barnett (@thinkovation), chief analyst at Ovum.  you can read all about it in their blog post on the chat.

Hope to see you at one or both of these fantastic events!

Want more details on participating in an #IoTChat?  Read on! Read More »

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Delivering Policy in the Age of Open Source

This is an exciting time in the history of datacenter infrastructure.  We are witnessing the collision of two major trends: the maturation of open source software and the redefinition of infrastructure policy.
The trend towards open source is self-evident.  Platforms such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight are gaining huge developer mindshare as well as support and investment from major vendors.  Even some newer technologies like Docker, which employs linux kernel containers, and Ceph, a software-based storage solution, offer promising paths in open source.  Given the fundamental requirements of interoperability in architecturally diverse infrastructure environments, its no surprise that open source is gaining momentum.

The second trend around policy is a bit earlier in its evolution but equally disruptive.  Today, there is a huge disconnect between how application developers think about their requirements and the languages and tools through which they are communicated to the infrastructure itself.  For example,  just to handle networking, a simple three tier app must be deconstructed into an array of VLANs, ACLs, and routes spread across a number of devices.  Storage and compute present similar challenges as well.   To simplify this interaction and create more scalable systems, we need to actually rethink how resources are requested and distributed between different components.  This really boils down to shifting the abstraction model away from configuring individual devices to focus on separately capturing user intent, operational, infrastructure, and compliance requirements.

At Cisco, we’ve really embraced both of these trends.  We are active contributors to over 100 open source projects and were founding members of OpenStack Neutron and OpenDaylight.  We’ve also made open source a successful business practice by incorporating and integrating popular projects with our products.  In parallel, Cisco has accumulated a lot of experience in describing policy through the work we’ve done with Cisco Unified Computing (UCS) and most recently with Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

Building on this foundation, we see a unique opportunity to collaborate with the open source community to deliver a vision for policy-driven infrastructure.  This will enhance the usability, scale, and interoperability of open source software and benefit the entire infrastructure ecosystem.

This vision includes two initiatives in the open source community:


  1. Group-Based Policy: An information model designed to express applications’ resource requirements from the network through a hardware-independent, declarative language and leave a simple control and dataplane in place.  This approach replaces traditional networking constructs like VLANs with new primitives such as “groups”, which model tiers or components of an application, and “contracts” describing relationships between them.  Group-Based Policy will be available in the context of OpenStack Neutron as well as OpenDaylight through a plug in model that can support any software or hardware infrastructure.
  2. OpFlex: A distributed framework of intelligent agents within each networking device designed to resolve policies.  These agents would translate an abstract, hardware-independent policy taken from a logically central repository into device-specific features and capabilities.


Let’s look a bit more closely at each of these initiatives.

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Introducing OpFlex – A new standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure

Continuing on its tradition of contributing and committing to open source and open standards over the last 25 years, today Cisco announced “OpFlex” – a new open standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure that has been submitted into the IETF standardization process. We believe this will accelerate multi-vendor innovation in data center and cloud networks to drive operational simplicity, lower costs and increased agility.

Why is this required?

Traditional SDN models today function on the basis of an imperative control model with a centralized controller and distributed network entities that support the lowest common denominator feature set across vendors such as bridges, ports and tunnels. As the network scales, the controller becomes a bottleneck due to the need to maintain increased state, and starts to impact performance and resiliency. Likewise, because the applications, ops and infrastructure requirements need to be translated into network configuration, it impacts agility and introduces a manual learning process, requiring app developers to describe their requirements in low-level constructs.


If we contrast that with the vision of the ACI model with the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), ACI adopts a declarative management approach. This model abstracts applications, operations and infrastructure providing simplification and agility. By distributing complexity to the edges, it also increases better scalability, and allows for resiliency – i.e. the data forwarding can still continue to happen even if there is no controller. It further provides ease of use with self-documenting policies automatically deployed or cleaned up from devices as necessary. All of these help circumvent the issues seen in traditional SDN models.

For this declarative model to work across a multi-vendor environment, to translate and map policy definition into the infrastructure, there has hitherto been no standard protocol to do that across physical/virtual switches, routers and L4-L7 network services. This vacuum has led to the development of “OpFlex” – a new open standard recently submitted to the IETF.

Who is contributing to OpFlex?

Several industry leaders and practitioners are actively involved in the standardization process. These include Microsoft, IBM, Citrix and SunGard Availability Services, in addition to Cisco.

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Market Dynamics and Cisco’s Unified Computing System

Innovation.  Change.  Market transitions.  This is the natural order when it comes to IT.

Today’s accelerated rate of technological change is disrupting all areas of IT, while at the same time creating new possibilities for our data center customers.  As a CIO, you’re tasked with capitalizing on the benefits of new technologies to enhance operations, but with minimal disruption to your business.  That’s not easy do to when the world is moving so quickly.

Innovation brings new players to the marketplace, and sometimes compels existing vendors to adjust their strategies.  Earlier this year, in a move that will have a significant impact across the IT landscape for technology providers and customers alike, IBM announced an agreement with Lenovo for the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server and associated networking business including Flex System.

Five years ago, Cisco made a strategic move by announcing a data center innovation and putting into motion a market transition.  Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) led the converged data center transformation by integrating high-performance networking, compute, and storage into a single, unified platform. Cisco UCS created a new value proposition for the data center in virtualization and cloud computing, achieving measurable cost savings and technology gains.

Now the number two worldwide vendor of blade servers, our vision and ability to execute delivers value that clearly resonates with our customers.  Cisco UCS changes the economics of the data center by increasing operational simplicity and improving business agility.  This is a great time for you to take a closer look to learn why over 30,000 customers have made the move to Cisco UCS.

As the inevitable change takes place across the IT landscape, Cisco remains committed to the data center.  We are also committed to our long-time collaboration with IBM, one of Cisco’s most successful partnering relationships.  Our plan is to move forward, build on this relationship and continue to deliver solutions of high value for your data centers across technology, service, and support.

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