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Unified Fabric for a Backup Server

September 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm PST

Outside of that large, black, monolithic machine in the middle of the datacenter referred to as the mainframe, there aren’t that many servers that require as many network and storage connections as the backup server.  It’s not really sexy, it’s not computing Pi, generally doesn’t run a hypervisor and is bought with one goal in mind, move data. Not just some data, but a lot.  These machines often move all of the data in your datacenter off of disk and onto tape, either real or virtual.  In many datacenters, these backup servers are sometimes the only non-x86 platforms left due to their ability to contain high numbers of HBAs for SAN connectivity and NICs for network connectivity.   They’re like the tractors of the datacenter. Read More »

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NX-OS: Delivering Ongoing Value

When we talk about networks in the data center, there is often talk about bandwidth, 10Gigabit Ethernet, switch sizing, and the changes that have been wrought on the network since the inception of widespread server virtualization. The base operating system that the switch runs on, the networking software itself, is often only discussed in terms of how/when/why to do upgrades. Networking software has more relevance than that, especially from a strategic standpoint.

The strategic nature of networking software is easy to see. But the most important way networking software is important is in the flexibility it can provide over the lifetime of the product line. Poorly written or architected networking software can put a huge burden on the vendor when new features or when major changes to the networking industry occurs. As a customer that matters because the vendor may spend the time and money to accommodate those changes or has to charge an exorbitant amount. It all speaks to the investment protection a vendor can bring. Poor network software equals poor investment protection and a degraded upgrade path.

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Announcing Cisco Prime Data Center Network Manager 6.1

Do you have different management tools for your Storage and Ethernet Networks? For IT Administrators who need to manage them, using these various management applications can be a daunting task. Cisco announced last week the release of Prime Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) 6.1. DCNM is now part of the Prime portfolio of Infrastructure Management products that focuses on holistic, single pane of glass management of Cisco’s Unified Fabric.

Cisco Prime DCNM 6.1 provides a robust framework and comprehensive feature set that meets the routing, switching, and storage administration needs of present and future virtualized data centers. DCNM offers visibility into the virtualized hosts by integrating with industry standard hypervisors and provides host-tracking capability to easily manage and diagnose virtual and physical servers.

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FCOE. Can’t we all just get along?

March 6, 2012 at 12:51 am PST

I was sitting in a room with a client the other day and normally in these conference rooms with the mahogany tables and high back leather chairs*, you have Cisco on one side of the table, and the client on the other. However, this wasn’t the case, as the table was formica and the chairs were folding.  Also, in the room was two groups that had never spoken before except in rare cases, “The network is down!” or “Our hosts can’t see their storage!”  Yes my friends, it was the LAN and SAN folks in the room.  The topic of FCoE was in front of us and the question was around their soon to be deployed Nexus 5000 switching infrastructure.    The discussion between the two parties over who would manage the Nexus 5000 reminded me of a scene from Ghostbusters… Read More »

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Cisco SANs: Where do you begin?

February 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm PST

I spent two weeks over at the Ask the Expert forums, and I came to the realization that often our customers are bombarded with facts, figures, speeds, feeds, features, buzzwords, comparisons and functionalities for which they’re not sure which ones they must have while others they can live without or are a convenience.  So I figured I’d toss out what I think are the top features for building an MDS Storage Area Network.   Some may be obvious and others you might shake your head or light up the torches.  They’re not in any particular order as your mileage varies from mine.  I’ll probably skip those that are obvious like “hot swap power supplies” and other oh so exciting abilities…

The first set I usually refer to as the holy trinity of features as they constitute the foundation of the connectivity… VSANs, Port-Channels and TE Ports.  They’ve been around literally forever on the platform and for good reason, they’ve been part of the hardware’s DNA since it’s inception.  Additionally, if you walk down the hall to the folks that manage your LAN, you’ll find out that they’re using pretty much the same concepts and features as you (VLANs, Port/Ether-Channels and Trunking or 802.1q).  So, if those guys are managing hundreds or thousands of switches and routers, there’s probably something worthwhile here.   It’s also a pretty good chance that they are using them for the very same reasons that you are:

  • VSANs: Isolation of fault domains.
  • Port-Channels: High Availability and load-balancing of InterSwitch Links (ISL)
  • TE_Ports: The ability to run multiple VSANs over the same ISL leveraging frames tagged with the VSAN ID and enforced in hardware.

Next on my list is NPV Mode aka N_Port Virtualization.  I grew up in the era of 16 port SAN switches and like rabbits, they multiplied, and so did their domains, and don’t get me started on the upgrades…  You had top of rack designs that involved dozens of small switches and this tsunami of small switches was slowed down by the emergence of the high density directors with hundreds of ports, first 128 then 256 now over 500.  Lots of small switches met their demise..

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