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The Napkin Dialogues: Nexus Programmability, Part I

June 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm PST

I know that I take a different approach to learning new things than most people. At least, I know my approach is different than the way people present them. The good news is that when I get something, I really get it. However, when looking at the juggernaut that is “Software-Defined X,” or even “programmability,” I know that I’m still a long, long way away from feeling like I have a handle on it.

When I wrote the previous blog post on some of the key “Open” terms were in programmability, I was overjoyed to find out that there were a few people who also had difficulty getting a grip on this too.

In other words, I’m not alone!

There is still a bewildering amount of information that I still need to learn, however, and it seems to me that if I resonated with a few people about these high-level topics, there are probably a few more who are curious about what lies beneath as well. Fortunately I work for a company (and with a lot of people) who have been willing to help me. Read More »

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Measurable Efficiencies with FlexPod and Cisco UCS Director

Data center strategy is a critical part of business strategy. In fact, the ways and means of IT deployment make all the difference between an efficient, successful organization and an ineffective one. Therefore, to align and adapt quickly to the needs of business, IT is changing the delivery mechanisms of infrastructure resources. Part of the change is a shift towards integrated solutions.

In fact, integrated solutions such as FlexPod, account for more than 50% of today’s data center spend. They increase hardware utilization while delivering measurable efficiencies. FlexPod is a single infrastructure solution that contains Cisco UCS, Nexus fabric and NetApp cluster Data ONTAP storage. It delivers flexibility and lets you command and control the growth of your data center resources. FlexPod benefits are clear–but to gain the full potential of all of the inherent benefits IT organizations are doing more.

Enter infrastructure automation. Data centers everywhere are in the midst of a sea change as the benefits and efficiencies of automation, across hardware and human resources, are becoming increasingly apparent.

Cisco UCS Director automates your end-to-end IT processes across your FlexPod infrastructure within minutes. It abstracts the complexity of individual devices, hypervisors and virtual machines into a single management console allowing you to manage all of your FlexPods, even geographically dispersed, as a single system.

Watch this video and see how Cisco UCS Director and FlexPod can increase the efficiency of your data center.
Read More »

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OpenStack Gains Momentum with Users at Recent Summit

Cisco highlighted its support for OpenStack at the recent OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, which hosted 4500+ attendees and included many more users, in addition to the developers and operators that have dominated past conferences.  A common theme among keynote presentations was the speed and flexibility of IT required to support the clouds that will soon dominate commerce and communication worldwide.  The effort underway to improve stability was also a recurring discussion topic.

OpenStack Summit, May 12-15 in Atlanta

OpenStack Summit, May 12-15 in Atlanta

From its beginning as an open source project at NASA, the OpenStack movement has grown as an open alternative to propriety cloud services and applications.  The Summit serves as a forum for those interested in hashing out the direction and adoption of the model and standards, as well as a learning opportunity for those ready to build and deploy on them.

Keynote speakers from Wells Fargo and Disney helped transition the Summit from an academic exercise to a forum for learning how innovative companies are taking control of their cloud environments.

Glenn Ferguson, Head of Private Cloud Enablement for Wells Fargo, described the compliance, auditing and governance Wells requires in its private cloud, that aren’t available in public cloud offerings.  Wells has designated OpenStack their “cloud infrastructure model” to facilitate rapid deployment of infrastructure to meet application developers’ needs and requires all IT vendors to work within the OpenStack specifications. “This is something we have to do to remain agile and competitive in this environment,” Ferguson said.  “Our infrastructure needs to keep pace with the software.”

Chris Launey, Disney’s Director of Cloud Architectures and Services, was blunt in how he described the value of speed.  “If you’re a business that deals in any kind of information, you need speed (to thrive.)  “If you give (developers) their own ‘fast’, they’ll make their own ‘cheap’ by getting their product to market quickly and responding to customer demands.  And (they’ll) make their own ‘good’ by shrinking development cycles and introducing improvements more often, until they reach a virtual continuous cycle of improvements.”

The OpenStack Foundation divides the work into individual projects focused on the various cloud components: servers, object-based storage, networking infrastructure, security, etc.  Proponents are excited about the innovation that can be unleashed when developers are freed from having to worry about the complexities associated with underlying infrastructure and can focus on the innovation of cloud services and applications.

Cisco was highly visible at the Summit, drawing standing-room-only crowds to sessions in the Networking Track,  as network stability and scalability are top-of-mind for users deploying critical applications and services to an open source cloud.

Lew Tucker, Cisco Vice President and CTO for Cloud Computing and Vice-Chair of the OpenStack Foundation, painted a picture of what is possible in his presentation “Open Stack and the Transformation of the Data Center.”  He described how the data center is becoming a large, highly automated “fabric” consisting of interconnected physical systems and virtualized services.  In this environment, OpenStack acts as a platform for building a highly efficient cloud, providing management of diverse infrastructure “below” and orchestration of a vast set of application services “above”.

Lew Tucker, Cisco VP and CTO of Cloud Computing

Lew Tucker, Cisco VP and CTO of Cloud Computing

Cisco’s key contribution to OpenStack has been participation in the development of Neutron, the OpenStack Networking Service.  There is clearly a need to have the same level of visibility and management flexibility that Cisco has been offering its customers in an open source cloud model.  In addition to driving connectivity generally, Cisco has received approval on blueprints for plugins to integrate VPN- and Firewall-as-a-Service as part of OpenStack networking.  (Referred to as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) plugins.)  Cisco is also working on the integration of OpenStack Neutron with OpenDaylight, a separate project started to focus specifically on network programmability.  Cisco’s extensive work in the open source community will bring even greater value to its existing customers by extending the ecosystem of solutions integrated with Cisco products.

In the Expo Hall, Cisco highlighted the integration of its networking, compute and management products with OpenStack APIs, demonstrating:

If you missed the Summit, check out the Session Videos and Slides to deep-dive presentations by Cisco contributors, presented at the Atlanta Summit 2014:

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Next Generation Data Center Design With MDS 9710 – Part II

EMC World was wonderful. It was gratifying to meet industry professionals,  listen in on great presentations and watch the demos for key business enabling technologies that Cisco, EMC and others have brought to fruition.  Its fascinating to see the transition of DC from cost center to a strategic business driver . The same repeated all over again at Cisco Live. More than 25000 attendees, hundreds of demos and sessions. Lot of  interesting customer meetings and MDS continues to resonate. We are excited about the MDS hardware that was on the display on show floor and interesting Multiprotocol demo and a lot of interesting SAN sessions.

Outside these we recently did a webinar on how Cisco MDS 9710 is enabling High Performance DC design with customer case studies. You can listen to that here.

Three Pillars of ReliabilitySo let’s continue our discussion. There is no doubt when it comes to High Performance SAN switches there is no comparable to Cisco MDS 9710. Another component that is paramount to a good data center design is high availability. Massive virtualization, DC consolidation and ability to deploy more and more applications on powerful multi core CPUs has increased the risk profile within DC. These DC trends requires renewed focus on availability. MDS 9710 is leading the innovation there again. Hardware design and architecture has to guarantee high availability. At the same time, it’s not just about hardware but it’s a holistic approach with hardware, software, management and right architecture. Let me give you some just few examples of the first three pillars for high reliability and availability.

 

Reliability examples in MDS

 

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MDS 9710 is the only director in the industry that provides Hardware Redundancy on all critical components of the switch, including fabric cards. Cisco Director Switches provide not only CRC checks but ability to drop corrupted frames. Without that ability network infrastructure exposes the end devices to the corrupted frames. Having ability to drop the CRC frames and quickly isolate the failing links outside as well as inside of the director provides Data Integrity and fault resiliency. VSAN allows fault isolation, Port Channel provides smaller failure domains, DCNM provides rich feature set for higher availability and redundancy. All of these are but a subset of examples which provides high resiliency and reliability.

 

Weakest link

 

We are proud of the 9500 family and strong foundation for reliability and availability that we stand on. We have taken that to a completely new level with 9710. For any design within Data center high availability  has to go hand in hand with consistent performance. One without the other doesn’t make sense. Right design and architecture with DC as is important as components that power the connectivity. As an example Cisco recommend customers to distribute the ISL ports of an Port Channel across multiple line cards and multiple ASICs. This spreads the failure domain such that any ASIC  or even line card failures will not impact the port channel connectivity between switches and no need to reinitiate all the hosts logins. You can see white paper on Next generation Cisco MDS here. At part of writing this white paper ESG tested the Fabric Card redundancy (Page 9) in addition to other features of the platform. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

 

Geschäftsmann hat Wut, Frust und Ärger im Büro

 

The most important aspect for all of this is for customer is to be educated.

Ask the right questions. Have in depth discussions to achieve higher availability and consistent performance. Most importantly selecting the right equipment, right architecture and best practices means no surprises.

We will continue our discussion for the Flexibility aspect of MDS 9710.

 

 

-We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit (Aristotle)

 

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What is Dynamic FCoE?

May 15, 2014 at 12:25 pm PST

96588998_47It’s been a very busy few weeks. The Data Storage Innovations (DSI) conference, the Ethernet Summit conference, EMCWorld, and next week at CiscoLive, I’ve been starting to talk about a new concept in Data Center storage networks called Dynamic FCoE. Understandably, there have been a lot of questions about it, and I wanted to try to get this blog out as quickly as possible.

The TL;DR version: Dynamic FCoE combines the best of Ethernet Fabrics and traditional deterministic storage environments to create massively scalable and highly resilient FC-based fabrics. If you thought you knew what you could do with storage networks, this takes everything to a whole, new level. Read More »

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