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Is ACI Really SDN? One Point of View to Clarify the Conversation

January 22, 2014 at 10:00 am PST
rose

Would SDN, by any other name, still smell as sweet?

Perhaps I’m in the minority that is still frustrated by this, but as a marketing person who is tasked with explaining technology and solutions to customers and prospects, I feel hamstrung by a lack of a widely agreed upon definition of what is and is not “SDN” still. This usually comes up in discussions about our new Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and how it compares to traditional SDN concepts, as well as alternative approaches, such as overlay networks advocated by VMware.

The topic came up again this with a NetworkWorld article in which the head of VMware’s network virtualization business is now saying, “SDN will never happen” (our rebuttal). Well, what is happening, if it’s not SDN? Or just because the technology has evolved, do we need to create a new term just because some early assumptions the industry made have changed?  As we start out a new year, I thought it a good time to try and reframe the definition, and look at how the trends in SDN may be shaping up to extend the concept into new areas.

Why do customers need SDN?

By early 2012, there was so much hype and expectations around Software Defined Networking, focused on the ability to “program” the network, that real customer use cases and the killer SDN app was lost in the conversation. But what slowly emerged, that is driving all the investment, pilots and product designs is a much better way to manage the data center and cloud network, and to automate IT tasks so that the infrastructure could respond dynamically to rapidly changing business conditions and requirements. The “intelligence” to make all that happen is moving from the network devices and device management consoles, to centralized policy-management platforms, orchestration tools and cloud-managers.

What’s caused the biggest evolution in SDN is the realization that very few organizations really have the desire, skills and incentives to write a new class of applications to a published API to program the network. These users are outlying use cases compared to the vast majority of organizations just looking to automate IT tasks, accelerate application deployment, make their cloud networks more flexible, and better align their IT infrastructure with business requirements. The focus has shifted from SDN being an open API/controller platform, to a platform capable of hosting a myriad of orchestration and IT workflow automation solutions that drive customers to their end goal. To that end, ACI is meeting all those objectives, and in more advanced and innovative ways than earlier SDN approaches.

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My Top 7 Predictions for Open Source in 2014

My 2014 predictions are finally complete.  If Open Source equals collaboration or credibility, 2013 has been nothing short of spectacular.  As an eternal optimist, I believe 2014 will be even better:

  1. Big data’s biggest play will be in meatspace, not cyberspace.  There is just so much data we produce and give away, great opportunity for analytics in the real world.
  2. Privacy and security will become ever more important, particularly using Open Source, not closed. Paradoxically, this is actually good news as Open Source shows us again, transparency wins and just as we see in biological systems, the most robust mechanisms do so with fewer secrets than we think.
  3. The rise of “fog” computing as a consequence of the Internet of Things (IoT) will unfortunately be driven by fashion for now (wearable computers), it will make us think again what have we done to give up our data and start reading #1 and #2 above with a different and more open mind. Again!
  4. Virtualization will enter the biggest year yet in networking.  Just like the hypervisor rode Moore’s Law in server virtualization and found a neat application in #2 above, a different breed of projects like OpenDaylight will emerge. But the drama is a bit more challenging because the network scales very differently than CPU and memory, it is a much more challenging problem. Thus, networking vendors embracing Open Source may fare well.
  5. Those that didn’t quite “get” Open Source as the ultimate development model will re-discover it as Inner Source (ACM, April 1999), as the only long-term viable development model.  Or so they think, as the glamor of new-style Open Source projects (OpenStack, OpenDaylight, AllSeen) with big budgets, big marketing, big drama, may in fact be too seductive.  Only those that truly understand the two key things that make an Open Source project successful will endure.
  6. AI recently morphed will make a comeback, not just robotics, but something different AI did not anticipate a generation ago, something one calls cognitive computing, perhaps indeed the third era in computing!  The story of Watson going beyond obliterating Jeopardy contestants, looking to open up and find commercial applications, is a truly remarkable thing to observe in our lifespan.  This may in fact be a much more noble use of big data analytics (and other key Open Source projects) than #1 above. But can it exist without it?
  7. Finally, Gen Z developers discover Open Source and embrace it just like their Millennials (Gen Y) predecessors. The level of sophistication and interaction rises and projects ranging from Bitcoin to qCraft become intriguing, presenting a different kind of challenge.  More importantly, the previous generation can now begin to relax knowing the gap is closing, the ultimate development model is in good hands, and can begin to give back more than ever before. Ah, the beauty of Open Source…

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Cisco is bringing together networking and programming

January 16, 2014 at 11:03 am PST

Well Cisco has done it.

I have worked in IT since 1995 and never learned programming. Sure, I can do a little HTML, and years ago, I learned just enough Perl to configure MRTG, but I have never written a program. The good old CLI has kept me very busy and brought home the bacon.

With the announcements on NX-OS APIs, Application Centric infrastructure APIs, python scripting support, SDN, and open source projects OpenStack, OpenDaylight, and Puppet, I cannot hold back anymore.

Therefore, I have opened an account at codecademy.com. I will start with Python and Java. I see many late nights in my future.

I have thought about learning code, but I could never think of an app I wanted to write. Now Cisco is bringing together networking and programming. Cisco is not only making APIs available, Cisco is contributing code to the open source community. In fact, Cisco has created a Data Center repository, a Nexus 9000 community, and a general Cisco Systems repository on GitHub.

DevNet

Cisco has recently overhauled the developer program and its content. The new DevNet website is filled with developer information on products such as AVC, Collaboration, UCS, CTI, Energywise, FlexPod, UCS Microsoft Manager, Jabber, onePK, XNC, Telepresence.

Cisco is bringing the networking and programing worlds together and this stubborn old networker is finally onboard.

Happy Coding!

NewAssistantNetworkEngineerBill Carter is a Senior Network Engineer with more than 18 years of experience. He works for Sentinel Technologies and specializes in next-generation data center, campus and WAN network services.  

Follow Bill on Twitter  @billyc5022 and read his blog  http://billyc5022.blogspot.com/
Bill is a Cisco Champion -- Check here to learn more about the Cisco Champion program .

 

Bill’s New Assistant Network Engineer

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Navigating Your OpenStack Roadmap: Why You Should Run a “Pilot”

November 5, 2013 at 11:48 am PST

The road in my picture below – the A82 that winds through Glencoe in Scotland – was used in the James Bond “Skyfall” movie in one of the amazing car chase scenes.  This road winds through sparsely inhabited territory, has lots of ups, downs, bumps and turns and if you’re not careful it can be a dangerous road.  I’ll draw the analogy here with the challenges of introducing new technologies: there can be ups, downs, bumps and turns into the unknown, if you are not careful.  And in my case here, I’ll use this analogy to illustrate the challenges of adopting OpenStack: without the right kind of approach, without a carefully managed exploratory “pilot” investigation and subsequent roadmap planning, you may find that adopting OpenStack – or any other open source software solution, for that matter – has its share of challenges, ups, downs, bumps and turns into the unknown.

The Road Along Which James Bond Raced!

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Cisco and Its Partners Drive OpenStack Innovation and Adoption

OpenStack sure has come a long way since the first Design Summit in San Antonio back in November 2010.  As my team prepares to attend OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong this week, you’d never know that just three years ago there were just 250 people at the first public OpenStack Design Summit that kicked off what has become one of the fastest growing open source projects ever.  This week, more than 4000 are expected to attend the Summit, representing more than 500 companies and nearly 50 countries. What makes this Summit just as exciting as the first is the progress we’ve all made delivering on the mission laid out back in 2010.

To produce the ubiquitous open source Cloud Computing platform that will meet the needs of public and private clouds regardless of size, by being simple to implement and massively scalable.

The OpenStack community continues to innovate at an even greater pace with 910 contributors to the new Havana release, a more than 70 percent increase from the Grizzly release six months ago. More than 145 OpenStack ecosystem members employ developers who contributed to this release. While there’s still more work to do, most of us feel OpenStack has reached the level of maturity and deployment success that’s needed for production deployment by organizations of just about any size.

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