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When Your Collaboration Infrastructure Starts Making Odd Noises

If your car is overdue for a tune-up, it may let you know in unexpected (and unsettling) ways — rough handling, sluggish acceleration, and even an odd (“that can’t be good”) noise from under the hood. If you’re like me, you don’t want to find yourself waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck. You schedule your car for regular tune-ups to make sure your tires aren’t worn, the wheels are aligned, no fluids are leaking, and the engine is performing to the right specifications.

Just like your car, a collaboration infrastructure needs regular tune-ups. In fact, just like your car, a collaboration infrastructure will let you know that it’s not running optimally. But by the time you actually notice the performance problems with collaboration applications, the odds are that those problems have already started causing issues with your end-users.

Traditionally, optimization has been looked at (even by Cisco in the early days) as the final step in the deployment cycle. But IT projects queue up so fast that optimization for the last project may not happen because the next project is already underway. Today, however, we look at optimization in an Read More »

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Steps To Optimize Your Network – An Introduction

Harness the Power Infographic

Infographic: The Before and After of Using Optimization Services on a Network [Click to see full]

One of my passions in life is sailing, both cruising and racing.  There is nothing quite like the wind in your hair and the sun on your face to paint a perfect day.  The difference between a great day on the water and miserable one comes down to preparation.  Basic maintenance of the vessel, proactively checking the weather, wind, and tides, and understanding how to optimally operate the vessel for the best performance will enhance the experience.  It’s not something that one can fully master, and you will always be learning and striving towards perfection.  This is very true of my other passion, which is helping customers get optimal performance out of their networks.  Once again, success is all about preparation.

Over my career, I have been through more customers than I can count and have seen widely ranging degrees of success amongst these customers.  Why is it that some customers are extremely successful with no outages or performance issues whilst others seem to never be able to keep pace with outages and performance issues are a near daily occurrence?  Some deploy a new technology without a glitch while others dread the thought of adding new technologies to their network in fear of the potential impact to their business.

You need a holistic approach that takes into consideration all of the systems involved in a solution.  You can design and deploy the best voice/video solution but if the underlying network is not designed and configured to support this business service, it will not likely meet the performance requirements of the business. For example, imagine your business has the requirement to deliver a periodic streaming video broadcast from senior management to the employees of the company.  Your company consists of campuses globally along with remote and mobile workers.  So, you need to be able to stream across  your wired, wireless and VPN network to users both local and remote. This is where the role of architecture comes into play.

The importance of architecture is that it pulls together a complete holistic view of the business services and the requirements to effectively support them.  How much bandwidth is required, what is the tolerable round trip delay, tolerance for packet loss are all considerations that will go into building that strong foundation that is required for success.  In today’s world of BYOD, the expectation is that these services will be available and perform flawlessly over wired, wireless and VPN.

I set a goal to increase the speed performance of my sailboat and purchased brand new sails to reach this goal.  After installing the sails, it was clear that I had gained no additional speed.  After doing a bottoms-up assessment of the vessel,  I realized that the hull was covered with barnacles.  Without a clean hull, adding sails will not deliver the desired result.  Trying to deploy a business service, such as a voice or video solution, over a network that is not designed for it will also fail to deliver the desired.  Most problems with deploying advanced technologies lie within the foundational network rather than the advanced technologies themselves. Your network, like the hull of my boat, is the foundation of your business services.  If this is not solid, the chances are the higher level services that rely on this “foundation” will likely not delivery the desired results.  A holistic approach will take into consideration the business services that must run over the network and use this to build out an effective foundation.  Read this success story on how Ecobank deployed collaboration solutions based on a solid infrastructure.  You can also see how optimization has benefited other companies in this infographic.

Stay tuned for my next posts where I’ll cover proven strategies for optimizing your network.

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What is the longest running item of Cisco equipment in your data center? Can you beat 13 years?!

Where were you in 1998? Somewhere in one of our customers, a customer booted one of our 3640 routers, and it’s been running ever since without a reboot!

It’s been running since last century! Wow.   It’s been running since around the time my daughter was born, and a good few years before my son was born!  It’s been running longer that some of our competitors have been in existence, and longer than Juniper Networks has been a publicly traded company!

I learned this from an email was passed around my office, that highlighted this remarkable evidence of reliability.  It made me wonder, in your data center, what is your longest running piece of Cisco data center equipment?

And it also reminded me of some of our best practices for network reliability, such as Cisco Smart Services, described in this short VoD:

So now for the evidence.  As you can see from the “show version” Cisco IOS output below ……

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The Rise of Cisco UCS and the Cisco Services Data Center Transformation Experience

March 2009 was an exciting time for both for Cisco and for me personally.  Cisco launched the revolutionary Unified Computing System, with many observers across the industry doubting if we’d stay the course (and if we’re honest, some truly misplaced derision – I wonder who is on Planet Zircon now!).  And I joined the Cisco Data Center Services team from the Cisco R&D organization!  So with the recent third generation launch of Cisco UCS, described very well by my colleague Todd Brannon, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on our data center services portfolio around that time, and where we are now.  My previous blogs chronicle part of this journey, however I have to say, the direct comparison I draw here I personally think shows that we have indeed brought a new transformational experience to the data center for our customers. And I’d like to give you my personal recollections on how and what I found out about Cisco’s approach to shaking the incumbents’ lack of innovation in the blade server market.

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A Data Deluge, Driven by Tablets and Mobile Video, Is Disrupting Mobile Carriers

Only a few years ago, the challenges facing mobile providers seemed well within the realm of their traditional expertise. Their vast and complex infrastructures, built around towers, antennas, core networks, and the like, focused on providing the bandwidth and signal quality necessary for providing clear voice signals. Early mobile Internet applications were limited to services like weather, news, and stock quotes. As video entered the picture, it was mostly limited to a quick, manageable snack here and there on YouTube. After all, on a tiny, phone-sized screen, the prospects for a sumptuous two-hour movie feast were limited.

The situation, however, is being radically transformed. And at this years’ Mobile World Congress, which I attended last week in Barcelona, a clear focus was on a prime disruptor: the tablet and vast, media-rich applications. For with the sudden and phenomenal growth of the iPad—along with its Android-based counterparts—end users who had been limited to quick bites on YouTube are ready to indulge in long-form video buffets, anytime and anywhere. And while those game-changing tablets don’t quite provide an IMAX experience, their larger screens nevertheless offer the perfect mix of visual quality, mobility, and convenience.

For mobile service carriers, however, this has created a certain amount of havoc. Read More »

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