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Scaling the next frontier: Hybrid Clouds, Fabric Innovations and the Cisco Open Network Environment

First, the Internet of Things:

Consider these impressive stats shared in a keynote from Cisco’s CTO and CSO Padmasree Warrior last week at Cisco Live, London:   

  • 50 Billion “things” including trees, vehicles, traffic signals, devices and what not will be connected together by 2020 (vs. 1000 devices connected in 1984)
  • 2012 created more information than the past 5000 years combined!
  • 2/3rd of the world’s mobile data will be video by 2015.  

These statistics may seem a bit surprising, but the fact is, they cannot be ignored by CIOs and others chartered with the responsibility of managing IT infrastructure.

Impact on Enterprise and SP Infrastructure strategies

Further, these trends are not silo’d and are certainly not happening in a vacuum. For example, Bring-your-Own Device (BYOD) and the exponential growth of video endpoints, may be happening in the “access”, but they are causing a ripple effect upstream in the data center and cloud environments, and coupled with new application requirements, are triggering CIOs across larger Enterprise and Service Providers to rapidly evolve their IT infrastructure strategies.   

It is much the same with cloud infrastructure strategies. Even as Enterprises have aggressively adopted the journey to Private Cloud, their preference for hybrid clouds, where they can enjoy the “best of both worlds” – public and private have grown as well. However, the move to hybrid clouds has been somewhat hampered by challenges as outlined in my previous blog: Lowering barriers to hybrid cloud adoption – challenges and opportunities.

The Fabric approach

To address many of these issues, Cisco has long advocated the concept of a holistic data center fabric, heart of its Unified Data Center philosophy. The fundamental premise of breaking silos, and bringing together disparate technology silos across network, compute and storage is what makes this so compelling. At the heart of it, is the Cisco Unified Fabric, serving as the glue.

As we continue to evolve this fabric, we’re making three industry-leading announcements today that help make the fabric more scalable, extensible and open.

Let’s talk about SCALING the fabric first:

  1. Industry’s highest density L2/L3 10G/40G switch: Building upon our previous announcement of redefining fabric scale, this time we introduces a New Nexus 6000 family with two form factors – 6004 and 6001. We expect these switches to be positioned to meet increasing bandwidth demands, for spine/leaf architectures, and for 40G aggregation in fixed switching deployments. We expect the Nexus 6000 to be complementary to the Nexus 5500  and Nexus 7000 series deployments, and is not to be confused with the Catalyst 6500 or Nexus fabric interconnects.

Nexus 6000

The Nexus 6000 is built with Cisco’s custom silicon, and 1 micro-second port to port latency. It has forward propagated some of the architectural successes of the Nexus 3548, the industry’s lowest latency switch that we introduced last year. Clearly, as in the past, Cisco’s ASICs have differentiated themselves against the lowest common denominator approach of the merchant silicon, by delivering both better performance as well as greater value due to the tight integration with the software stack.

The Nexus 5500 incidentally gets 40G expansion modules, and is accompanied by a brand new Fabric Extender – the 2248PQ, which comes with 40G uplinks as well. All of these, along with the 10G server interfaces, help pair the 10G server access with 40G server aggregation.

Also as part of the first step in making the physical Nexus switches services ready in the data center, a new Network Analysis Module (NAM) on the Nexus 7000 also brings in performance analytics, application visibility and network intelligence. This is the first services module with others to follow, and brings in parity with the new vNAM functionality as well.

Next, EXTENSIBILITY:

  1. Industry’s simplest hybrid cloud solution: Over the last few years, we have introduced several technologies that help build fabric extensibility -- the Fabric Extender or FEX solution is very popular extending the fabric to the server/VM,  as are some of the Data Center Interconnect technologies like Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) or Location ID Separation Protocol (LISP), among others. Obviously each have their benefits.

The Nexus 1000V Intercloud takes these to the next level by allowing the data center fabric to be extended to provider cloud environments in a secure, transparent manner, while preserving L4-7 services and policies. This is meant to help lower the barriers for hybrid cloud deployments and is designed to be a multi-hypervisor, multi-cloud solution. It is expected to ship in the summer timeframe, by 1H CY13.

This video does a good job of explaining the concepts of the Intercloud solution:

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Lowering Barriers to Hybrid Cloud Adoption – Challenges and Opportunities

Cloud computing has evolved from the hype cycle of the last few years, to being an integral part of the Enterprise IT strategy as well as a fundamental service provider offering.  The types of cloud constructs have evolved as well – public, private, hybrid and community clouds are all the basic variants, with more sophisticated application-specific cloud offerings continuing to evolve.

While the journey to the private cloud has been continuing and relatively maturing, at least in the more developed countries, and public cloud services offerings are becoming relatively ubiquitous, adoption and deployment of hybrid cloud offerings have had a relatively modest uptake.

The reason for this is not because the allure of hybrid clouds is unappealing, or that it has few use-cases. It is quite the opposite.  There are several use-cases all of which are applicable to real-world IT deployments today:

  • Workload migration:  Seamless migration of workloads from the data center or private cloud to the public cloud for better capacity utilization.
  • Dev/QA operations:  Testing of new applications can induce requirement for additional temporary capacity and having an extensible hybrid cloud is quite appealing, instead of investing in on-premise infrastructure.
  • Cloud-bursting: To handle the needs of bursty applications, temporary capacity allocation in public cloud environments can be extremely cost-effective, providing the convenience of “infrastructure-on-demand”
  • Disaster recovery: Providing data resiliency in case of failure of on-premise resources

If the use-cases are real and the benefits are so apparent, why have Enterprise not gone all out to deploy more robust hybrid clouds? Why have only few Enterprise and selective applications followed this model?

I can think of a few. To make it real, let’s consider the use-case of migrating a virtual machine (VM) from the private cloud to a provider cloud, as an example to illustrate some of the challenges:Shangri-la

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Networking is Cool Again…and that’s good for Cisco

Is networking really cool again?  Obviously, all of us at Cisco think so. Judging by the hype around a few networking start-ups, and moves by major IT vendors to add  networking capabilities, we’re not alone.

The activity and innovation in our category validates something we’ve always believed: the intelligent network is the most strategic asset for our customers,  partners, and even our competitors.

And we expect to see new competitors. As we often say at Cisco,  if you don’t have good competitors, then you’re probably in the wrong markets.

Now the question on many people’s minds is whether the current transition in the market – a transition defined by terms such as Software Defined Networking and network virtualization -- represents a threat or an opportunity for Cisco. As you might expect, Cisco has a strong point of view on this.

First,  SDN, network virtualization and overlay networks (choose your favorite descriptor) are not going to commoditize the underlying networking infrastructure. These architectures actually place more demands on the core infrastructure to enable network virtualization securely, with high performance, at scale.

Why? Because customers expect their core infrastructure to be seamlessly integrated with servers and fabric interconnects. They want a common management framework across all switches (physical and virtual), and they want the ability to support heterogeneous server and hypervisor environments. Our experience is that they expect their networking vendor to fulfill those needs.

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Evolution of Key Cisco Leadership Positions

Cisco’s long-standing belief has always been that companies need to evolve to drive forward and lead through market transitions.  The same is true for our executive talent.  Evolving our talent requires putting them in new roles, expanding their perspective and skill sets and bringing fresh ideas and energy to the business. This is what we’ve recently done with Edzard Overbeek’s new move from SVP of our Asia-Pacific-Japan region to head of our global Services business and Bruce Klein’s move from SVP of Public Sector Sales to the head of our Worldwide Partner Organization.

Over the past year, we have refocused our engineering organization for agility, better decision making, and a renewed focus on innovation.  The market share numbers speak for themselves and our customer confidence has never been stronger.  We have a strong leadership team and the business group leaders have demonstrated strong execution.  Now the time is right for us to drive the next phase of our organizational evolution.

With that, we are pleased to announce Padmasree Warrior will expand her role to become Cisco’s Chief Technology and Strategy Officer where she will be responsible for identifying customer and industry transitions and determining Cisco’s strategy to address them.  Padma will work closely with Cisco’s engineering, field, operations and services leadership, and will define strategy, investments, acquisitions and the evolution of Cisco’s technology partner ecosystem.   Additionally, Padma will be responsible for thought leadership around Cisco’s products and architectures, technical talent development and recruiting, and she will increase her time with external stakeholders.  The business group CTO’s will report dotted line to Padma to enable strong alignment between technology strategy, business strategy and M&A activity.  Over the past four years, Padma has established a tremendous track record of results, such as building Cisco’s strategy and execution around architectures, cloud, overall technology strategy framework, and attracting and developing industry leading technical talent.  We look forward to accelerating our market position under Padma’s strategic direction.

After 13 years of exceptional service to Cisco, Ned Hooper will be leaving the immediate Cisco family to form an independent investment partnership company and to pursue his goal to be a principal investor.  Ned has been working on his plan with us over a number of months, and we look forward to partnering with him in his new endeavor.  Ned has a unique passion and skill for investment and strategy, and will focus on this in the next phase of his career.   Ned pioneered the model for large-scale M&A at Cisco and drove significant transactions for the company such as Tandberg, WebEx, Airespace, Starent and NDS.  Additionally, he has managed our $2B investment portfolio with both strategic and financial returns to the company. Ned’s strategy and business development team will now report to Padma.  We would like to thank Ned for his contributions, leadership, friendship and his continual drive to always do the right thing for Cisco.

Finally, Pankaj Patel will assume the leadership of Cisco’s engineering organization.  Pankaj will drive innovation, operational excellence and agile development across our products, solutions and architectures, and continue to increase our relevance with our expanding customer base.  Pankaj’s deep customer relationships and extensive engineering expertise, combined with his ability to mentor and grow top engineering talent will serve Cisco well as we drive the next phase of engineering leadership for the company.  While you may be familiar with Pankaj’s service provider experience, he previously spent 16 years in the enterprise space.  Over the past 13 years, Pankaj developed and grew Cisco’s service provider business which today accounts for approximately 35% of Cisco’s direct product revenue. Pankaj’s leadership in key service provider areas such as core routing, edge routing, SP mobility and SP video has positioned Cisco extremely well for the future. Throughout his tenure Pankaj has delivered a significant number of products to the Cisco portfolio, addressing a wide range of customer needs.  Over the past year as the co-leader of engineering, Pankaj has increased his involvement in Cisco’s enterprise business, as the intersection points between service provider and enterprise come closer together.

As we stay focused on being the best Cisco for our customers, partners, investors and employees today, we never lose track of where we want to go in the future.  We are excited about this evolution in our organization. Please join us in congratulating Padma, Pankaj and Ned on the next phase of their respective journeys.

John Chambers and Gary Moore

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Delivering Mobile Experiences “Your Way”

Today, Cisco is kicking off its “Your Way” campaign which is focused on the universally desired but sophisticated requirements around the delivery of mobile experiences.  Not just mobile access – that is simply changing an access type – but rather a mobile experience that maps to your needs depending on the device you’re holding, the service or application you’re using, the time and location you want it  — in sum, it’s a mobile experience “your way.”

You’ll see Cisco highlighting this in a variety of forums – from an opening webcast featuring Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior  and BT to an array of on-going activities such as a dedicated website advertisements and even in future innovation announcements like the major one we’ll be having on June 5th (you can register here to be among the first to hear the news. And when we do, you’ll see that we promote that such personalized, superior mobile experiences “don’t have to compromise the way of business.”

While that phrasing may make sense for the Bring Your Own Device trend in the Enterprise where many CIOs are concerned about security and compliance, how does it apply to Service Providers?

A number of ways: Read More »

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