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#CiscoChat: Benefits of Software-Defined WAN Solutions

Depending on the publications you favor or industry news sites you frequent, Software Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WANs) are either the next best thing on the network horizon, or a tech innovation that still needs to be met with just a hint of skepticism. Regardless of your stance, the question on most people’s mind is can this emerging technology deliver the benefits it promises?

Answering this question is critical.  Today’s WANs are becoming increasingly complex and in turn, difficult to manage.  And SD-WANs are garnering more headlines as organizations begin to turn to them for maximizing bandwidth without completely overhauling their networks. But just like any tech advancement, CIOs are cautious, still wondering if SD-WANs are indeed  ready for “prime time” and can be implemented without being difficult to manage and more importantly, not increasing the bottom line.

Many organizations are struggling to find their sweet spot when it comes to rapidly responding to new business opportunities, optimizing user experiences and controlling costs. This has become even more of a challenge with the proliferation of mobile devices, wide-spread adoption of cloud-based services and increasing use of high-bandwidth applications. Read More »

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Cisco Intelligent WAN with Akamai Connect At Interop

Interop is just around the corner. I am sure there will be plenty of thought provoking content about how to transform IT, compelling demos, and SDN everywhere. But let’s not forget the reality of most IT organizations today.

The majority face the fact that digital innovation is overwhelming their enterprise network. Everything from internal and external Web apps, SaaS, HD video, software updates, mobile apps and even digital signage are traversing the network eating up valuable bandwidth. Analysts even predict that average enterprise bandwidth requirements will increase by up to 50% per year while 60% of WAN budgets are flat or declining.

interop blog 2


In addition most enterprises seem to subscribe to doing more with less – particularly when it comes to IT – so upgrading enterprise network bandwidth across locations every few years just isn’t viable – both from a budget and agility perspective. That is not to mention that a lot of enterprises can’t upgrade their bandwidth even if they wanted to due to branch location. Read More »

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Bringing Up a New Branch Site the Easy Way with Prime Infrastructure – Part 4

Last week, I went through application assurance with Cisco Prime Infrastructure. Today, as the 4th post of a 5-part blog series, I’ll go into troubleshooting for your branch site with Prime. Again, as a quick recap, here’s my blog series on how to set up networking with Prime for a new branch site.

WAN deployment – blog 1
Converged wired and wireless  – blog 2
Application performance – blog 3
Troubleshooting – (this blog)
Network health – blog 5
 steve song blog 4 pic 1

By now, your new branch site is in perfect condition with Cisco IWAN, wired and wireless Converged Access, as well as application assurance all working as designed. But you need to be prepared to start troubleshooting if something goes wrong. Every user who runs into network issues means productivity loss.  Every minute of a down network causes a significant amount of business loss. Fortunately, Cisco Prime Infrastructure gives you many tools, so you can achieve speedy problem resolution and provide outstanding user experience.

Here’s a Prime troubleshooting success story that a customer told me. It’s a hospital in Dallas, Texas. Keeping their wireless network running was a critical business priority because the medical staff depended on it for communications and patient care. One day, nurses reported intermittent wireless problems in a room. You know, intermittent problems can be hard to troubleshoot. When you are ready to diagnose the problem, the symptoms may or may not exist anymore. Using Prime, their networking team was able to narrow down to a laptop which was always present when the wireless problems occurred. As it turned out, it was doing heavy and unauthorized live streaming which hogged the wireless bandwidth. The owner was immediately notified to stop streaming. Problem solved and case closed. Read More »

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New Cisco APIC Software allows stretched ACI Fabric across long distances

In the world of Cisco ACI, there is never a shortage of excitement and action. Today, we are pleased to bring to your attention news about the latest Cisco APIC software release. If you wonder what’s hot of the press in APIC SW release 1.0(3f) for Nexus 9000 series ACI mode, there are quite a few.

The Stretched Fabric feature captures the headlines. For quite some time now customers have been asking for an ACI Fabric that can stretch across datacenters and over long distances. The new software allows for each leaf and spine, that participate in creating a fabric, to be located up to 30 KMs apart.  It also removes the restriction for every leaf to be connected to all spines. Let us take a close peek at the stretched fabric feature.

ACI Stretched Fabric Topology

Stretched ACI fabric is a single fabric. It is a partially meshed design that connects ACI leaf and spine switches distributed in multiple locations. Typically, an ACI fabric implementation is a single site where the full mesh design connects each leaf switch to each spine switch in the fabric.  This yields the best throughput and convergence. In multi-site scenarios, full mesh connectivity may be not possible or may be too costly. Multiple sites, buildings, and rooms can span distances that are not serviceable by enough fiber connections, or are too costly to connect each leaf switch to each spine switch across the sites.  Diagram below illustrates the stretched fabric architecture.

Transit Leaf Switch Guidelines

Transit leaf refers to the leaf switches that provide connectivity between two sites. Transit leaf switches connect to spine switches on both sites. There are no special requirements and no additional configurations required for transit leaf switches

Provision Transit and Border Leaf Functions on Separate Switches

The key benefits of stretched fabric include workload portability and VM mobility.The stretched ACI fabric behaves the same way as a regular ACI fabric, supporting full VMM integration. For example, one VMWare vCenter operates across the stretched ACI fabric sites. The ESXi hosts from both sites are managed by the same vCenter and Distributed Virtual Switch (DVS).  They are stretched between the two sites.

The ACI switch and APIC  software recover from various failure scenarios. Check out the failover scenario analysis for details.

Additional resources


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Looking for cost savings? Start with the branch.

Our 2013 IT Impact Survey highlighted the importance of collaboration between business leaders and IT as trends like BYOD, data center consolidation and Cloud applications put more pressure on the network. Why collaborate? The survey highlighted that 34% of application roll outs over the prior 12 months were delayed because of not enough budget. You would think that if applications were a priority IT would be given sufficient budget to make sure the network was ready to handle the extra traffic. Unfortunately, according to Nemertes, most organizations’ WAN budgets will remain flat or decline in 2015, meaning that adding bandwidth is often not an option for IT. So how can you do more with less?

Read More »

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