As I was thinking about how best to advise you on how to “experiment” with SDN technologies, and more specifically why you should run a formal pilot to evaluate SDN technology options (a topic I covered in my previous blog), I was reminded of this “wipeout” picture I took last year at a “freeride” competition – the “Coe Cup”  – at my local ski mountain, Glencoe Moutain Resort, here in the UK.   Let me tell you why!

Why you may want to "pilot" new technology adoption!
Why you may want to “pilot” new technology adoption!

So ….. this particular competition takes place on the infamous “Flypaper” slope at Glencoe (great video shoot here).  This is an extremely steep slope in parts (40+ degrees of incline), and is peppered with rocky outcrops that make for a potentially hazardous trip down if you don’t know what you are doing! It goes without saying that such competition slopes are never  pisted – hence the “freeride” term!  If you are good, sure, you can jump and do tricks over these outcrops, and you’ll love flying through fresh powder. The thing is, in this competition, you don’t get to practice on this slope.  The idea (unless you are a local to that mountain) is that your competition run is your first try at this run.  And as you can see from my picture, such competition runs are not that straightforward and the best laid plans can indeed go wrong! (Thankfully in this case, no injuries were sustained).

The “Sane” Way to Tackle the Unknown

Now, for mere mortals like me, I have to confess that I’ve never braved a run down this slope.  I’ve just about resolved to do this “bucket list” run before my next big “-oh” birthday at the end of this year.  So exactly how can I achieve this?

Well, I’m not planning to just go charge right down the Flypaper.  I will seek out an expert skier, discuss the best route options to get down, evaluate, and take a run down accompanied by this expert.  I’ll make sure he or she has taken this run many times before.  I’ll make sure he is flexible on the route and take the one that is best for me, rather than a particularly scary route that is his favourite.  I’ll make sure he knows about a wide range of skiing techniques so that I am versed in the right type of “toolbox” to help me adapt my skiing to the various challenges of the slope.  In other words, I’ll treat my first run at this new challenge for me as a “pilot”.

Running a Cisco ONE Pilot

Right.  Back to SDN and Cisco Services.  In Cisco Services, we often help customers run pilots to help them guide new technology introduction.  We help customers run pilots – or “validation exercise” to use a more formal term – on a wide range of technologies and solutions ranging from Cisco Unified Computing, Desktop Virtualization, Cloud, Application Migration and more.  And earlier this year we introduced a new service to help customers run pilots with SDN and Cisco ONE – we call it the Cisco ONE Use Case Validation Service.  This gives customers a chance to take a specific area of interest – or “use case” of Cisco ONE, develop a lab-based implementation, and experiment with their use case, in their environment, under the guidance of a Cisco expert, so that they can learn the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of their approach and the technology, again specific to their intended business need.  SDN – as our Cisco ONE strategy encapsulates – as a number of options, some will make sense for your business, some will not.  So it really does make sense to run a pilot before you decide on a given path.  For example, Cisco ONE incorporates SDN options including OpenFlow, the ONE-PK API and Network Virtualization.  Cisco ONE is about giving you choice.  Our Cisco ONE Use Case Validation Service will help you evaluate these choices, and figure out which is best for you.  You may even find that traditional networking is in fact still what you need.

Evaluating the Options

Now, if you look across the industry, you will see many vendors talk about their SDN options.  Some are betting the farm on OpenFlow.  Some are focusing on virtual networking only.  Cisco ONE, on the other hand, offers you choice – OpenFlow, a network API, network virtualization, and even the unique Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).  How would this translate into my freeride skiing challenge then?

Say you bet on one of the SDN technology options.  Say you choose a vendor who offers only virtual networking.  This is like assuming a perfectly pisted slope – but what the layers underneath, what if you don’t have visibility if you hit ice or deep powder, will your technique work there?  Now in the real world of freeride, you need a range of technique options.   The basic “snow plow” may come in useful in an emergency, however the reality is that I’ll need to evaluate a wide range of skiing techniques depending upon the demands of a particular piece of slope: carving, parallel skiing, maybe a jump or two.  I’ll need flexibility and I’ll want to ask my expert coach on what technique is best for each part of the mountain and where to use it.  We may even first practice these techniques in a “test environment” – on an easier run in the resort.  In essence, we need to run a “pilot”, we need to test out the options.

And this is what I’d recommend you try when getting started on SDN and Cisco ONE.

Why Run a Pilot With Cisco Services

So going back to your SDN strategy, I hope I’ve now made the case that you should run a pilot, a validation exercise.  You should try out each of the technical options, evaluate them with an expert, build your use case out in a lab, experiment, learn, and plot your course.  In Cisco Services, we have experts to help you.  They won’t just be well versed in one SDN technology, such as only OpenFlow, or only network virtualization.  They’ll bring along their insights into the complete toolbox of SDN.   They’ll even know about traditional networking, so you’ll get the full picture and not be blinded by a software layer.  With our Cisco ONE Use Case Validation Servicewe’ll help you experiment, learn and understand what it will take to introduce Cisco ONE into your production network.  And we’ll help make sure your SDN journey is a lot smoother than the snow boarder in my picture above!



Stephen Speirs

SP Product Management

Cisco Customer Experience (CX)