Data Centers: Applications, Networks and Chicken-Salad Sandwiches
You’ve seen the data points: 30 million new devices connected to the Internet each week. A whopping 50 billion connected by 2020. This surge of connectivity – driven largely by the Internet of Everything – is creating vast new opportunities for digitization as industries transform.
This tidal wave of connected devices is also reshaping the data center. Why? Because every single thing connected to the Internet has a MAC and IP address, and this enormous growth will unleash more addresses than anyone can imagine. These addresses need, feed, and breed applications, whether by running an app or providing it data. And as this happens at an exponential scale, the data center becomes the key to making it all work.
We know that the applications will be everywhere, and that’s a good thing. Apps will continue to be in the enterprise data center – the private cloud—where they’ve been running for a long time. And they’ll run in cloud-based data centers. They’ll also run at the edge – whether the edge is a branch office, your home, or even a part of your body.
For applications to perform optimally no matter where they are, the infrastructure has to understand the language of applications. We have to teach it. And this is where policy comes in. For us, policy is teaching the infrastructure the language of the application so that the application can tell the infrastructure, “Here is what I need to run at my best.”
This is an area where Cisco has a lot of skin in the game. After all, no one knows Data Center infrastructure better than we do.
Our Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is an example of policy. It’s our flagship offering, our strategic direction. And it’s vertically integrated – spanning hardware and software. It’s also really popular. Just last week, we reached our 1000th customer – Danske Bank, the largest financial institution in Denmark.
Why is the network the best place to put policy?
First, the network touches everything – from the data center to the cloud to every device. Just as the applications are everywhere, so is the network as the foundation. And when you’re trying to set policy, you’ve got to get it out and make it available to everything on the network.
Another reason: the network is the single source of truth within the infrastructure. It knows every conversation that’s happening between every device. It knows who’s communicating a lot and who isn’t, or who’s communicating a little bit of the time but in big chunks. The network never lies.
Moving addresses, frames and packets is our core competency. Believe me when I tell you — if our development team could stick a chicken-salad sandwich inside an Ethernet frame, they would do it. It’s what we have done a lot of here at Cisco – get things on the network.
Where are we going from here? With the vast scale we’re looking at – once 50 billion or more devices are connected – it won’t be possible for any single human, or any one programming tool, or any one piece of software to manage or optimize this network.
The infrastructure itself is going to have to learn and be self-aware to scale. This explains why we’ve begun exploring how to get all this needed policy and expertise into the silicon and into the infrastructure.
When I envision the data center of the future, I see a data center that has unprecedented scale and always-on network analytics, one that creates a dynamic and agile infrastructure, that is self-learning, self-healing and self-executing, and that drives business outcomes faster than any human ever could. This is where we’re going, and why I’m so damned excited about it.
Stay tuned. There’s a lot more to come.