Networks are undergoing transitions. Our service provider customers tell us this all the time. Software defined networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and 5G are all technology evolutions which are applying pressure to existing service provider networks and causing them to adapt in multiple ways. A Cisco panel of experts and I discussed one of these transitions at our Cisco Knowledge Network Webinar on Network Modernization and the Cisco Trusted Critical Infrastructure in October.

More Transitions: Keeping Up With the Data

Similarly, a transition is occurring both inside and outside the data center. Where the data and the data centers are located are becoming increasingly important.

Data centers with modern infrastructure have the technology to capture these transitions. I have been having conversations with customers about these transitions and I thought I’d share some findings. I will also be sharing what I have learned with our panel of experts January 10 at 8 a.m. PST on our latest Cisco Knowledge Network Webinar: Modernize Your Data Center with Cisco ACI, Tetration, and HyperFlex.

Modernizing your data center does not mean complete replacement. We will discuss greenfield and brownfield deployment strategies.

Modernize Your Data Center

I have one service provider customer with a secure global backbone and multiple data centers worldwide. They performed analysis on their data center infrastructure across its components (what I like to call the five Ss):

  • servers
  • switches
  • storage
  • security
  • software

The increasing demand on their aging elements was clearly resulting in unsustainable incremental costs. For example, they could not achieve the density of virtual CPUs necessary to cost-effectively deploy new users or new services. They also discovered that their legacy blades, switches, and storage were not equipped with modern APIs and automation integration that enable an agile and smooth end-to-end deployment of new and existing services.

Their analysis showed they could achieve up to 70 percent reduction in incremental costs with latest-generation infrastructure. In order to capitalize on this transition they require updated equipment but like most operators they cannot simply replace everything currently in place. This customer plans to deploy new products alongside legacy gear in a brownfield implementation. Anything new is turned up on modern data center pods while they remove expired users and retire older applications from the old platform.

If You Don’t Move to the Cloud, the Cloud May Move to You

In a different conversation with a colocation provider about our data center road map, we discussed our latest high-density product the UCS C4200. I was curious about the relevance of a high-density compute platform to a colocation provider, one whose primary business is selling space and power to enterprises and web-scale companies. But the customer commented that a two rack-unit, four-server design could be perfect for what they described as “micro-clouds.” This colocation provider – not a cloud provider – immediately saw the benefit of an edge server use case and a “matrix of small distributed data centers.”

If You Like Video On the Internet Then You’ll Love More Video on the Internet

Small data centers at the edge connected by a matrix of optical links is an excellent use case for the metro fabric design. The spine-leaf architecture needed to facilitate east-west traffic demand is predicated on cost-effective high-bandwidth ports. With that capability small data centers can move closer to the customer – closer to the residential consumer and producer of (you guessed it) more video.

This is the key data and data center transition I mentioned at the beginning of this blog: the movement of compute and storage closer to the edge.

Storage Scaling Out – and Getting Closer to You

Of course, moving data centers to the edge means that modern data center technology can be used not only in brownfield data centers but also in novel, greenfield applications. Previously mentioned high-density servers like the UCS C4200 can provide data center capabilities in non-traditional environments like central offices and cable headends.

Along with servers, storage can be used in small deployments closer to the edge. Hyperconverged systems offer scale-out storage at a fraction of the cost of traditional storage area networks. A solution such as Cisco HyperFlex also provides the availability benefits of adding as many as 64 nodes to a cluster all while still keeping the cluster active.

Modern, Secure Data Centers Networked and Automated

As data centers proliferate and move toward the edge, they add demands to the network provider’s ability to ensure end-to-end security. That security can take on multiple forms. Cisco offers Tetration to pinpoint patterns of activity in the data center that can indicate and expose bad actors inside and outside of the data center.

Traditional hands-on operating models are strained as the number of elements within a data center grows, and the location of that data center extends beyond traditional boundaries. Automation provides the solution. Service providers can automate consistent policy application across data centers with Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure. The benefits of automation include repeatability, scalability and simplicity – all of which allow modern data centers to grow and expand without the need to add staff to manage the growth.

Join Us

So, join me and our panel of experts January 10 at 8 a.m. PST for our latest Cisco Knowledge Network Webinar: Modernize Your Data Center with Cisco ACI, Tetration, and HyperFlex. We will share customer experiences, discuss the ideas in this blog and more, all from a service provider viewpoint.



Steve Daigle

Senior Systems Engineering Manager

Global Service Provider