Cisco WAAS – Key to Cloud, Key to the Cisco Network On Wheels

Wow, time flies.  When I started blogging at Cisco, 2 years back (here), helping organizations formulate their cloud strategy was top of my mind.  I’d ran a customer market research survey, and one of the things we learned that in certain parts of the world, the access bandwidth to the cloud was a significant concern — in terms of reliability, cost and bandwidth available.  From this customer feedback, we concluded that Cisco WAAS — Wide Area Application Services — that helps accelerate applications and optimizes bandwidth usage  – was a key asset in helping our customers overcome this cloud adoption challenge.  And from this feedback, we realised that our Cisco WAAS Planning and Design Services were key to some of our customers adopting cloud.

Now 2 years on, and I’ve seen Cisco WAAS in a new light, at first hand, in a different type of application.  Cisco WAAS  helped Cisco UK put together the “Network on Wheels” — a van (the “NOW” van”) filled with networking gear.  And as another example of heavy bandwidth use, the Cisco NOW van helped us stream TelePresence live into a camp site (yes a camp site!!!) at the start of a charity cycle event I took part in recently.  Cisco WAAS helped optimize the bandwidth of the satellite link, to ensure good end user performance for internet access, as well as supporting the Cisco TelePresence over Satellite.

The Cisco NOW Van – Network On Wheels

 

You can read more about the Cisco “Network On Wheels” here, in my article “The Network on Wheels — Raising Funds for Paralympic Athletes“.

And if you need help figuring out how best to apply Cisco WAAS, we in Cisco Services offer a comprehensive Planning and Design Service for Cisco WAAS, as part of over overall Plan, Build and Manage lifecycle.  Get in touch if you need more information!

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Engineers Unplugged (Episode 7): Halloween Edition Featuring Scary Architecture

This week on Engineers Unplugged, we’re joined by EMC’s Caroline Yap Orloff (@cloudofcaroline) and VMware’s Massimo Re Ferre (@mreferre) as they take on the mythical single pane of glass. Can one architecture solve all of your problems? Watch and see.

Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:

  1. Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
  2. Subscribe to the podcast here: engineersunplugged.com
  3. Follow the #engineersunplugged conversation on Twitter
  4. Submit ideas for episodes or volunteer to appear by Tweeting to @CommsNinja
  5. Practice drawing unicorns
Unicorns and Spaghetti! Hunting the elusive single pane of glass.

Unicorns and Spaghetti! Hunting the elusive single pane of glass.

What’s your vote, is the elusive single pane of glass possible? Join the conversation here or on twitter. Have a problem you want solved? Write to me @CommsNinja and we’ll put you on the air or find experts to whiteboard for you on an upcoming episode!

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Beyond Big Data : Mastering Data In Motion For Positive Business Impact

Last week, more than 8,000 senior business and IT strategists, including more than 2,000 CIOs gathered at the prestigious Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, Florida.  At the conference, I presented our vision of how Data in Motion will change the way about we collect, manage and extract value out of data.

The Internet of Everything

Over the last 20 years, the Internet has evolved from digitizing access to information and business processes to digitizing interactions.

The next phase will create connections between all the smart objects around us through a multitude of new sensors connected to the Internet.  Two examples:

  • A flexible wristband packed with motion and vibration sensors tracks and analyzes your exercise, diet, and sleep data;
  • Prototype cars sense an imminent collision with pedestrians and brake automatically if the driver doesn’t.  The systems are made possible by sophisticated sensors based on cameras, radar, and lasers.

Tomorrow will see the Internet of Things, which combined with the ability to connect people to applications will lead  to the Internet of Everything.

We are entering an era in which a vast number of sensors create extremely large quantities of data at an accelerated pace.  Much of this data has very transient value.  In fact, its value vanishes almost as quickly as it is created.  As a result, not all generated data can be or should be stored.  We call it Data in Motion.

Data in Motion – Data Volume versus Data Longevity

Each phase of the Internet has brought a new wave of data that is orders of magnitude larger than the previous phase.

Today, video is the primary propagator of volumes of data (and we still have a long way to go to see the full impact of video pan out).   As we enter the next phase, the Internet of Things , data will only continue to increase in volume at an accelerated pace.

Something fundamental is starting to change, however.

The current obsession with volumes of data and mining large databases in search for the proverbial needle in the haystack reflects a world where data has enough longevity to make historical analysis relevant.  Most of the data created today (and tomorrow) does not support historical analysis, however, because data in motion has a much shorter life-value.  Data in motion requires real-time value capture before a small portion of it is stored for archiving or later analysis.

Extracting value from data in motion is not based on analyzing stored data, and certainly not from analyzing historical data.  The value from data in motion is the ability to create applications that matter here and now, in real-time.

Retailers can use video intelligence to create augmented reality mirrors or spot customers in need and send associates to assist them.  Hospitals can use real-time location services to match doctors, nurses, patients, and equipment for greater efficiencies.  Utilities can better respond to energy demand peaks and outages by distributing intelligence at the edge of their smart grids.

Tomorrow’s Information Infrastructure – Enabling Data in Motion

Cloud and virtualization completely changed the paradigm of where applications could sit.  And we’re all connecting through a proliferation of devices in a variety of locations across various networks.

The Internet of Everything is only going to compound the current data deluge problem if not addressed properly, creating a tremendous amount of information to manage and mine.

But there’s a solution and an opportunity.

The network touches everything—and is the only place where it’s possible to build the scalable intelligence required to meet and utilize this new wave of ‘data in motion’ at an acceptable cost.

An intelligent network is the way to meet the elevated expectations associated with data in motion, to create a foundation for innovation, and to revolutionize the way we view the world.  It’s also the foundation for Cisco’s vision of how major network components and architectures interact to produce greater business value.


 

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Cisco UCS Servers – From overhead to value add

In my previous blog post, I highlighted some of the benefits being seen by customers using the Cisco’s Unified Computing System ™ (UCS) from Case Studies. In posts two, three, four, and five, I discussed reduction in cabling, provisioning times, power & cooling, and other reductions in operating costs in more detail. Today, in the last post of the series, I will drill down on ongoing administrative and management costs.

Why are customers seeing a 59% reduction in administrative and management costs? UCS Manager and its associated benefits like Service Profiles and an open XML API. Cisco UCS Manager shifts administration tasks away from isolated, individual-system configuration that lacks context and visibility toward role- and policy-based management that provides end to end visibility as a single cohesive system using an intuitive GUI, with both command-line interface (CLI) and XML API options across the entire domain of 160 blade and rack servers.

Join Cisco for a live webcast on November 8th to learn more about the benefits of applying configurations and polices across multiple Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) domains and thousands of servers.

Here are three (plus a bonus fourth since I’ve already referenced Nighthawk Radiology) of the 17 customers cited:

Moffatt & Nichol– “Thanks to the Cisco UCS Manager, the same staff of seven engineers who previously managed 90 servers now manages 150 Cisco servers … IT responsiveness is accelerated and productivity boosted, while reducing IT administration costs by 15 percent.”Nighthawk Radiology — “With Cisco UCS Manager service profiles, we can very quickly reconfigure any server blade so that it’s ready for production in 15-20 minutes.” “… an administrator can change an operating system configuration and then apply it to multiple server blades at the same time, saving time and reducing configuration errors.”  “Firmware upgrades are easier as well, because the IT team simply attaches the upgrade to the template, and then Cisco UCS Manager automatically updates all server blades associated with that template. Cisco UCS Manager templates enable the IT team to update all servers in just 30 minutes, compared to 20 hours with the previous computing platform.”

American University of Sharjah – “Furthermore, with the UCS platform, AUS is seeing a twofold improvement in performing routine administrative tasks. ‘For example, operations that once took a minute are now taking just under 30 seconds,’ says Nujumi. [, Naji – Systems Engineer] ‘Multiply that by the thousands of such minor tasks we do, and it translates into the team spending much more time on service improvement and strategic issues.’”

Pitt Ohio Express — Support time was also cut dramatically. Thomas and the rest of the team have been freed to work on new projects in what he estimates is a twentyfold increase in productivity. Time saved is now being directed toward expanding the internal team’s expertise and experience with other technologies and applications, as well as launching new initiatives.

 

If you want to get hands on with UCS Manager and see why it won Microsoft’s Breakthrough Technology Award at Tech Ed North America 2012, download a copy of the Platform Emulator from the Cisco Developer Network (registration required). You will also have access to the UCS XML API Programmer’s Guide and the goUCS Automation Tool. If you would like a see a demonstration of UCS Manager in action, take a Test Drive with the demonstration video.

Would you like to learn more about how Cisco UCS can help you? There are more than 250 published data center case studies on Cisco.com. Additionally, there is a TCO/ROI tool that will allow you to compare your existing environment to a new UCS Solution. For a more in-depth TCO/ROI analysis, contact your Cisco partner.

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Who’s the Boss? Your Data Center or You?

Whether it’s ordering a last-minute Halloween costume from the comfort of your couch or being able to IM with colleagues on your flight to see family and friends this holiday season, we can all admit that “on-demand” access is an every day necessity.  In much the same way, today’s business users expect on-demand access to IT resources.  And as those customer demands increase, more pressure is placed on IT infrastructure.

Everyone – from consumers to business users, from IT departments in large enterprises to service providers – are grappling with both the opportunity and challenge of managing the evolution of IT.  It’s hard to let go of the past and the old ways of managing our data – whether that’s putting aside the family scrapbook for a digital library or adopting new management solutions to replace legacy systems in your data center. So, what’s the trick? Find a solution that allows you to easily and seamlessly transition to this new operating model.  Almost sounds too good to be true – but it’s real.

 To meet the complex demands of an ever-changing workforce and help our customers transition to IT-as-a-Service, we provide management software and infrastructure solutions to successfully adopt a cloud operating model. Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud, a Cisco Unified Data Center solution, preserves our customers’ investment in their existing systems while helping them with this transition. Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud includes a self-service portal, service catalog and orchestration engine for automated provisioning. Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud manages cloud services across both virtual and physical infrastructures, with support for Cisco UCS, as well as heterogeneous IT environments.

One of our new service provider customers, Curaçao Technology Exchange (CTEX), just launched their new cloud services offering powered by Vblock Systems and Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud in the region’s most advanced Tier-IV certified data center. Cisco and VCE are providing the underlying infrastructure for CTEX HyperCloud, giving CTEX customers an enterprise-class, high performance, and scalable cloud infrastructure platform for their mission critical applications.  Read the press release here.

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud complements VCE’s Vblock Systems, which bring together server, network, and storage infrastructure products from Cisco, EMC and VMware into a flexible and scalable converged infrastructure system.  The combination of these leading cloud management and infrastructure products provides CTEX customers with on-demand access to virtual data center capabilities – with a secure web portal to order cloud services, rapidly provision resources, and pay for what they consume.

Let’s face it – the “on-demand,” instant-gratification world we live in is not likely to change any time soon.  If anything, it’s become more pervasive, the pace is accelerating, and the demand on IT is increasing.  If you aren’t careful, an inefficient data center will begin to take control and slow you down.  It’s not too late though.  Take a deep breath, stand up, and show the data center who’s boss!  Whether you build your own private cloud or work with a cloud service provider, it’s time to move to a cloud operating model.

Learn more about how to tap into automation and get your data center working for you again!

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Cisco’s Common Platform Architecture (CPA) for Big Data

You may have heard that the digital universe is in petabytes, global IP traffic is in 100s of exabytes. These are mind bogglingly large metrics. Big data analytics can play a crucial role in making datasets in this space usable – by improving operational efficiency to customer experience to prediction accuracy. While Cisco is the global leader in networking — Did you know that 85% of estimated 500 exabyte global IP traffic in 2012 will pass through Cisco devices ? – the company also builds an innovative family of unified computing products. This enables the company to provide a complete infrastructure solution including compute, storage, connectivity and unified management for big data applications that reduce complexity, improves agility, and radically improves cost of ownership.

To meet a variety of big data platform demands (Hadoop, NoSQL Databases, Massively Parallel Processing Databases etc), Cisco offers a comprehensive solution stack: the Common Platform Architecture (CPA) for Big Data includes compute, storage, connectivity and unified management. Unique to this architecture is the seamless data integration and management integration capabilities with enterprise application ecosystem including Oracle RDBMS/RAC, Microsoft SQL Server, SAP and others. The CPA is built using the following components:

  • Cisco UCS 6200 Series Fabric Interconnects provides high speed, low latency connectivity for servers and centralized management for all connected devices with UCS Manager. Deployed in redundant pairs offers the fully redundancy, performance (active-active), and exceptional scalability for large number of nodes typical in big data clusters. UCS Manger enables rapid and consistent server integration using service profile, ongoing system maintenance activities such as firmware update operations across the entire cluster as a single operation, advanced monitoring, and option to raise alarms and send notifications about the health of the entire cluster.
  • Cisco UCS 2200 Series Fabric Extenders, act as remote line cards for Fabric Interconnects providing a highly scalable and extremely cost-effective connectivity for large number of nodes.
  • Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack-Mount Servers, 2-RU server designed for wide range of compute, IO and storage capacity demands. Powered by two Intel Xeon E5-2600 series processors and support up to 768 GB of main memory (typically 128GB or 256GB for big data applications) and up to 24 SFF disk drives in the performance optimized option or 12 LFF disk drives in the capacity optimized option. Also features Cisco UCS VNIC optimized for high bandwidth and low latency cluster connectivity with support for up to 256 virtual devices.

The CPA meets diverse big data requirements and support leading software distributions from our ecosystem partners including Greenplum, MapR, Cloudera, Oracle, ParAccel, MarkLogic and others. Cisco UCS is the exclusive hardware reference platform for Greenplum MR/MapR and ParAccel, and exclusive partner platform for Oracle NoSQL Database. Deep technology and engineering collaboration with these partners enable us to offer complete solution allowing customers to shift their focus from custom building the solutions and constant maintenance to strategic business initiatives.

Current version of the CPA offers two options: a high-performance and a high-capacity. The high-performance option offers balance compute power with IO bandwidth optimized for price/performance built using C240 M3 rack servers powered by two Intel Xeon E5-2665 processors (16 cores) with 256 GB of memory and 24 1TB SFF disk drives. The high-capacity option is optimized for low cost per terabyte built using C240 M3 rack servers powered by two Intel Xeon E5-2640 processors (12 cores) with 128GB of memory and 12 3TB LFF disk drives.

The solutions are offered in single rack and multiple rack scale. The single rack configuration consists of two fully redundant Cisco UCS 6248UP 48-Port Fabric Interconnects (for up to five racks) or Cisco UCS 6296UP 96-port Fabric Interconnects (up to 10 racks, 160 servers) along with two Cisco Nexus 2232PP 10GE Fabric Extenders and 16 Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack-Mount Servers (high-performance or high-capacity models). Each server in the configuration connects to the unified fabric through two active-active 10-Gbps links using a Cisco UCS VNIC. Multi-rack configurations include two Cisco Nexus 2232PP fabric extenders and 16 Cisco UCS C240 M3 Rack-Mount Servers for every additional rack.  The high performance rack can support up to 256 cores and 32 Gbytes/sec (SATA) or 48 Gbytes/sec (SAS) IO bandwith, high capacity rack can support up to 576 TB raw storage. Scaling beyond 10 racks (160 servers) can be implemented by interconnecting multiple UCS domains using Nexus 5000/7000 Series switches scalable to thousands of servers and to hundreds of petabytes.

It’s exciting to see that within only a few months of making these Cisco Common Platform for Big Data solutions available they are already being deployed in a range of industries.

The high performance rack and high capacity rack are available through the Cisco SmartPlay program in single SKU bundles as shown in picture below.

White Papers

[1] Cisco and Greenplum/MapR Partner to Deliver High-Performance Hadoop Solution
[2] Cisco UCS Ecosystem for Oracle: Extend Support to Big Data and Oracle NoSQL Database
[3] Extreme Performance to Oracle NoSQL Database Big Data Applications

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Demystifying the Catalyst: The Basics of Application Visibility in the Network

What is Flexible NetFlow and why should you use it? In this blog post, let’s take a look at the basics of Application Visibility in the network for capacity planning and security.

In an enterprise, hundreds of applications are accessed by users from different locations within the campus and remotely from a branch or home. The application usage is usually not known beforehand and increases non-uniformly over time. This non-uniform app usage translates to non-uniform increases in traffic across the network which complicates capacity planning. Another complexity to capacity planning is that there can be sudden spikes in the traffic due to security issues such as internal security breaches, viruses, Denial of Service attacks, or network-propagated worms. IT administrators should not wait for these incidents to happen in order to tackle them. Instead, administrators must have the ability to see the usage pattern in advance for capacity planning and security incident detection and remediation.

Cisco IOS Flexible NetFlow (FNF) is an embedded IOS tool that provides customized visibility into network traffic.  It is available in most Cisco switches, wireless controllers and routers. Flexible NetFlow collects data that can be used to detect network anomalies that are the results of the undesired activities above, or improper user behavior or in general to see the trend in usage for capacity planning.

One really cool feature of Flexible NetFlow it that it can tell how many applications are really running in an enterprise? IT administrators can customize Flexible NetFlow to monitor applications in use, view traffic usage by time of day, source, destination and user applications.

Let’s take a look at couple of examples that compares situations prior to and after Flexible NetFlow deployment.

Example 1:

Before Flexible NetFlow: IT administrators rely on user feedback to learn that traffic usage has reached the network bandwidth limit and that it is time to upgrade the network capacity. Or, IT upgrades the capacity across the board on a preset timeline. All these are expensive propositions for capacity planning as companies either can’t get capacity needed in time or they over-deploy capacity that isn’t needed.

With Flexible NetFlow:   IT administrators can use Flexible NetFlow and customize it to monitor the applications of interest and specific areas of the network. Alternatively, they can monitor the entire network to see how different parts of the network are being utilized, by application. Reports from Flexible NetFlow will help IT see the trends in usage and do effective capacity planning. They can do selective upgrades saving their company a lot of money. End users are also happier as they aren’t hindered by a network bandwidth limit – and ideally never know when an upgrade is required.

Example 2:

Before Flexible NetFlow: A malicious user starts a Denial of Service attack against a server. IT administrators fail to identify unexpected increases in traffic in that part of the network. The attack brings down the server and its service, affecting many users. Users open IT trouble tickets which prompts IT to investigate and remediate the problem – when it’s too late and already frustrated users.

With Flexible NetFlow: When the malicious user starts a Denial of Service attack on the server, the traffic in that part of the network starts to increase abnormally. This spike in traffic can be captured using Flexible NetFlow immediately when it starts to increase.  IT administrators will be alerted about this anomaly and they can quickly trace the source of the attack and take remediation.  IT is able to solve this problem without waiting for the trouble ticket to be opened by end users.

So, what are the benefits to IT?

  • Cost effective capacity planning.
  • Customized monitoring by application to ensure network availability for critical applications.
  • Bandwidth usage tracking by users, locations and applications without any impact to network performance.
  • Detection of anomalous behavior (virus infected laptop connected to the network, Denial of service attacks) real time.

The following is a list of Cisco switches supporting Flexible NetFlow.

 For more information visit http://www.cisco.com/go/netflow.

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Cisco Validated Designs for Cloud -Part 2- Cloud Service Assurance and Intelligent Automation

Welcome back to this series of blogs on Cisco Validated Designs (CVD)  for Cloud — In my first blog, I talked with Tom Nallen on the concept and benefits of CVD for Cloud — The second interview was with Laszlo Bojtos on a new CVD for Cloud : Cloud Service Assurance – Today we will explore one specific but critical aspect of this work, which is  the integration of Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud and Zenoss Cloud Service assurance.

So obviously  orchestration systems can make better decisions with performance KPIs, and can also be used to provide precise and immediate monitoring for newly created or changed tenant services. For advanced workflow integration, all Zenoss Cloud Service Assurance (CSA)  function and data is available using the documented JSON interface.

As mentioned , this CVD also features the integration of Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud and Zenoss CSA as an example of how Zenoss’ API can be used with Cisco’s cloud management software. It shows IA for Cloud provisioning VMs while sending information about the tenant and VM to Zenoss to enable the creation of a dependency map.

Zenoss CSA is designed to make it easy to integrate Cisco Cloud infrastructure and cloud management software, Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud, into an existing data center. Zenoss CSA will be integrated with client’s MoM system and configured for automated event forwarding.

To know more about Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud, you may want to read the blogs from Wayne Greene (Director Product Management- Intelligent Automation Solutions), and Rodrigo Flores ( Cloud Enterprise Architect -Intelligent Automation Solutions) and follow @CiscoIA.

As a starting point, check  the opportunity presented by the “Starter Edition ” announced last April.
Announcing the new Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud — Starter Edition by Jason Schroedl 
My First Cloud : Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud- Started Edition by Rodrigo Flores

I hope you find these information useful -Let me know if you like these blogs on Cisco Validated Designs.

If so — Stay tuned — I’ll come back very soon with other examples of CVD for Cloud.

 

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The Network is the Path to Accelerate Adoption of Cloud Services

Thinking about moving your document collaboration to the cloud?  How about data backup?  Want printing using the cloud?  You know there are benefits to moving applications to the cloud such as greater flexibility, lower costs and reduced operational demands and you’ve probably discussed this transition with your application team.  But have you had this discussion with the network team?

Document collaboration via the cloud makes sense given the distributed nature of companies’ workforces. But, to do this, you need an alternative plan if your remote site loses network connectivity. You want to be able to access that important presentation even if the network is down.

Centralizing data backup to the cloud is a dream come true.  But don’t forget you need to prepare the network too so users are not experiencing latencies involved with shifting from local to remote file access. Also, you need to consider the time and impact of backups on the network. You want to be able to handle the additional traffic in addition to the delay-sensitive applications residing in the branch such as voice and video.

Cloud-based Printing allows printing from any device, located anywhere to any printer, which is an enhanced user experience. Most often users will be printing to a near-by printer and we want to give them the same experience as if the print services were local.

Management of the applications centrally makes it much easier. However, if you need to install and maintain agents on your end-user devices – did your IT really gain any operational benefits?

If you have those or similar concerns, you will probably be happy to learn that Cisco has developed a framework to address many of those challenges with Cisco Cloud Connectors.

Cloud Connectors are software components embedded in, hosted on, or integrated with enterprise routing platforms (the Cisco Integrated Services Routers Generation 2 [ISR G2] or Cisco ASR 1000 Series Aggregation Services Routers) to enable or enhance a cloud service.

We believe the network has a unique position here since the router is the last entity controlled by the organization that sees all traffic before it leaves the company site. 

Cisco’s pervasive presence in the branch and datacenter allows a consistent experience across the network. Several cloud application providers are working with Cisco to develop connectors that will differentiate their cloud services. Here are the latest additions to the growing list of connectors built and tested for Cisco platforms:

  • Do you want to ensure continuous access and low latency to your VDI services?  Check out the VMware VDI cloud connector.
  • Do you want to be able to print seamlessly from your mobile devices? Check out the Xerox cloud connectors.
  • Do you want your users to be able to get on the network and access the cloud even when they lose access to your corporate headquarters? Check out the Infoblox cloud connector.
  • How can you access your application storage in a secure and scalable manner? Check out the Amazon connector [email: Ask-CloudConnect@cisco.com for more information]. 
  • If you want to backup your data on servers, mobile devices, and virtual machines without the need for a preinstalled agent check out the Asigra cloud connector.
  • For voice telephony — How do you maintain your business continuity if you lose connectivity to your private cloud? Check out Cisco Unified E-SRST.

Connector development with many more partners is underway, so be sure to look out for future announcements on new cloud connectors that can help you increase the adoption of their services. To learn more about Cisco Cloud Connectors, review this whitepaper.

If you have any additional questions feel free to contact ask-cloudconnect@cisco.com

                

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