The Napkins Dialogues: Life of a Packet (Walk), Part 1

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of presentations about storage basics. I actually really enjoy it, because it makes me rethink some of the things that I took for granted, and it helps me understand some of the gaps in my own knowledge when questions arise.

When you think of how we do certain things for storage, such as choosing block-based (e.g., FC, FCoE, iSCSI), file-based (e.g., NFS, SMB), or object (e.g., Ceph, Swift, CDMI) storage platforms and protocols, it’s easy to ignore the why these types of storage affect our Data Center architectures and performance.

It dawned on me that I only knew a relatively small piece of the puzzle (this is never a fun realization to grok the depth of your ignorance!), because while I spoke emphatically of knowing storage end-to-end, I actually had a less-than-stellar understanding of certain bits (pun intended).

After all, if I’m going to explain more about NVMe beyond the basics, I better have a water-tight understanding of the broader storage consequences, right?

So, I went asking (trust me, it’s a lot easier to admit you don’t know everything than to actually go out and rectify the situation). Notably, I went to speak to some of Cisco’s finest, such as Joe Pelissier (Distinguished Engineer and contributor to several networking protocols, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and InfiniBand). After he patiently sat me down and white-boarded things out, I managed to visualize a way of understanding the relationships between parts of the whole.

To that end, allow me to work through another Napkins Dialogue on how applications communicate with their storage. The road is longer than just one Dialogue, of course, so I’m breaking it down into parts for easier digestion.

Before I begin, though, allow me to thank Joe one more time for his patience and clear explanation of most of the content that follows. (Also, in case you’re wondering why I chose a familiar-looking avatar as the narrator, it’s because I can’t draw to save my life, and this was much easier) :)

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A pdf version of this dialogue can be found here.

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Cisco Continues to Support Application Virtual Switch for Application Centric Infrastructure in vSphere Deployments

Cisco Application Virtual Switch (AVS), a virtual member of the Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) family has seen increasing interest from customers who want to enforce application centric policies all the way to the virtual edge of the data center.

Cisco AVS is a derivative of the Nexus 1000V virtual switch, which is the market leading 3rd party virtual switch in the industry.   Nexus 1000V has accumulated more than 10,000 customers and has been deployed in large-scale service providers to large enterprises. Recently Cisco announced Nexus 1000V support for vSphere 6.0 releases. VMware has also announced to continue supporting Cisco Nexus 1000V in vSphere 6.0 and later releases.

VMware has supported and re-sold Nexus 1000V since we jointly launched the product. Recently (Feb 2nd 2015) VMware has announced that they will stop re-selling product/support for Nexus 1000V. Cisco will continue to sell and support Nexus 1000V for all customers.

Cisco AVS uses exactly the same vSphere APIs that the Nexus 1000V uses. Cisco AVS has always been supported by Cisco since the launch of ACI and will continue to be supported by Cisco. Currently, ACI with Cisco AVS is supported in vSphere 5.1 and vSphere 5.5 releases. With the latest release 5.2(1)SV3(1.5), Cisco AVS supports the Data Center Micro Segmentation delivered by the ACI. We plan to release vSphere 6.0 support for ACI with Cisco AVS later in second half of CY 2015. Cisco is committed to deliver on the strong customer interest in Cisco AVS and have multiple successful production deployments of Cisco AVS with ACI across our customer install base.

Customers who use either Cisco Nexus 1000V or Cisco AVS are assured that Cisco will continue to innovate and support these products via Cisco Support channel.

To ease adoption, Cisco AVS product and support is included as part of the Cisco ACI product and support agreement. No additional services or products need to be purchased.

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My take on the integrated infrastructure buzz

I recently created a playlist of my favorite 80’s, 90’s and current songs. Listening to the playlist in shuffle mode, I noticed the stark contrast and evolution of the recording quality from the old classics to the current stuff.

Thank you Pink Floyd and Apple

I have to admit that the quality does get progressively better overtime, but in some cases tunes just sounded over-engineered, especially on the digitally recorded tracks. As good as they may sound, they often lack the warmth of reel-to-reel tape deck recordings. I am sure someone is busy developing an app to fix that.

The Tres Virgo Recording Studio – 1980’s style with owner Robin Yeager

The Tres Virgo Recording Studio – 1980’s style with owner Robin Yeager

It actually makes me wonder how some artists are able to pull some of those over-engineered studio songs off on a live stage, and some do a great job. But these days, concerts are as much about the show, not just the music – thank you Pink Flyod for setting a trend.

Pink Flyod Live – Earls Court, London 1994

Awesomeness: Pink Flyod Live – Earls Court, London 1994

But I digress: what digital allows you to do is fix stuff in the mix with a simple mouse click, versus having to re-record part of, or all of the tracks. That is time and money saving stuff. It is streamlined sound engineering workflows at it’s best.

And it has opened up a whole world of possibilities for recording artists, including making mediocre ones sound pretty amazing. In fact, anyone with Garage Band installed on a MAC (and some talent) can sound pretty good these days. Thank you Apple.

Is your data center stuck in the tape-deck age?

Similar evolution has occurred in data centers around the globe. An IT environment of disparate servers, storage, and networking systems all managed in silos is a thing of the past. Or is it?

The unfortunate reality for many organizations is that their data centers are stuck in the tape deck age and associated laborious workflows. The result is that much of today’s IT budget is still being consumed by keeping the data centers humming along. That comes at the expense of real innovation.

It’s no surprise that in today’s connected-everything world, businesses and organizations off all sizes rely heavily on IT. And in that world, you need an infrastructure that is up to the task: an environment that is agile, secure and simple to manage with few resources.

Once you have that in place, your talented IT folks can turn their attention to focusing on real innovation that can lead to tangible business outcomes, rather than just keeping the lights on – just as talented musicians should focus on the music.

So what a novel idea to have an environment that combines compute, storage and networking into a pre-validated, fully integrated design that can be centrally managed? Enter the idea of integrated infrastructure. By no means is this a new concept. After all, many vendors now claim they deliver integrated infrastructure. Or can they?

I can’t speak for other vendors, but can say that Cisco has teamed up with the best in the industry to deliver pre-validated (so you know it will work together), integrated systems.

And they work just as advertised. I recently discovered this when I picked up my personal hardcopy of Unleashing IT.

I was delighted when my hardcopy of Unleashing IT arrived in the mail

I was delighted when my hardcopy of Unleashing IT arrived in the mail

This edition dedicated to discussing the various Integrated Infrastructure flavors available today from Cisco and it’s eco-system of partners. It profiles businesses and organizations much like yours that are reaping the business benefits.

I encourage you to take a moment to subscribe, download the pdf or get your personal hardcopy shipped to you, and let me know what you think.

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Application Visibility Makes Parenting Easier!

internet usage-v1.Parenting in a hyper-connected world is increasingly challenged by lack of visibility into children’s internet usage, and by limited controls to customize internet usage policies per child. About a year ago, I installed a home router with parental-controls. My kids (teenage girls!) quickly complained about the additional latency it introduced on the network. User experience was clearly in the tank. I soon discovered that those controls were not granular enough to customize for different times of the day, for different users, and down to individual devices.

By then, I realized that I had to fundamentally rethink my home network in order to become a more effective parent. I needed better insight into my network’s traffic. Finally, last fall, the geek in me awakened and I deployed a full-fledged Cisco network in my home with advanced Application Visibility & Control (AVC) capabilities, providing me deep insight into my home’s internet traffic.

Parental controls became a breeze. Even better, all this didn’t cause any noticeable network latency. At least no complaints anymore from my daughters! Then AVC allowed me to see into all sorts of applications per family member, per device.

One day, I started noticing almost daily Netflix usage at early morning hours. Apparently, one of my daughters developed a habit of watching movies at odd hours. I quickly fixed this by creating a control policy limiting video streaming to certain hours of the day.

Surprisingly, that daughter of mine was very cooperative in negotiating the appropriate times for Netflix. This experience gave me a new perspective about negotiating with children in a digital world.

Additionally, AVC also provided me with a few powerful insights about my home’s internet traffic:

  • I now know exactly which internet speed package to sign up for, so I don’t overspent on WAN bandwidth. AVC shows me that my bandwidth usage typically doesn’t exceed more than 10 Mb/s.
  • Not surprisingly video streaming makes up more than 50% of my family’s total bandwidth consumption. Netflix is 70% of that number, obviously, not a surprise.
  • What’s more amazing is that embedded videos on social networking sites make up around 20% of all bandwidth consumed, even though social networking on its own doesn’t consume more than 5% of the total. Wow!
  • Once awhile, there are spikes up to 40 to 50 Mb/s primarily caused by file back-ups to my cloud storage provider.

Armed with these insights, AVC allows me to enable an application based QoS policy to lower the priority of back-up traffic. This ensures that file back-ups will not interfere with my daughter’s “mission critical” video and audio streaming applications. (Happy daughters, happy father!)

Imagine having AVC in your organization

I finally regained control over my home’s internet traffic. More importantly, parenting is now somewhat easier. Perhaps all this is an overkill for the home, but what about for your organization? Imagine having the same visibility and controls in the enterprise. You would be able to right size the network in terms of WAN link speeds procured from your internet provider. What about the ability to block and prioritize application traffic flows as such that the network delivers the most optimal user experience? The possibilities are endless.

AVC is a component of the Cisco IWAN solution. If you’re interested in designing a network with AVC, checkout Cisco Validate Designs for IWAN and the Cisco AVC page.

Please feel free to comment, share and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, @CiscoEnterprise, and the Enterprise Networks Community.

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Quick Tips for Tracking Alerts

It’s no secret, networks, in general, are more challenging to manage than before.

As networks increase in complexity to embrace new business innovations, they may require more supporting devices, which, in turn, can result in even more alerts to manage.

If you’re a network manager or security officer, what are you going to do?

At Quintiles, they started using Smart Net Total Care to identify devices that might have security vulnerabilities. In the centralized portal, their IT team could easily access information on each type of alert, which is displayed by category or device and contains summary information with a link to the actual alert on Cisco.com.

“In the past, our security team would receive a notification and need detailed data from us to determine our level of risk,” says Wil Bolton, senior network systems engineer for Quintiles. “Now we can be proactive, because we can check the portal and know immediately. We have already completed some critical upgrades based on PSIRT information and can be confident that we are aware of a potential vulnerability.”

So, how are you going to quickly identify risks and network vulnerabilities? How will you reduce time chasing irrelevant alerts, so you have more time to focus on projects you care about? 

We’ve put together six suggestions to help you better manage your alerts.

1. Develop an Alert Review Processdoan thai blog

  • Determine what your main goals are for alert management. For instance, being proactive and reducing the number of problems; simplifying day-to-day operations; or freeing up time for more strategic work.
  • Decide on a regular alert review schedule and follow it
  • Make sure all team members are involved in the process, understand it and know what they need to do with the information.
  • Establish a timeline for reviewing your results – monthly, quarterly, biannually, etc.
  • Evaluate what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments

 

 

2. Prioritize Alerts by Business Needs

Every team should have its own set of critical considerations for prioritizing alerts. These might include potential security vulnerabilities, business criticality of the device, the service-level agreement (SLA) type, equipment replacement costs, device location, and the software and hardware lifecycle. Additional factors may make your team’s list, but no matter what they are, establishing a predetermined set of factors and a hierarchy of their importance will help your team have a clear view of alert priorities.

3. Tag Alerts

Put your process into action. With a clear, established process, when the main reviewer tags alerts for action, the team knows what steps to take to manage the alert, and the team members can annotate what they did, so there is a reference record.

4. Maintain an Alerts Record

Whether you addressed the alert or chose not to address it, record how you responded and why. Creating a detailed record provides critical context for retrospective analysis. It also maintains a record of which alerts have been addressed for other team members. So when team members are addressing remediation steps or are seeking TAC support, they have important background on hand.

6. Review Alert Status

You should compare the before and after status of your alerts to make sure all your most important items have been addressed. With a detailed report, you can easily keep track of what’s new and what’s been addressed. If you are using Smart Net Total Care, a delta report quickly identifies alerts from a specific time period for your review.

What alert tracking tips have worked for you?

If you’re looking to improve day-to-day tasks, such as staying on top of network alerts and managing service contracts download the ebook: “The Path to Improving Network Support Operations”

Learn More

Join the Conversation

Please feel free to comment, share and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, @CiscoEnterprise, and the Enterprise Networks Community.



A Blueprint for Smart Network Deployment

Get the best practices design guide for your enterprise network.

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ACI Delivered Operational Simplicity at Cisco Live San Diego

Much of the discussion about Cisco ACI has been about accelerating the deployment of applications across infrastructure – defined by application needs and driven by policy.  There is another powerful benefit from ACI for the datacenter network administrators of today who are stretched thin trying to debug outages or respond to concerns about poor application performance. For all of them, the latest release of ACI software, Brahmaputra or APIC 1.1(1j) and NX-OS 11.1(1j), provides exciting new enhancements for managing, monitoring, and troubleshooting data center infrastructure.

ACI’s Brahmaputra release adds significant operations support in the form of:

  • Pro-active tooling: ACI tools such as iTraceroute, iPing, health scores and atomic counters work to eliminate downtime. Users can work before issues become user detectable to identify and resolve issues. Configurations can be validated prior to deployment.
  • Re-active tooling: When issues do occur in a production datacenter, users need to have the right tools available to resolve them.

Functional Brahmaputra

For the ACI engineering and product team extensive software release notes, go to these links

APIC 1.1 and NX-OS R 11.1.

During Cisco Live San Diego, there were a number of sessions covering these new capabilities to address “what can ACI do for me today?”. The answer is directly addressed by the benefits centralized management, monitoring and troubleshooting can deliver when you view and operate the entire fabric as a single system.

If you need help dealing with the complexity of  today’s non-application centric data centers,  I recommend that you take in the following Cisco Live sessions that highlight the simplified troubleshooting and centralized operational benefits of ACI which network operations teams can benefit from immediately, improving their productivity and speeding up remediation for application problems.

BRCACI-2102 ACI Troubleshooting

BRKACI-1502 Simplify Operations with ACI

PSODCT-2455 Simplify Day 0, 1, and 2 Operations in Application Centric Data Centers


Docker and the Rise of Microservices

Over the past 18 months, we’ve been witnessing a rapid transformation in the way applications are built, packaged, shipped, deployed, and instantiated.  This change has been driven by developer demands for simplicity and a shift in focus towards an application-centric view of IT.     To find evidence of this trend, look no further than the skyrocketing popularity of Docker and the movement towards microservice based architectures for running applications.

You could think of microservices as a service oriented architecture built around independently deployable, loosely coupled software components.  By providing the infrastructure to build, ship and run these services, Docker has become one of the most important open source infrastructure projects in the world today.

Why are microservices and Docker so important?  Well, we’re witnessing a bit of a Darwinian process occur at an extremely fast pace in the cloud world today.    Tools that offer benefits in simplicity, speed, scale, and flexibility to applications developers succeed while others fall out of favor.  Docker does an amazing job at shrinking build, test, and deployment cycles and providing a means of separating the functions of infrastructure, platform, and application teams through microservices.  Some of the largest web scale companies in the world have already proven this works and now the challenge remains in bringing more generally into the enterprise environment.

This transition is extremely exciting and creates a number of opportunities for Cisco in the datacenter.  While this is far from an exhaustive list, I wanted to highlight some of the key ones we are seeing.

  1.  Deliver scalable, manageable infrastructure optimized for microservice architectures.  We can make it extremely easy for users to use our UCS, Nexus, and Application-Centric Infrastructure to build turnkey environments with the network, compute, and storage performance and scale they require.
  1. Develop application and operational intent frameworks that leverage Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).  Cisco ACI and its application-centric policy language are a perfect fit for Docker and microservice architectures.  The policy language offers the simplicity and the separation of infrastructure requirements that developers are seeking.  Our team is also contributing to the open source community to accelerate the adoption of policy as well.
  1. Help our customers deploy Docker and microservices alongside the environments and tools they already run today.  As Cisco, it is incumbent on us to help provide the unified management tools and infrastructure to offer onramps to this new technology, allowing it to run alongside legacy environments.
  1. Carry out the organizational changes needed to take advantage of microservices.  As Docker and microservices enable greater separation between infrastructure and apps teams, Cisco can play a major role in training over 2 million Cisco-certified professionals to lead this transformation.
  1. Bringing microservices to the network gear itself.  We already allow users to run container-based services directly on our Nexus switches so they can begin to leverage some of the same approaches that are appearing in the computing environment.

So, even at a glance, the rise of Docker containers and microservices creates a tremendous set of opportunities for innovation.  We’re particularly excited about libnetwork, the new Docker network plugin framework, which will be a critical point of integration for Cisco.  Its also an incredibly reassuring and healthy sign that the Docker community is committed to being open and responsive to the needs of its users.

We have already started using this framework to connect Docker with a breadth of networking technology and offer the seamless integration our customers need.   In particular, we have created the Contiv project as an a generic network clustering plugin which integrates with Docker’s libnetwork and we’re excited to work with the community around it.
As we’ve seen over the past year, Docker and microservices more generally are well on their journey to transforming the datacenter.  We’d love to see you help us by joining in the open source development of Contiv or Docker directly or by reaching out to your account teams to learn more about Cisco solutions for containers.

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Cisco and Red Hat at the Center of IT Transformation

summit_logo_170The open hybrid-cloud and big data are at the center of the IT transformation that will enable every business, country, and city to become a digital and technology organization. Cisco and Red Hat share a common vision for the future of IT. That’s why Cisco is going big at the Red Hat Summit, which kicks off June 23rd in Boston. It’s going to be a great week of conversations with IT professionals who are harnessing open source innovation across their businesses and organizations to deliver new models of IT.

I’m especially looking forward to the opening general session with Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst and Satinder Sethi Cisco VP of Data Center and Cloud Solutions. I’m sure these two industry luminaries will have keen insights into the market transitions and IT innovations that put the data center at the heart of digital transformation.

Of course, the Cisco team will be busy with an action packed agenda of sessions and demos. Plan to make the Cisco booth your hub in the Red Hat Summit Partner Pavilion. Our mini-theater will feature non-stop tech talks that span, OpenStack, Group Based Policy, Big Data and Developer Programs. Every visitor to the Cisco booth will leave with an ultra-cool Cisco hat.

If you’re attending Red Hat Summit, you’re already lucky. So take advantage of that luck to win the best prizes at the event. We’ll be raffling off a Roku Stick after every tech talk in our mini-theater. We’ll also have a daily raffle for a Go Pro camera. Post a selfie with your Cisco hat and you can win a pair of Beats headphones.

Keynotes, sessions, prizes. Fun, right? Wait, there’s more! As the Premier Sponsor of Red Hat Summit, we’re pleased to present the Red Hat Summit party on Thursday, June 25 at the Museum of Science Boston. There will be great food, awesome music and you. See you there!

Ok, it can’t be all fun and prizes. You’ll leave Red Hat Summit with the latest information on Cisco and Red Hat solutions to modernize your data center and transform your business. Check out these videos for a sneak peak of the solutions we’ll be talking about in Boston.

Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure for Red Hat OpenStack

OpenStack Clouds with Cisco ACI

Foundation for Big Data from Cisco and Red Hat

I and the entire Cisco team are looking forward to connecting with you at Red Hat Summit. Let’s stay connected with @CiscoDC, @CiscoDevNet and keep the conversations going with #CiscoUCS #CiscoACI and #OpenCisco.

 

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ITD and RISE: New innovations at Cisco Live San Diego

ITD (Intelligent Traffic Director) and RISE (Remote Integrated Services Engine) have been helping Cisco partners and customers save massively on CAPEX and OPEX, while providing unprecedented scalability, high availability and ease and deployment. We had several events at Cisco Live San Diego 2015:

  • ITD and RISE Whisper suite meetings for Nexus 9k/7k/5k. For further discussions, please email to nxos-itd@cisco.com
  • A large number of people came to ITD Booth in the World of Solutions, to watch a demo.
  • Breakout sessions :
  • New innovation demo at the Hub:
    • ITD and Analytics Driven Green Networking : First prize winner in Hackathon 2015
  • ITD won the Best of Interop, 2015 in Data Center category. Read blog.
  • Nexus 7702 announcement : Nexus 7702 has a sweet spot in being a “services chassis” with RISE and ITD.
  • Nexus 5k/6k : RISE and ITD are now shipping: NX-OS 7.1.1N1(1)
  • Nexus 9k : ITD is now shipping: NX-OS 7.0(3)I1(2)

We hosted 1:1 customer meetings in whisper suites, during Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego. We had BU Executives, Product Managers, and Engineering Managers on  site to meet with customers. It was a unique opportunity for customers to engage directly with the Business Unit. For further discussions, please send email to nxos-itd@cisco.com.

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It’s a Wrap! Enterprise Mobility at Cisco Live U.S. 2015

25,000+ IT geeks have left the building – the San Diego Convention Center, specifically – now that Cisco Live U.S. wrapped last Friday. It was a huge success and we have the data to prove it, thanks to Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX). Some interesting and fun stats:

  • You love beer. Happy Hour was, unsurprisingly, very popular, responsible for big spikes in attendance at the World of Solutions (WoS) at the end of each day.
  • You like free swag (…and demos). Attendees, booth staffers aside, spent 2.5 hours on average in the WoS, and 1 hour 16 minutes on average at the Cisco booths in WoS. If you picked up lightsabers at the Cisco Mobility and Enterprise Networks booths, hopefully airport TSA didn’t confiscate them from you!
  • You bid adieu to John Chambers. The crowds came to see his final Cisco Live keynote as our CEO, illustrated by a massive spike with over 5,000 unique devices.
  • You use more than one mobile device. There were 29,000+ unique visitors (devices) at CLUS, not including staffers, and specifically The Hub saw the most action.

jolenewrapup1

For many more Cisco Live insights by my colleague Evyatar Ram, Product Manager on the CMX team, check out his blog here [URL TBD].

Cisco Mobility wasn’t just gathering analytics in the background at Cisco Live, it was also front and center at the Innovation Talk: Future of the Network. Rob Soderbery, Cisco SVP of Enterprise Products & Solutions, shared how our Mobility solutions create new ways of digitizing business with applications in mind, beyond the wireless network. He showed a live demo of CMX location innovations such as hyperlocation – a Best of Interop Las Vegas and Tokyo winner — and live analytics. In addition, he demonstrated how easy it is for customers to deliver captured portals with pre-set templates that are easy to update and integrate in other data sources such as CRM, powered by Enterprise Mobility Services Platform (EMSP). The talk wrapped with a raffle drawing of two Apple iWatches. Were you one of the lucky winners?

As I left Cisco Live after the show wrapped up, Elvis walked by, sporting a spangly jumpsuit and slinging his guitar. Really, I can’t make this stuff up. I suppose that’s a sparkly reminder that I’ll be seeing him, and you, in Vegas for Cisco Live U.S. next year.

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