Cisco Live 2013 – Datacenter mobility is the name of the game

Always being interested in datacenter technologies you can’ t walk around Cisco. Their reach into many aspects of the datacenter in addition to the various access paths to those datacenters is significant. From high-end switching technologies to secure VPN access to wireless they are everywhere.

The name of the game for the last couple of years was primarily convergence and it turns out they have embarked on that path full steam and they haven’ t looked back. A natural followup on this is mobility. Not from you or me running around with an iPhone but more towards entire virtual datacenters. The goal is to have VM mobility between private, hybrid and public clouds without service interruption. The ability to do this allows companies to fluently move services from their internal datacenters to the likes of Amazon, MS Azure, Rackspace and the likes but also to the less well known service providers.

From the service providers perspective the obvious suspects are in many cases the larger telco’s like Vodaphone, Verizon, Telefonica, AT&T etc. but also the entire managed services companies who own and operate datacenters fit very well into that goal. CSC, IBM and HP are some companies who fit in this space.

What you see is that networks will virtually extend from the private cloud (ie your own equipment) into the public space where it will act under your own security, operations and management policies. Of course this requires a fair chunk of work upfront to determine if these policies align with the services the public cloud provide can offer but when you have this ironed out the transition to datacenter mobility should be fairly seamless.

Obviously this doesn’t come for free and many of the features and functions requires up-to-date firmware on similar up-to-date hardware. So when your equipment is up for renewal you might want to have a serious look if this datacentre mobility aligns with your business outlook for the near future and act accordingly.

Another aspects which you have to take into account is which platform you select for being your private cloud stack. Do you use MS Windows 2012, Openstack, VMware or another one. You might feel very comfortable with VMware but if your preferred cloud provider is doing OpenStack you obviously have some decisions to make.

Besides pricing you also need to take into account product maturity and backing. If you found some very funky “cloud”  software on SourceForge which does all that you want from an internal services perspective you’ll likely end up at a dead-end when you want to take your VM’ s to a public cloud.
As an example VirtualBox comes to mind. Although it do a lot of things you want from a hypervisor, (cloning, snapshots, GUI & CLI management)  it doesn’t talk with anyone so seamless migrations, disaster recovery and extended network functionality such a vSwitches and VM mobility is out of the question.

Another hot topic is of course network fabric services. In this field you see Cisco moving FibreChannel characteristics to their Ethernet platforms. Some things we’ve raken for granted in the storage space for over 2 decades you now see dripping down into the ethernet platforms. vPC and FabricPath are good examples of that. From a competitive perspective it looks like Cisco is doing the opposite of Brocade where you see Brocade adopting Ethernet technologies into their FC platforms. The result is the the same (or at least similar). It now depends on the overlaying management stacks to find out which one will suit you best.

It would be great to see where Cisco takes this in 12 months from now and hopefully we see some great stuff which are mature enough to be deployed in production environments then.

To close I’d say: Kudos Cisco. Exciting stuff popping out of the labs. For customers who are about to renew  their datacenter equipment I’d advise to thoroughly look around and determine if, and how, you could deploy these new and exiting technologies.

Erwin van Londen

DISCLAIMER : Cisco paid the admittance to the event but had no influence in my view depicted above.

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