Tag Archives: cisco

Host based mirroring kills your storage network!!

System administrators are very inventive and lazy. I know, I used to be one of them. 🙂 Everything that can be done to make ones life easier is about to be scripted, configured, designed etc.  If you are responsible for an overall environment from Apps to servers to networks and storage you can make very informed decisions on how you want to set up each different aspect of your environment. The last time I had this opportunity was back in 1995. Since then I have not come across an environment where a single person/team was responsible for each technology aspect of the infrastructure. As environments grow these teams grow as well. Business decisions like splits, acquisitions, outsourcing etc etc have enormous impacts not only on the business itself but also on people who are now forced to work with other people/teams who may have different mind-sets, processes and procedures and even completely different technologies. In many such instances strange things will happen and result in a very unpredictable behaviour of compute, network and storage systems. Below I’ll give you such an example where decisions from a systems-level perspective results in massive problems on a storage network.

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Appalling state of Storage Networks

In the IT world a panic is most often related to a operating systems kernel to run out of resources or some unknown state where it cannot recover and stops. Depending on the configuration it might dump its memory contents to a file or a remote system. This allows developers to check this file and look for the reason why it happened.

A fibre-channel switch running Linux as OS is no different but the consequences can be far more severe.

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CiscoLive! Melbourne – 2016

Having to miss last years edition I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this years CiscoLive! conference in my hometown Melbourne again. Venue was excellent as usual. MCEC provides perfect facilities and is in the heart of the city so no dramas here.

The opening keynote already showed to direction where Cisco has steered the ship. Datacentre agility to cope with the ever increasing demand for business flexibility and be able to adapt quickly to changes in market conditions.

Cisco is acknowledging that it needs to adjust their products and services portfolio in such a way business can still use its entire catalog but by opening up the methodologies in which these products are used it gives more control and choice to the people who have to design, implement and operate these infrastructures. This way they don’t need to align their internal processes to the ever more diverse product-set but the other way around.

One example is NX-OS. The operating system running the core of Cisco’s networking products. With the introduction of NX-OS 7 on the Nexus 7000 and the new 9000, the operating system has “rebranded” itself to “Open NX-OS”. This doesn’t mean Cisco has put the source on Github but it gives a more accessible method of interacting with the switches, or any other supported platform for that matter. By providing a rich REST-full API it’s easy to create programs, tools and scripts which can automate deployment and day-to-day operations.

Evidence of this is the fact that Cisco had set up an entire track for developers in the form of a, so called “DevNet zone”. An area at the conference where developers, or anyone interested, could learn more about developing scripts and tools to better interact with the wide portfolio Cisco has. This was not only restricted to the conference. Cisco has ramped  up a large online devnet area including a impressive sandbox where developers can test and validate their programs towards the majority of Cisco technology. As you may have seen this is not new and the methodology is more or less adopted from the OpenSource communities around the worlds where this has been created. Distributed development of software by coding, peer review, testing, building and deploying has been done for over two decades and even long before that in the educational institutions.

A lot of Cisco teams and individuals contribute in the form of code, documentation, examples and a myriad of hints and tips to get you started.

Obviously Cisco is no philanthropic organization so don’t expect any non-cisco technologies to be covered. Even when you think you see Cisco’s involvement in a non-cisco product or code, like for example OpenStack, a lot of code is contributed in the form of Cisco enablement in that product. No problem here, all vendors do that and it increases the usability and experience of the overall product.

I must applaud Cisco for embracing the way IT is used these days and give customers more control in the way they want to use Cisco products. This really is the way forward and all vendors should adopt this methodology and provide resources in the form of knowledge, product resources and people. Other companies like EMC with {code} and IBM’s Developerworks provide a similar experience

CiscoLive! 2016 covered a lot more topics like security, wireless, communications etc. etc.

Another great feat was I got to see a few friend again. Dr J Metz finally made it to Australia and David Jansen who’s sessions I always enjoy for its pragmatic approach and technical depth. Great to see you guys again.

All in all another excellent conference where I learned a lot and provide me with a significant bag of information to keep me busy for another year.

Thanks Cisco.



Open Source Software (OSS) and security breaches in proprietary firmware

It is no secret that many vendors use open source software in their products and solutions. One of the most ubiquitous  is Linux which is often the base of many of these products and used as core-OS because of it’s flexibility and freely available status without the need of keeping track of licenses (to some extent) and costs.

These OSS tools have different development back-grounds and are subject to policies of the person (or people/companies) who develop it. This obviously results in the fact that defects or bugs may result in security issues especially when it involves network related applications. Recently the bugs in OpenSSL and Apache have gain much traction as some of these are fairly significant and can result in access breaches or denial of service.

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The technical pathways of Brocade in cloud storage adoption

Brocade isn’t always very forthcoming about what they are working on. Obviously a fair chunk of development and engineering efforts are spent on cloud integration  and enablement of their software and hardware stack into this computing methodology. Acquisitions like Foundry, Vyatta and now Connectem show that the horizon has broadened the views of Brocade. To keep up with the ever increasing demands for network features and functions it makes sense to review the current product lines they have and when you read between the lines you may be able to spot some interesting observations.

Cloud Storage

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Cross-fabric collateral damage

Ever since the dawn of time the storage administrators have been indoctrinated with redundancy. You have to have everything at least twice in order to maintain uptime and be able to achieve this to a level of around 99,999%. This is true in many occasions however there are exceptions when even dual fabrics (ie physically separated) share components like hosts, arrays or tapes.. If a physical issue in one fabric is impacting that shared component the performance and host IO may even impact totally unrelated equipment on another fabric and spin out of control.

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Energy Efficient Fibre Channel and related cost savings

For years many storage environments have used both active-active and active-passive multipath (MPIO) access mechanisms to access storage arrays in a dispersed or linear method. On enterprise class storage arrays with global caches the active-active method is most often used while on modular arrays you’ll see the active-passive scenario often applied. Inherently this means that during absence of IO, whether being the passive path or due to total non-IO operations (ie. there is no application or operating system sending or receiving any data), the actual fibre-channel links are only sending IDLE or ARB(ff) fillwords to maintain bit- and word synchronization. This also means that both the sender and receiver are always up and thus use the same amount of power as where they transmitting data at full line-rate. Obviously this is a waste of scarce resources and this is what has been addressed in the new FC standards that are coming up. The FC framing and signalling standard will be enhanced to have traffic diagnostics determine if an SFP should be in full power operating power or in a power reduced mode. Below are the details including some cost-savings calculations.

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Cisco Live

For the past two years I’ve attended Cisco Live here in my hometown Melbourne. I must admit that it is one of the best organized events I’ve been to. Not only is there a huge diversity in technology and solutions presented but you can also check out the broad ecosystem of Cisco partners. If you have anything to do with networking, datacenter solutions, IT security, cloud etc I would certainly recommend you get a ticket and check it out.

For my techno colleagues I would advise to attend the Technology Seminars on day one. If you want to deep-dive into one of the tracks, which are presented by well established engineers, you really need to check these out. Cisco Live also provides the presence of Cisco TAC. They have been extremely helpful to me last year so my hats of to them. If you have a very specific question or problem then please go to one of the guys in the “Meet the Expert” section on the showground in the World of Solutions expo hall. In some occasions I’ve seen that people start a discussion around their specific problem during a general presentation, that’s not the way to go. The “Meet the Expert” provides you one-on-one time with the guys who handle your issues for a living on a day to day basis so you can start your whiteboard sessions there. they can even show you specific configuration options and parameters which you might not have thought of.

If your into putting your money where your mouth is and obtain the accreditation of Cisco to become a certified engineer than definitely goto Cisco Live. You get a 75% discount on your certification exams which gives your boss even more incentive to provide you a ticket. Make sure you register beforehand because the enrolment cannot be done on the spot.

As a courtesy Cisco does provide (almost) all sessions online at Cisco Live 365. Obviously you miss the interaction but at least you get the presentation slides.

As for some feedback to Cisco for next events it would be great if there were small and short brainstorm sessions where Cisco partners can discuss their solutions with patrons. I know they present their stuff in the small sections of the show ground but this is always some sort of one-way monologue provided by marketing people. Partners like Fluke, Redhat or some of the physical infrastructure providers could be given the ability to dive into technical discussion sessions for those who are interested and discuss amongst peers about these solutions.

Hope to see you there.

Kind regards,