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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Archive for November 2013

While much of the technology news this week has been dominated by data center announcements, there is more to IT than software-defined networks. This week, session border controller vendor Sonus announced the version 4.0 release of its flagship SBC 5000 product line.

The 4.0 release gives the SBC a more significant role than it has had in the past. Historically, as the name might imply, an SBC is used at the border of networks to manage and secure IP sessions. Sonus is now positioning the SBC as an internal device that controls traffic moving across network boundaries, as well as traffic moving within the enterprise network. This means being the control element for LAN, WAN, off-net and mobile traffic.

Additionally, most engineers consider the SBC to be a device that manages voice traffic only. Sonus now wants the SBC to handle all types of multimedia traffic, particularly video. The emphasis on video certainly doesn’t imply that video is more important than voice, chat or other collaborative applications. It’s just that video is a beast to manage because of the amount of bandwidth it generates. The Buggles wrote a song in the 80s called “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but in IT video kills the corporate network, if not managed correctly.

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For decades now, Cisco has been the single biggest factor in driving network change. Over the years, the company has been aggressive with VoIP, PoE, MPLS, wireless LAN and most recently converged infrastructure, and has gained a significant early-move advantage. However, when it comes to software-defined networks, I think it’s fair to say that Cisco has lagged in both technology and vision, and has let the likes of VMware, Arista and Big Switch get out in front and carry much of the messaging.

Yesterday though, CEO John Chambers effectively grabbed the throats of many of the smaller, SDN pure-plays, and stated “Where are your rebel friends now?” at the company’s Application Centric Infrastructure event in New York. Specifically, the company, to no surprise, announced at the event that it was acquiring the remained of spin-in Insieme following a similar path to what we saw with Nuova and Andiamo, and went through its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) vision.

Getting into the details, ACI is certainly a bold vision for the industry. It promises a unified, single point of control and visibility for the management and provisioning of virtual and physical infrastructure. This would mean networking, compute, storage, virtual machines, application services and security all manage a single entity.

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The vision is certainly a bold one, as it portrays a world where the entire data center can be managed from a single point.

It seems like years that we’ve been talking about the latest Cisco “spin in”, Insieme, and what the company was building. Well, on Wednesday, at a media event in New York, Cisco announced it was buying the remaining portion of Insieme and unveiled its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) vision.

The vision of ACI is certainly a bold one, as it portrays a world where the entire data center can be managed from a single point, which is the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). In addition to the APIC, Cisco also rolled out new Nexus 9300 and 9500 switches, an optimized operating system and some other supporting hardware, such as custom optics to drive the price per connection down.

The last piece of the ACI puzzle is something called application network profiles, which can be thought of as the expansion of existing UCS service profiles. Today service profiles are used to automatically configure UCS related infrastructure such as NICs, HBAs (host bus adapters), servers and network devices. Now take this concept and expand it to storage, layer 4-7 services, hypervisors, security functions and other infrastructure in the data center.

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One of the primary value propositions of Software Defined Networks (SDNs) is that it optimizes the performance of the applications that run on networks today. However, almost all of the SDN-related products that have been released to date operate at layer 2/3 which, of course, have no direct relevance to applications. I agree that if there’s congestion or something else impacting performance at those lower layers, applications themselves will be impacted, but for the most part, the world of applications and networks have been managed in independent silos.

To help bridge this gap between applications and networks, many network managers, data center folks and even some application developers have turned to application delivery controllers (ADCs). The ADC speaks both the language of networks and applications and can be thought of as the “Rosetta stone” of IT, and plays a key role in enterprises’ ability to roll out applications rapidly and keep them performing optimally.

However, SDNs have recently turned the networking world upside down. Things that were physical are now software-based and virtual. Networking has a level of dynamism that has never been seen before. This trend has raised the question of what the role of the ADC is in this new virtual, software-driven world.

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The first ever Internet of Things World Forum was held in Barcelona over the last week of October. If there was any doubt, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a very real trend and it’s just a matter of time before IoT has a significant impact on the way we live our lives. These were the top 10 companies on display at the World Forum, many of which are helping IoT move from vision to reality.

10. Freescale – Freescale Semiconductor is an IoT enabler that makes embedded processing solutions for automotive, consumer and industrial markets. Freescale has a variety of technologies, such as microprocessors, microcontrollers, sensors and integrated circuits, that can be considered the foundational components of IoT. Freescale technologies are currently being used in connected cars, medical equipment, consumer appliances and energy management solutions.

9. Grundfos – This IoT-related company is a leader in advanced pump solutions and touts itself as a “trendsetter” in water technology. When I first saw this, I thought it was a bit boring, but heck, we all need water and the more efficiently it can be processed and made available, the better off the world is. Grundfos has holistic water management and pump solutions that can communicate the status of water processing and automatically adapt when required. The company also provides a significant amount of data that can be further analyzed for ongoing improvements.

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