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

Opens early access program for virtual reality platform for collaborative work

Nvidia, the leader in graphical processing units (GPUs), has opened an early access program for its Holodeck collaboration platform introduced earlier this year.

Developers, engineers, or anyone else who would like to use the advanced platform merely need to apply for early access and then, when approved, download it and provide feedback, announced Nvidia at its GPU Technology Conference (GTC) for European developers taking place this week in Munich.

Nvidia’s two announcements — a test fleet of autonomous delivery vehicles and the DRIVE PX AI platform — bring us closer to having self-driving cars.

Over the past few weeks, Nvidia has been holding a series of regional GPU Technology Conferences (GTC) in different parts of the globe. In September, Nvidia showed off its new Tensor3 GPU made for artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing in China. This week, the company took its show to Munich to host GTC Europe where it made a couple of announcements in the advancements of self-driving vehicles.

Microsoft needs to stop chasing the point product vendors and work to a goal that only it can — using data to inform and influence the collaboration experience.

The communications industry is unique in that it’s a mature market but constantly being disrupted.

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of startups, such as cloud video provider Zoom and team collaboration app maker Slack, jump in and challenge the larger incumbents. And, in so doing, they turn companies like Microsoft into the hunted where they were once the hunter.

Apstra’s intent-based AOS 2.0 delivers agility across physical/virtual networks so they look like one.

Intent-based systems have been all the rage since Cisco announced its “Network Intuitive” solution earlier this year. For Cisco customers, its solution is certainly interesting. But what about businesses that want an alternative to Cisco? Or companies that want to run a multi-vendor environment?

Over a year before Cisco’s launch, a start-up called Apstra shipped the closed-loop, intent-based solution. It was designed to be multi-vendor in nature with support for Cisco but also Arista, Juniper, HP and others, including white box. Apstra operates as an overlay to networks built on any of the leading vendors to deliver intent-based networking in heterogeneous environments.

This week, Apstra announced the next release of its software, AOS 2.0, which addresses the gap that exists between physical underlay and virtual overlay networks, including VXLAN. I’ve discussed this topic with many network professionals, and there is a high degree of interest in using network virtualization, but the lack of visibility between the underlay and overlay is a huge deterrent. Without an understanding of the relationship between the two, network managers are faced with managing two separate networks — the physical network and virtual overlay.

Also, with this model, troubleshooting becomes extremely difficult as the virtual network is one big blind spot. Any application problems that occur in the overlay is, for all intents and purposes, invisible to the engineers running the physical network. The lack of visibility also creates security problems because malware or other malicious traffic could spread like wildfire across the overlay and be hidden from the security tools attached to the physical network. There’s an expression that you can’t secure or manage what you can’t see, and that’s certainly true for overlay networks today.

Bringing the two environments together using traditional management models like CLI would be like trying to compute all the algorithms in an autonomous vehicle manually. People can’t work fast enough to process huge volumes of data, analyze it and take action on the insights to make it practical. That is why the task is turned over to machine learning systems. Similarly, with a network, trying to maintain the intent of a network is hard enough to do with a single network. Bring in the virtual overlay, and all the dependencies and the task would be so monumentally difficult that it’s practically impossible, even for the largest network teams.

Apstra’s AOS 2.0 facilitates management of physical and virtual networks

Apstra’s intent-based operations works off a closed-loop model where the intent is continuously validated. Virtual overlays introduce VXLAN segments that are used in conjunction with VLANs to segment virtual machines and containers in data centers at a more granular level. When these resources are put in motion and spun up and down dynamically, it becomes very difficult to maintain specific policies, such as “all workloads in VLAN1 are to be assigned to a specific VXLAN segment.” Intent-based solutions continually gather data and automate the re-configuration.

Also, Apstra’s AOS self-documents, repairs itself, and can maintain security. The term “intent-based security” is often bandied about, but that’s more the effect of being able to understand, create and maintain policies in highly dynamic environments.

This latest release of AOS automates the full lifecycle of VXLAN-based, layer two network operations within, but also across racks, which is crucial today because east-west traffic flows are dominating data centers. The growth in east-west is driving the need to migrate from legacy, multi-tier layer two networks to more dynamic and scalable, layer three leaf-spine architectures with an agile layer two overlay. Doing this with legacy configuration methodologies, such as scripting or CLI infusion, would require extensive application testing and possibly modification to account for the changes. Apstra’s closed loop increases agility, so the transition to leaf-spine can be made without any modifications at the application layer.

In a world where digital transformation is running amok, the infrastructure teams, including network operations, must find a way to respond to line-of-business requests faster. Intent-based networks reduce the amount of downtime caused by human error (still the largest cause) and cut operational expenses. They also increase network agility.

Digital businesses need to move with speed, but they are only as agile as the least-agile IT component. And that today is the network. Apstra’s AOS 2.0 now delivers agility across the physical – virtual boundary, so now it looks like a single network instead of two distinct ones.

Cyber security remains a hot topic with nearly every IT and business leader that I speak with. In particular, there seems to be an intensified focus on network security. Security is typically deployed in layers (network, compute and application), and I expect that model to continue in the short-term, but given the fact that many of the building blocks of digitization, such as IoT and the cloud, are network-centric, there should be a stronger focus on leveraging the network and network-based security to protect the organization.

The rise of cloud applications has been well documented on this site and others.  The cloud era kicked off with a handful of SaaS applications, such as ERP, CRM and HR systems. Today, businesses are buying almost everything from the cloud from compute services, contact center software, unified communications to anything else you can think of. These apps and services may look somewhat unrelated, but they all have one thing in common, they are highly dependent on the network to perform properly.

Star Trek is filled with advice that apply to today’s tech professionals. Here’s a look at seven from the Enterprise’s most logical crew member, Spock.

It’s no surprise that many network engineers are also fans of Star Trek. Personally, I have been a Trekkie for as long as I can remember. One of the appealing things about Star Trek is that it pushed the limits of what’s possible. In fact, many technologies we take for granted today were previewed on Star Trek over 50 years ago. Things such as wireless communications, immersive videoconferencing and tablet computers were all used regularly on the Starship Enterprise long before we used them down on Earth.



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