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Posts Tagged ‘Cisco’

The networking industry has certainly gone ga-ga over the topic of software defined networks (SDN). Before SDNs were all the rage, network transformation had already begun with the use of fabrics. The rise of SDNs certainly took the media focus away from fabrics and that caused many vendors to shift their marketing messages as well.

However, one of the vendors that has been fairly consistent with the value of a fabric is data center specialist Brocade, and its strategy seems to be working.

When Lloyd Carney took over as CEO of the company last year, Brocade stopped trying to be all things to all people and focused on the areas where Brocade’s value proposition would resonate most. In fact, in the fall of 2013, I had the chance to meet up with Mr. Carney at the company’s channel event in New Orleans. He told me with no uncertainty that if the company didn’t have a shot of being one of the top three vendors in a market, then it shouldn’t be in that space. During his keynote, he talked at length about fabrics and the value the technology could provide to large data centers and service providers.

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The role of the CIO has changed more in the past five years than any other position in the business world. Success for the CIO used to be based on bits and bytes, and is now measured by business metrics. Today’s CIO needs to think of IT more strategically and focus on projects that lower cost, improve productivity, or both, ideally.

However, many IT projects seem to be a waste of time and money. It’s certainly not intentional, but a number of projects that seem like they should add value rarely do. Here are what I consider the top IT projects that waste budget dollars.

Over provisioning or adding more bandwidth

Managing the performance of applications that are highly network-dependent has always been a challenge. If applications are performing poorly, the easy thing to do is just add more bandwidth. Seems logical. However, bandwidth is rarely actually the problem, and the net result is usually a more expensive network with the same performance problems. Instead of adding bandwidth, network managers should analyze the traffic and optimize the network for the bandwidth-intensive applications.

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Big data and analytics are hot topics of conversation for almost anyone in IT today, including network operations. This is one of the reasons Gigamon has been on a tear over the past couple of years, especially since its IPO last year.

Last week, Gigamon announced an upcoming application to generate and export NetFlow records from its visibility fabric. The NetFlow Generation application will create NetFlow records and then send that information to one of the many NetFlow collectors and analyzers available on the market today.

Historically, Gigamon has traditionally focused on developing features and applications to help optimize the performance of network tools. This application, though, will help optimize the performance of network infrastructure, such as routers and switches. Generating NetFlow traffic can be very processor-intensive and offloading this to the visibility fabric can reduce the burden on network hardware.

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Keeping the company network up and running is, by far, the most important task that a network manager has today. However, the largest cause of downtime is actually self-inflicted. ZK Research recently ran a survey that asked what the primary cause of downtime with networks is today, and the No. 1 response was “human error,” with 29% of the 1,320 respondents citing this as the top issue. This is down from the 37% that my research showed a couple of years ago, but it’s still top dog.

There are a number of reasons why human error causes downtime, and they all tend to revolve around the fact that network managers typically have very poor visibility holistically across the network. Additionally, change management, documenting processes and auditing tends to done on an ad hoc basis. Some do it well, but most don’t. Now, in many ways, this really isn’t the fault of the IT department, as the tools to manage network changes and to see what’s going on with the network also tend to be pretty poor.

Last week, ActionPacked Networks announced the 3.1 version of its LiveAction network management product to address some of these issues in Cisco environments. ActionPacked Networks is a Cisco Developer Network partner and has added a number of new features to improve the visibility and manageability of Cisco networks.

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As an industry analyst, I get briefed on many, many new products, most of which are positioned to me as “transformative” and “game-changing.” The majority of the products, though, are frankly pretty lame, and the startup fades away after just a few years. However, every once in a while a vendor comes along with a product that makes me sit up and take notice because it solves a significant problem and creates a whole new market.

This was the case with Riverbed. Way in back in 2002, I remember Riverbed executive Eric Wolford (who recently left) came to see me at Yankee Group with PR person Kim Kapustka to show me a new product that can optimize WAN links. Going into the meeting, I was somewhat skeptical and was expecting something akin to another QoS device, for which there were many already on the market. Instead, Eric walked me through how the company actually accelerated the traffic and gave LAN-like performance to WAN-based applications, such as Windows and email. Riverbed created the WAN optimization market, and the company and market took off like a rocket. Before one of you out there posts a comment that states someone like Actona actually created the market because they were first, which might be true, Riverbed was the biggest, loudest vendor in the space and now stands as the market leader in the WAN optimization market.

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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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