Cisco Live 2015: Day 1

Pretty busy day today. Navigating through a crowd of 25,000 people is no easy task. This is my first Cisco Live conference, but so far I have been very impressed. As I compare this conference with other IT conferences, this one is towards the top in my book. The content was excellent on all the sessions that I attended. Presenters started at a basic level and quickly dived in to more advance details, so this allowed for a crowd of mixed levels of expertise to be engaged at all times.

Attended a session about UCS, NetApp and Veeam, and was very surprised about the content. I’ll definitely be doing some more research on Veeam’s integration with other vendors in the near future. Rick Vanover (Veeam), did an excellent job delivering the facts without the marketing fluff.

Oh yeah, most sessions had tables and power towards the front of the room. I thought that was a really nice touch, for those that like to take notes, etc. Spent a good bit of time at the DevNet area geeking out with some programing sessions.

I thought the keynote was great. John Chambers (JC) delivered his last keynote as Cisco’s CEO, and handed the reigns over to Chuck Robbins. JC delivered some bold predictions, including 40% of companies will be dead within 10 years. This prediction comes from the fast IT transformation and the impact that it has in the business. Those companies that adopt technology in the right way will survive, those that do not, will cease to operate. So the key is to disrupt and not be disrupted. Of course, in order to disrupt, companies need to adapt and embrace the mentality of transformation and transition. A perfect example is the internal re-structuring of Cisco, as well as other powerful companies such as NetApp. This re-structuring needs to happen in order to survive. 

Aerosmith_Dave

Golden Nuggets: #1 vSphere vFlash

ToolsWith so many tools and features from many different vendors, it is almost impossible to research them all and find useful tools to make your job easier. Some features also provide a faster/cheaper way to solve common problems without spending a fortune, unfortunately, these “Golden Nuggets” are often underutilized. I’ll post a few quick tools that may make a big difference in someone’s environment. As always, test before deploying to production.

One of the cool features introduced in vSphere 5.5 was vFlash, which replaced swap to SSD from previous versions, but I won’t get into that. Essentially, this is flash-based read cache on the host that functions at the vmdk level for a specific VM. This feature works by adding flash-based resources such as PCIe cards or SSD drives to create a vFlash pool of resources at the host level, and configuring the amount of storage to be used for host swap cache. Such cache is placed on the data path of the vmdk between the host and the storage array.

Once the host is configured, you can expand the virtual disk of a VM’s properties in the Web Client and assign the amount of cache for that particular vmdk, as well as having the option to select the block size (4KB – 1024KB). So, for each pool, chunks are carved out or reserved for a specific vmdk on the host where the VM is located.

vFlash_vmdk

As far as data locality goes and features like HA, DRS, vMotion; it is possible to migrate the cached data to another host while migrating a VM, as long as the other hosts have also been configured with vFlash. You may also specify not to migrate the cached data during migration.

Requirements:

  • Check HCL for compatible Flash devices
  • vCenter 5.5 or later (VCSA or Windows)
  • VM hardware version 10 or later
  • vSphere vMotion if using DRS
    • Requires vFlash on hosts within the cluster

 

Implementing vFlash can be beneficial for resolving or minimizing performance degradation for read intensive applications, or simply by utilizing local resources at the host level for read cache instead or in addition to storage read caching solutions. Having local cache eliminates the “extra hop” on the network to get to cached data at the storage array.

This is a high level view of vFlash but in my opinion, I think this is a nice feature that can get rid of some headaches and fire drills.

 

vFlash_highLevelImage source – VMware doc (Rawlinson)

 

Cisco UCS: Intro

UCS

 

With the overwhelming amount of marketing fluff directed to potential customers, admins, IT Managers and directors; such potential buyers are skeptical to look into new technology and often decide for status quo as far as the vendor selection.

Some potential buyers are starting to utilize social media to research and help them decide on future purchases, given their unbiased point of view. This brings me to Cisco UCS servers. For a long time I was a big fan of HP blade systems and refused to look into other technologies, and tried to steer away from unknown territory. One day I decided to look into UCS further and take one of their hands-on Gold Labs. Turns out Cisco UCS is a very well thought out solution. HP is a nice solution in my opinion but UCS delivers extra features which results in flexible solutions.

From a high level view, UCS delivers compute, server networking, and management from a single solution. Deploying servers, is as simple as assigning policies to the blade servers as far as server configs, networking policies, etc. This makes deployment fast and guarantees a homogenous deployment model.

One of the many advantages that I really like is the ability to scale out. Adding more chassis and servers do not require running additional cables to the core switches as the fabrics are already connected. New chassis are connected directly to the fabrics and that is it. Making it very simple to add compute when necessary. This is just a high level view of UCS, and I plan to write more about it now that I am such a fan of it.  I hope the information I provide may help others with their decisions and also with solutions, and troubleshooting Cisco UCS.

TIPS: Explain the Cloud to your Boss

littlecloud.svg

I am calling this article “TIPS” hoping it serves a dual purpose. On one instance, it should help you understand what the cloud is from a high level view if you are still fuzzy about the subject, but it will also remind you of the Techniques to Inform, Present and Show (TIPS) details about the cloud.

I recently completed my Masters degree in Cyber Security, and just so happened that I did my research paper (Thesis) on the cloud. I thought this would be an easy topic since I knew everything about cloud computing, so I thought. As I dug deeper, I found interesting aspects, vulnerabilities, compliance advantages and disadvantages, but also some use cases where the cloud was a perfect fit, and some where it did not.

So, the cloud is not a new concept, as it has been around for quite some time. Cloud computing is the convergence of resources that allows for a centralized location of shared resources that can be deployed quickly as needed. This methodology has been in place for many years. What has changed is the location, availability, accessibility and pricing, which is what executives care the most about in most instances. There are 4 types of cloud, also known as Deployment Models:

  • Private – On Premise
  • Public – Hosted by a service provider
  • Hybrid – Combination of Public/Private
  • Community – Cloud composed of organizations in the same field or common interests that drives a requirement. For example, a group of hospitals the require a cloud service provider to be HIPAA compliant.

cloudtypes

Aside from the Deployment Models of Cloud Computing, we also have service models. Although you may have heard many, many service models being offered, there are three official service models where different services may fall into. So, a vendor’s marketing strategies that create their own service models, is only causing confusion to potential users as well as delaying the adoption of the technology. There are three service models plus the highly utilized on premise option.

  • Private – On premise. All service models are available within a company’s data-center.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – Offers only software available through the internet. Think of it as your iTunes, or GMAIL.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Offers a platform where customer can develop, and run web applications without having to worry about servers, network, etc.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – This offering provides everything but the kitchen sink. It may include compute, storage, networking, management, security, hypervisors, etc.

cloudmodels

 

From a high level view. This is what the cloud is about. The term has gained interest in the last several years thanks to the advances in technology, and communications which allows for fast, scalable, and cost effective solutions to the business. Before you jump on the cloud band wagon, you should do your due diligence and investigate the pros and cons of cloud computing, especially as it relates to compliance, and security. I won’t go there, I promise.

To wrap things up, remember to follow TIPS. Use the Techniques such as the need to Inform yourself before you tell others, Present accurate information in a simplistic way, and Show the pros and cons of the solution, as well as a high level logical design highlighting the differences between the different offerings.

cloud-overview

Image source: rividium.com

vExpert: So What the Fuss

vExpert

“So What the Fuss” is not just a Stevie Wonder song, it is also what many people are thinking about the vExpert announcement. This past Thursday, VMware announced the selected vExperts for 2015.

What is vExpert?

Let’s start with what is not. A lot of people think of it as the highest cert available from VMware, and confuse it with the VCDX certification. Well, it is not. Although some VCDXs are vExperts, not all vExperts are VCDXs. A vExpert is an individual that is passionate about his/her job and cares enough to share knowledge with others without compensation. People become a vExpert based on their quantitative and qualitative contribution to the community, not by taking a test; therefore, vExpert is not a certification.

What’s in it for me?

This program not only helps VMware get the word out about their products, but it also helps aspiring vExperts push the limits and dig down into the technology and capabilities. This not only benefits the individual’s knowledge base, but also his/her employer. For those of us that are customers, the employers win by having the best infrastructure they can have. For vendors/consultants, it makes their jobs easier. For start-ups, well, this should be required, IMHO.

So What the Fuss?

So, what is the big deal? Well, it is a big deal in my opinion. Individuals spent countless hours of their personal time, including nights, weekends, and being away from family in order to contribute to the community. So, to be recognized by VMware, is a nice pat on the back for those of us that make the sacrifice. VMware has a great community and a great program led by Corey Romero and his team, so thanks to them for the all the great work they do. I am humbled and honored to be named a vExpert once again.