Thursday, October 27, 2011

Leveraging Converged Infrastructure To Deliver Microsoft Exchange 2010

The Critical Communications Tool
While we hear a lot about new communications technologies for most of us email is the tool that we use everyday. For end users email is still the most efficient way to communicate globally but for the IT department email can be a difficult application to deploy and manage. Guaranteeing performance and availability for an increasingly mobile workforce, while keeping costs in check is a challenge. Organizations are challenged with the time required to manage email delivery systems. Time is spent on installation and configuration of software and the supporting infrastructure. Much of an organization staff can be consumed by routine tasks driving up the cost of ownership. It can be difficult to determine what infrastructure is required to scale up as the number of users increases. As email becomes more feature rich supporting large numbers of power users creates increasing demands on the systems. Organizations want predictable operation and support for their entire solution. They want to be sure that they are maximizing system resource utilization and eliminating server underutilization while delivering a superior user experience.

Making the Move to Exchange 2010
With Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft has made significant changes in the architecture to address the growing need of businesses to increase mailbox quotas, drive down storage and IT costs, provide a high degree of availability, meet regulatory requirements for data retention and compliance, and enhance the productivity. To take advantage of the new HA, DR and archiving functionalities, IT organizations may have to look at a new platform, and re-architect the Exchange environment. Changes in how storage is managed creates the incentive to change the storage infrastructure. The new database availability group (DAG) functionality requires Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition, requiring an upgrade to 64-bit server hardware. The Single Instance Storage (SIS) feature that reduced redundancy by storing only a single copy of an email or attachment has been eliminated increasing storage requirements.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The VCE Vblock FastPath Desktop Virtualization Platform

Organizations face increasing costs and security concerns created by the quantity and diversity of devices accessing the network, but they must still respond to the growing needs of the business. Now organizations can rapidly deploy a more secure, cost effective and flexible desktop environment using the Vblock FastPath Desktop Virtualization Platform. See this video to learn how the you can deploy virtual desktops faster.

The Vblock FastPath Desktop Virtualization Platform is a purpose-built solution that helps IT organizations to automate desktop and application management by enabling rapid deployment, reducing costs and improving security through centralization of the desktop environment.

Backstory: I wrote the script for this video and worked with the producer to get it completed. It was done for the launch of the FastPath solution for which I was the marketing manager.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Solving The Desktop Virtualization Challenge With Vblock FastPath

The Desktop Challenge
The traditional workplace experience used to be working at the office on a PC. Now, the workplace could be the office, the home, or any public location. Now we have more than PC's. Work tools also include tablets and smart phones. Network users could be anywhere, on any kind of device, and they'll need access to all forms of rich media like real time interactive video as well as voice. As a result of these changes organizations are faced with growing security concerns around access to applications and control over corporate data.

Virtualization has been used extensively over the last decade to consolidate servers, improve resource utilization, reduce power consumption, lower costs, and streamline server management. Many of the same issues around cost, complexity, and energy efficiency impact desktop users and IT administrators. Conventional desktop computing approaches are evolving to address an increasing number of regulatory requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley, and HIPAA. We all know that data breeches are a major concern for corporations. Organizations are trying to protect data, and to simplify desktop management , while meeting the needs of users who demand greater mobility, more devices, and increased flexibility.

As a result of these challenges with desktop management organizations are looking for ways to deploy a more secure, cost effective and flexible desktop environment using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. With VDI organizations can centrally manage desktop images, ensuring a uniform experience for users no matter what platform they are using or where they are locates. With VDI company wide security posture is improved by keeping critical information in the corporate data center, not on the PC. Costs are reduced through centralized desktop management.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Vblock Trusted Multi-Tenancy Model for Cloud Services

Cloud computing offers many economic and environmental advantages to service providers. The ability to deliver infrastructure services to multiple internal or external consumers is a core component of cloud computing. With shared virtual converged infrastructure and best-of-class network, compute, storage, virtualization, and security technologies from Cisco, EMC,and VMware, the Vblock platform presents new opportunities for service providers to deliver secure dedicated services to multiple tenants. In this video you will learn how Vblock Trusted Multi-Tenancy (TMT) from VCE enables service providers to address the key concerns of tenants in the multi-tenant environment – confidentiality, security, compliance, service levels, availability, data protection, and management control.

Backstory: I wrote the script for this Flash video and worked with the producer to get it created.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vblock: Accelerating the Journey to Private Cloud

In the continuing quest for a fully virtualized data center, IT professionals have a new tool that promises to dramatically simplify the journey: the Vblock. This 60-minute TechWiseTV episode explores this latest advancement in unified computing and shows how it will make it easier for organizations to build out data centers.

You will learn how Vblock™ Infrastructure Platforms simplify the acquisition and deployment process by integrating best of breed technology from Cisco, EMC and VMware into prepackaged units of infrastructure that are optimized for a wide range of virtualized solution deployments and how since each Vblock is pre-built and ready for deployment and the modular design is highly scalable to meet growth needs, your projects will get completed faster and you will have investment protection, and lower total cost of ownership.

Backstory: This video was created by TechWiseTV, a team at Cisco and features my collegues from VCE. I used social media including the Cisco Data Center blog, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook to promote it and increase the views many fold. While at Cisco I created the Cisco Cloud Facebook page and managed the Cisco Cloud Linkedin Group. This also appeared on the Cisco Data Center blog site.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Are Cloud Service Models Created Equal - Which One is Right for You?

Trouble Raises Concerns
Organizations are utilizing the cloud in growing numbers, but given the news a few months back about cloud outages, first with Amazon AWS, then Google Blogger and GMail and finally Microsoft BPOS, some organizations are rethinking their strategy and trying to decide how to choose a cloud service model that works best for them. See this article in the NYT for example - Amazon’s Trouble Raises Cloud Computing Doubts.

Even with the outages there is no doubt that the Cloud works for many use cases, however not all cloud is the same. There are different considerations for different applications and choosing the right cloud model is critical to the business. If you are thinking about which cloud model is right for you there are a few things to consider. The primary consideration is whether to go with public or private cloud.

When to use the Public Cloud
With public cloud compute resources are shared and they are accessed over the internet at best effort. When choosing to get services from the public cloud you would consider if regulations concerning data protection will allow it, and if it fits with your corporate goals for availability and recovery. This last concern might be the key deciding factor in cloud service adoption.

Any business that is looking to outsource their IT infrastructure to the cloud must consider the whole of their business before taking the plunge. There is a benefit in having access to resources that are elastic and available on demand. The public cloud can work well for batch work, seasonal, periodic, one-time and some public facing uses cases.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Vblock Solution For Cisco Unified Communications

To succeed in today’s fast paced, global economy, businesses must be able to communicate and collaborate. This requires access to a range of voice, video, and messaging communication tools. While the essence of communication is to break down barriers, organizations today must contend with the barriers imposed by increasingly complex communications environments.

The VCE solution enables rapid deployment of Cisco® Unified Communications applications on Vblock™ Infrastructure Platforms to provide an integrated hardware and software solution that connects people, information, and teams, helping to enable comprehensive and effective collaborative experiences.

Watch the video “Cisco UC ‘As-A-Service’ Offers on Vblock Platform” which provides an overview of the solution, and what customers can expect and then read more to get the details on the solution.

Read more to get the details on the solution.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Vblock Solution for Cisco Hosted Collaboration

The Market Challenge
Hosted Collaboration is a growing opportunity for Service Providers to expand their portfolio and meet customer needs. Cisco provides Unified Communications applications using the Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) that enables service providers to deliver a range of services from IP telephony and voicemail to WebEx® conferencing. One of the biggest challenges facing service providers is getting services to market and meeting time to revenue goals. Revenue opportunities are missed when time is lost reviewing product specifications, testing configurations and determining the appropriate scale for a particular application.

The Vblock Advantage
The Vblock™ Infrastructure Platforms solution for Hosted Collaboration makes Cisco® Unified Communications and Collaboration applications and capabilities available in a hosted environment. Vblock™ platforms provide standardized units of best-of-breed IT infrastructure that can be managed as a single entity and easily scaled as a cohesive, multi-tenant system. With the Vblock solution service providers can bring hosted collaboration service to market rapidly and meet their time to revenue goals.

Video: Cisco HCS "As-A-Service" Offers on Vblock Platform

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Role of the Platform in Cloud Service Delivery

The Service Provider Challenge
To differentiate their cloud services and attract customers service providers need to offer service-level agreements (SLAs) to their enterprise customers for whom performance, security, and availability are paramount. To do this they need a converged infrastructure platform that allows them to address the concerns and challenges of their enterprise customers who might be reluctant to move their data center operations and applications to the cloud.

The Cloud Service Opportunity

The emergence of the cloud delivery model has created an opportunity for service providers to develop new services that meet the changing needs of their customers for consuming applications that support their business processes. To succeed in this evolving marketplace, service providers must offer added value when competing with established Over-the-Top (OTT) providers. The key to delivering a compelling service is to build it on a converged compute platform that is optimized for the cloud and uses its capabilities to offer SLAs that meet the needs of potential customers for assurances of application performance and availability. These SLAs can reassure customers that their applications are hosted on optimized platforms and delivered from reliable data centers, so that they will be consistently available, which is a motivator to enter in to longer-term contracts for organizations that are considering moving to the cloud-computing environment.

The Need for Service Assurance

In today’s business environment, service assurance has become more than a luxury for organizations that want to migrate to the cloud. Service assurance has become the primary differentiator that organizations are looking for when seeking support for delivery of their business-critical applications. With increasing concerns over service interruptions and the availability of workloads, companies might be reluctant to move their business-critical applications to the cloud or to move to Software as a Service (SaaS) applications without the backing of comprehensive SLAs that set high standards for service delivery and hold the service provider accountable for service outages. OTT providers have built their service on commodity platforms using their own set of tools for service creation. Their primary concern has been to keep costs down so that they can serve a broad public market, and quality of service guarantees have been an after though or are not available at all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Role of Layer 4-7 Services in Scaling Applications for the Cloud

The Cloud Challenge
Cloud computing is increasing demands on applications and the application-delivery infrastructure must change to meet the challenge. Virtualization does not solve the problems with applications scaling, in fact it adds complexity. Infrastructure alone does not solve the challenge either. You don’t want to oversubscribe or just add capacity on demand. The infrastructure needs to respond to user demand based on business value and maintain a favorable cost structure. This means that you need intelligent load processing to manage scale, especially given the evolution of applications, which now make numerous backend function calls, which create more traffic than at the front end.

The Need for Scale
Cloud-computing applications are characterized by stateful access, with differentiated service levels, charged to the end user using the pay-per-use pricing model. Implicit in this model is the assumption that a cloud application is always on. Scaling the cloud delivery model to an Internet scale (millions of users) is a challenge that next-generation Layer 4–7 infrastructure needs to overcome. Scaling a cloud application involves scaling three mechanisms: location (mobility), replication, and load balancing. Virtualization was an early catalyst for cloud computing because it substantially lowered the cost of replication and mobility of a prepackaged application. It does not, however, solve the load-balancing problem. Load balancing involves scaling the address, name space, transport, session, identity, and business logic of the application. Clustering enables scaling of application business logic but leaves the rest of the problem to a proxy infrastructure.

Getting Beyond Stateless
Traditional data center proxy infrastructure (Layer 4–7) is stateless and focuses on transport-level session and content management. The state management in these proxies is limited to cookies that hold bare-minimum identity of the application server. Further, this state is not shared across a network overlay of proxies to enable an application for multi–data center applications or to distribute the processing to edges. For example, a load balancer does not a play any role in user customization in a data center application such as encryption of private data in the response. Not having this function in the proxy infrastructure means the data center has to incur a higher cost of development of the core application and is not able to use existing proxy infrastructure to deploy this function.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Platform as a Service: The Next Big Opportunity for Service Communications Providers

The Route to PaaS
When cloud computing emerged a few years ago Communications Service Providers (CSPs) saw the opportunity to build the infrastructure layer and offer services on it. CSPs had data center facilities that when combined with their network assets created a cloud service offer with higher service delivery assurance than some alternatives. CSPs are now delivering infrastructure-based cloud services, especially Compute as a Service and Storage as a Service, to the public and to their large Enterprise customers in private cloud offers. As the cloud service model matures, providers who have invested in cloud infrastructure are finding that they are well positioned to evolve their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings into new service delivery models by leverage their services, systems, and expertise to take on the next great opportunity in cloud services which is Platform as a Service.

The Value of PaaS
PaaS is an integral component to development and delivery of cloud-based applications delivered as Software as a Service—or SaaS. Developing a PaaS offer gives CSPs the opportunity to take advantage of the huge and growing SaaS market and help to accelerate the development of SaaS offers. CSP’s can take an active role by leveraging their assets and developing their capabilities, via a PaaS offer, rather than just hosting and transporting SaaS services. The capability they can provide is to enable development and then deploy applications that are created using tools that they support on to their cloud infrastructure. PaaS enables CSPs to carve out a new and essential role in SaaS development and delivery, situated between software developers and end users, for both business and consumers.

Routes to Market
The route to market for PaaS is complex and to reduce complexity and maximize success the CSP needs to play a major role in providing the platforms and services as well as hosting and delivery capabilities that are needed. They can facilitate SaaS development as a cloud platform provider by offering capabilities for development, enablement, and delivery of SaaS services including the components for development, billing, customer and vendor management, and customer self-servicing tools. They can also act as a SaaS aggregator by hosting a suite of SaaS applications and as a market place provider where multiple SaaS providers utilized their back-end and customer facing portals and tools to enable service delivery.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cloud Services are a Bright Option for the Enterprise

The Cloud Opportunity
With Cisco Partner Summit happening in New Orleans this week there has been a lot of important news with the announcement of the Cloud Partner Program that enables and encourages Cisco Partners to develop and deliver cloud services being at the top of the list. You can follow the action on the Cisco Channels Facebook page. This announcement might have you wondering what the size of the market for cloud services is and what Enterprise organizations are thinking as they consider the move to services from the cloud.

At Cisco we had these same questions as we were making investment decisions in the systems and solutions that enable organizations to build a cloud service delivery architecture. As a result the Cisco® Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) conducted research that included interviews with enterprise IT decisions makers and key subject matter experts. The study showed that enterprises across many sectors are seriously considering cloud computing. Based on direct feedback from enterprise decision makers, Cisco IBSG estimates that close to 12 percent of enterprise workloads will run in the cloud by the end of 2013 and that this will yield a market for public-cloud services of approximately US$43 billion. Organizations have a few things to consider as they make this migration to the cloud.

To Cloud or Not To Cloud
The primary reason for the enterprise to adopt cloud services is to reduce costs and increase agility. The decision to migrate to the cloud hinges the how access to critical applications will be impacted and what the benefits are for running applications in the cloud when weighted against the constraints. Many factors come into account such as workload variability, the need for agility, and application functionality when run in the cloud. The applications that are most suitable for delivery from the cloud are workloads with variable or unpredictable resource requirements. For example workloads that are seasonal, such as tax season, or public-facing applications such as online sales. Since these applications must be provisioned for peak loads there is a major cost advantage to utilizing on-demand infrastructure to run them. Applications that require quick setup, such as sales-and-marketing campaigns, and application development are prime candidates to move to the cloud as well.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Benefits of a Virtualized Approach to Advanced-Level Network Services

Advanced-Level Services
Advanced-level network services are a necessity for a scalable virtualized data center and a key to cloud service delivery. These services provide application acceleration and server load balancing to improve user productivity, and ensure optimal resource utilization, and they monitor quality of service. They also provide security services that can isolate applications and resources in logical zones in virtualized data centers and cloud environments to ensure regulatory compliance and reduce risk of data breaches.

Deploying Services
While enterprises have been adopting server virtualization and cloud computing in order to realize the benefits of reduced server sprawl, reduced operating costs, and greater levels of application availability, they are doing so while struggling with inflexibility in the underlying network. Deploying advanced-level network services in a virtualized data center environment is challenging. It has been done using dedicated hardware in static network topologies. This does not provide the flexibility to support virtualized workloads, and as a result organizations are challenged to support on-demand virtual machine (VM) provisioning, workload mobility, and public or private cloud deployments. This limits organizations' ability to efficiently deploy new applications, increases operational costs, and acts as a roadblock to adoption of virtualization and cloud computing.

The Solution
While enterprises have been adopting server virtualization and cloud computing in order to realize the benefits of reduced server sprawl, reduced operating costs, and greater levels of application availability, they are doing so while struggling with inflexibility in the underlying network.The solution is to implement virtualized advanced-level network services that run as software on a compete platform. Such virtualized services can provide the same features and functionality as appliances, but in a more scalable, unified, and cost-effective manner. A complete solution needs to provide visibility and support for the virtual applications and allow for application mobility and on-demand capacity expansion. IT organizations have been pushed in to taking a piecemeal approach to adding these services by cobbling together solutions using point-products, and deploying physical appliances in each data center. This is because a virtualized network services solution that implements services in a standardized, holistic way has not been available.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Addressing the Need for Cloud Service Assurance

The Enterprise Goal
Enterprises are continually striving to reduce their IT costs and optimize utilization of their compute resources. The demand for compute, storage and networking resources to support business applications can be difficult to predict, leading to risks of overbuilding or underestimation of demand. As a result Enterprises are looking to adopt cloud services that are available on-demand, and are flexible and scalable to meet their IT service needs in a predictable and cost effective manner.

The Service Provider Advantage
Communications service providers are in a unique position to meet the needs of the Enterprise for service assurance as they develop cloud services. With considerable experience in managing data centers, and with an IP NGN MPLS network spanning from their data centers to enterprise locations around the globe, as well as having back office systems, including billing and support, communications service providers have what it takes for success in the cloud services market. Given the critical role of both the data center and the network in application delivery the development of cloud-based services represents an opportunity for the communications service provider to work with the enterprise to help them overcome their challenges for delivery of business critical applications throughout the organization, while meeting their business goals to contain costs, protect data assets, and ensure employee productivity.

Leverage The Network
Too meet these challenges and deliver reliable cloud-services communications service providers can leverage their IP NGN MPLS network and data center assets and apply their considerable expertise and experience to deliver service level agreements that align with the business processes of the enterprise, so that the enterprise can adopt cloud services with confidence, knowing that their applications will have the performance and security that they need as they are delivered over the WAN.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Enabling the Network Service Layer for Virtualized and Cloud Infrastructure

The Need for Virtualization
In their quest to reduce administrative and hardware costs and to increase the availability of server resources IT administrators are embracing server virtualization to the point that it has become a fundamental data center technology. Server virtualization makes it possible for IT administrators to move virtual server instances, and the applications that run on them, from one physical machine to another as needed, and have to them running at the new location within moments. This mobility allows IT administrators to optimize server utilization or to take advantage of idle compute resources as well as to recover from server failures almost instantly.

Workload Availability
The mobility of virtual servers is what makes server virtualization so appealing. This mobility not only enables movement of virtual machines from one server to another within the same data center, it also enables movement of virtual machines from one data center to another. Mobility of virtual machines between data centers is critical as it enables IT administrators to make use of available resources in another data center and to recover from data center outages, maintaining availability to applications and business services seamlessly.

The Network Can Help
In the data center application performance, availability and security is enhanced by a number of network services such as server load balancing, WAN Optimization and firewalls, which have been delivered by physical appliances. As IT administrators take advantage of the benefits of server mobility that is enabled by server virtualization they seek to have the same mobility available in the network services that benefit those virtual servers and their applications. While it’s possible to have the same network services appliances running in all data centers the challenge is with configuring them to recognize the specific virtual server instances that have been moved between data centers.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Critical Role of the Network in Supporting Cloud-Based Solutions

Cloud Services
The Cloud-based service model offers the Enterprise access to a rich range of services and applications without the overhead of having to deploy and manage the underlying infrastructure. This results in much lower costs for access to services and applications. This is especially true for one time or periodic workloads where resources may sit idle for months until required. As a result Enterprises are increasingly embracing cloud services and benefiting from on-demand availability.

Delivery Models
Demand for cloud services is being met in a number of ways. Independent software vendors offer services from their data center over the Internet, such as’s CRM application. Some ISVs leverage an IaaS provider such as Amazon to host their application on the Internet such as Adobe’s LiveCycle Enterprise Suite. However, since these approaches rely on the Internet it is not possible to provide end-to-end quality of service (QoS), so neither approach supports providing an SLA for network performance. This is increasingly a concern for Enterprise customers.

The Need for SLA's
The need for SLA’s for cloud services opens up an opportunity for communications service providers (CSPs) to offer a wide range of network centric solutions that are supported by an SLA. CSPs are in a unique position to offer these solutions because, unlike the Internet, the Next Generation Networks (NGNs) that CSPs have deployed, based on IP and MPLS, are capable of providing contracted levels of availability, delay, jitter and packet loss. As a result CSPs can provide cloud-based solutions with SLAs by providing these solutions to customers from their own data center and over their NGN.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Unified Network Services for Cloud Service Providers

Services from the Cloud
Services from the cloud offer cost and efficiency benefits to businesses, but until now many customers have been hesitant to buy cloud services, especially for mission-critical business applications, because of concerns about security, performance, and availability. Cloud service providers need to address these concerns by offering network services for applications hosted in the cloud. Cloud service providers can use their data center and IP NGN assets to deliver these services, however, they need a new service delivery model offering the scalability, flexibility, and multi-tenant capabilities needed for cloud service delivery. Delivering cloud services requires efficiency and agility in the data center where applications are hosted. To support on-demand delivery of cloud services, network and computing infrastructures need to be virtualization aware, especially for services that increase the availability and performance of applications.

The Cisco Solution
To meet this need Cisco is delivering virtualized versions of network services appliances as a part of our network services solution. The Cisco® Unified Network Services (UNS) solution presents a new opportunity for cloud service providers to offer security and performance services as well as reporting and monitoring for virtualized applications and other infrastructure services such as BC/DR, VDI or Hosted Communications. Cisco UNS uses a platform based on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and Cisco Nexus® 1000V Series Switch to increase the scale and flexibility of cloud-based services and to help ensure availability and workload mobility. The Cisco UNS solution lowers the cost of deployment and enables rapid provisioning by removing the need for physical versions of these products and the requirement for racking and stacking, and power and cooling.