Cisco Live 365

Cisco Live 365 is an unbelievable resource that’s totally free!  For those who haven’t come across it before – it’s a library of all the presentations from the Cisco Live conferences from the last four years (starting London 2012).  For most of the sessions, the presentation material is available for download in PDF form and for many the actual session has been recorded and hosted as well.
The Library of resources aren’t just there for those who couldn’t make the Cisco Live conferences in person, but provides excellent resources for reference and training materials. I just can’t recommend using enough for those of both Sales and Technical backgrounds.
For those who’re technically focused.. just search ‘Deep Dive’ and you’ll find a mass of material that’s not on cisco.com’s documentation/support pages, most of it’s written by Technical Marketing Engineers or those just live-and-breathe specific technology stacks.

The Problem with NSX and ACI

Let’s face it, if there’s even the slightest whiff of someone in a business somewhere mentioning or even thinking about ‘SDN’, Cisco and VMware will be knocking on that door… with a sledge hammer!
The problem is, neither vendor’s product is perfect and as yet, they don’t talk to each other.
NSX doesn’t manage infrastructure. Period.  It has not a care in the world to what is going on with the underlay.  And you might say “Well that’s how it’s designed – to be underlay agnostic”.  My problem with this is; if you’re doing a greenfield DC or refresh, you still have to consider the physical infrastructure. How are you going to manage that infrastructure, monitor it and maintain it. NSX won’t make it go away.  What NSX is good at is the logical stuff – it’s easy to understand the concepts of an edge firewall, distributed firewall, dLR and logical networks. And it’s easy to create the tenant spaces within those constructs.
ACI is infrastructure, it is not virtualisation. The super-cool thing about ACI is just how easy it is to deploy, configure and manage large-scale network infrastructure.  It’s unbelievable how easy it is! Where it fails, not abysmally just badly, is delivery of the infrastructure constructs into the hypervisor space.  Cisco need to create an hypervisor-component capable of everything a physical leaf does – sending traffic up to a physical leaf for processing and then returning it back to the hypervisor is just clumsy. Even worse, assigning VLANs (which we’re trying to get away from the limits of) into port-groups on the VDS and using that for [micro-]EPG separation is clunky.
Are these two competitors? Cisco and VMware believe so, but in reality they are solving different problems, expensively.
What is the answer.. working together.  Which is tricky – NSX has come along way in terms of the VXLAN/Logical Switching/dLR development and of course ACI is doing the same at the physical layer in the leaf(s) (leaves?). I like NSX’s ability to provide a limited set of basic network functions (Edge, SSL/VPN/SLB) in an easy-to-consume way, what I don’t like is it’s total ignorance to physical infrastructure and physical workloads.

UCS Performance Manager

Based on and in partnership with ZenOSS – Cisco are releasing a new product called UCS Performance Manager.  There’s a tech talk on Cisco’s website which, if you can get past the waffling at the beginning and get onto the screen demo, looks pretty good.  Sure, it’s a cobbled ZenOSS, but the idea is good – it brings together a complete visual of the utilisation of UCS, something I haven’t see anywhere else.  It can include not only UCS infrastructure (Fabs, interface utilisation, blade usage etc) but also probe external switching infrastructure as well as the virtualisation layer (currently vSphere or Hyper-V).


Cisco Network Lab Emulators

I’ve been looking for a good training lab solution that doesn’t involved having a small office humming with old ISRs and Catalyst switches.. Having worked at Cisco, I was aware of the various internal options (IOU, Titanium) as well as the more widely available ones (GNS3). But now, Cisco have finally realised that not everyone can afford to build labs full of kit and are releasing a few products to support individuals and companies who want to test configurations and network designs.  This isn’t new news (we’d heard rumours for over a year of a product called VIRL, Virtual Internet Routing Lab) – but I’m not sure everyone’s found all the pieces yet.

Cisco Modelling Labs – is intended to be a corporate solution to support designing and planning of routed networks and their configurations.  It’s a fully supported product that needs some serious hardware to run on, but allows you to build a routed network in a simulated environment, configure all the components up and see how they behave.  Currently they’re supporting IOSv (a virtualised version of IOS), IOS-XRv and the CSR 1000v – which pretty much covers your main routing OSes.

onePK – is a development kit designed around Cisco’s onePK.  The ‘all-in-one’ VM is configured to provide three routers running IOSv, all interconnected and ready for playing with onePK Python and Java interfaces.  You can however, reconfigure it to provide additional IOSv instances, as demonstrated here.

There is also a Beta programme for a /dev/inovate lab – however I can’t see what the cost implications of this are.  It looks ideal for those intending to do some hard-core software/API development against Cisco’s gear.