As Cisco Live comes to a close I was able to sit down with some good friends in the vSpecialist organization at EMC to share their perspectives on Cisco Live and the adoption of Cloud computing. Joining me this morning is (from left to right):
Rick Scherer – VCDX, Author of VMwareTips.com and vSpecialist at EMC.
Tee Glasgow – Former WAN Engineer, UNIX SysAdmin, Solaris bigot, VMware employee #700-ish, and current EMC vSpecialist. Husband to 1, father to 2, and homeslice to many.
Scott Lowe – An IT pro specializing in virtualization, VMware, storage, servers, and Macs; currently working for EMC Corporation
Nick Weaver – IT Architect & geek extraordinaire. VMware vExpert, EMC vSpecialist, Cisco junkie, Microsoft coder, Linux lover. I make things.
Note: This interviewed originally occurred on Thursday, July 14th; the last day of Cisco Live. I should also point out, that while these guys are employees of EMC, the views expressed in this interview are their own and are not official statements of EMC.
Vaughn: “Good morning guys, my sincerest thanks for making the time to get together to chat. It can be tough to find the motivation to make it to the show floor early on the last morning of a conference. With that said, let’s jump into the interview. I’m rather interested in your thoughts around the types of conversations you were having at with the Cisco Live attendees around the show and cloud computing.”
Tee: “This week we’ve had a lot of discussions with attendees that are well beyond the scope of storage. Theses conversations may start with storage but quickly expand into areas like the network or virtualization layers. It’s apparent that Cisco Live has evolved from a network-centric tradeshow to one focusing on advancing the capabilities of the data center.”
Nick: “I’m hearing similar sentiments from some of the Cisco folks. Some in the booth shared that they have are raising the awareness of their joint partner solutions with attendees, and directing them to our booths in order to advance these conversations. What may start off with Cisco discussing a technology like OTV or LISP may wind up with us having a broader discussion around data center mobility and introducing technologies like long distance VMotion.”
Scott: “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to spend as much time in the booth as I’ve been attending a number of the sessions. This year I find the presenters are increasingly aware of the advancements in the data center and are presenting with more of a multi-discipline approach. They are taking the conversation past the network and extending it to include storage and virtualization. It seems the attendees are responding positively to these expanded discussions which makes it critical for folks like ourselves to be engaged as we can connect these constructs back to advanced storage technologies.”
Nick: “I would add that data center automation has been front and center. I really want to attend today’s tidal session! I love Cisco’s focus on automation with CIAC (Cisco’s Intelligent Automation for Cloud). It seems that over that past year there’s a greater understanding around the benefits of orchestration and user enablement via portals like newScale. Did you see the size of the CIAC booth? It’s a statement to Cisco’s commitment to this market. I foresee this area really expanding; orchestration has the potential to become the new form of programming.”
Scott: “It appears the IT Silos are beginning to break down. While we’ve spoken about this for a while, it is evident in behavior of attendees.”
Tee: “For some getting to the cloud has been a nebulous proposition, particularly from an operational standpoint. However, today the path is much less confusing than in the past. Concepts that were once new and somewhat foreign, like federation, pay-by-the-drink, hybrid-cloud, or multi-tenancy have achieved social awareness. The content presented this year at Cisco Live is much more inclusive of the entire data center.”
Rick: “What I see as interesting, is while vendors creating long-term visions around the cloud, there can be a disconnect in the development and release of tools to deliver on this vision. Customers tend to ask me what I think the cloud is and how can I help them get there. CIOs say they want the cloud, but the wrench turners (aka administrators) don’t care about the cloud until they can be assured that we can help them get there.”
“Regardless of how much we want to break silos we need to be aware of the concerns of the operational teams. While we are talking about converged technologies and merging groups like SAN and LAN administrative teams, the team members are worrying about how they meet the needs of their respective management domains.”
Nick: “I don’t know if we’re really breaking silos as much as installing sliding partitions.”
Vaughn: “I think Rick is on to something. Consider how a network admin’s role as changed; with a physical infrastructure the demarcation point is pretty clear, it’s they own from the gateway to the NIC on a server. Before virtualization hit the scene, the only time a network admin cared about the settings in a host was 12 or 13 years ago; back when they had to battle with the duplex auto-negotiation issues that were prominent with 100BASE-TX.”
“Today the demarcation points have moved and include logical (software) devices like vSwitches and vNICs. Today’s network admins must the server team in order to properly manage the last hop in the network as it resides in their servers.”
“Now consider storage. If one is solely looking at the array then they are missing the boat. Storage is about successfully delivering storage services and requires a perspective that is end to end, from virtual disk to array. It includes QoS, security, partitions, etc. If you make a misconfiguration in any of those layers, the issue will be perceived as and become a storage issue. Like I said, the demarcation point has moved.”
Scott: “I agree. The well-established technology partners of Cisco are coming together more to provide greater integrations, yet the one snag I see is each vendor may have their own vision as to how they expect the market to move forward. It can be a challenge when two partners, say Cisco and VMware, have competing technologies. Take for example the Nexus 1000v and the distributed virtual switch included in vSphere. When should a customer use one over the other, is it based on the advise of a sales engineer? So while we are seeing the silos break down, there are still many decisions one has to make when it comes to deploying a cloud.”
Nick: “Cloud architectures are ushering in a uniformed language that will become the vernacular of those who manage the infrastructure. We need a cool name for this type of administrator. Something similar to dev-ops, but for infrastructure operation teams.”
Tee: “Vendors have different goals than a customer, they have a responsibility with their shareholders to grow market share, and advancing their customers’ ability to operate their businesses drives them. Cisco has an investment in certified experts. While the game has changed, Cisco must maintain their networking expertise in order to retain their advantage in the market.”
Nick: “Right, while you want every vendor on the same page we need competition to advance the market. How many times has Cisco lead change by coming to market with a proprietary solutions that delivers beyond the current limit of the day, and in time what was proprietary becomes a standard? It seems like all of the time.”
Vaughn: “That’s a great point. Consider that all of us work for a storage company, as such our engineering teams must continue to develop and deliver on our core competency. However, with converged infrastructures comes a new set of challenges for customers to tackle. This need provides an opportunity for us to augment our core competencies with capabilities like our VMware plug-ins and integrations.”
Scott: “These types of discussions confirm that the thoughts are dancing in the heads of the admins. They are beginning to realize that all of these things are interconnected. I think we will see data center teams that are more cross-functional, but still maintain individuals with subject matter expertise.”
Rick: “We saw began seeing integrations with VMware VI3 and this functionality branched out with vSphere 4 and the introduction of the Nexus1000v and vStorage APIs. It has continued with vSphere 5 expanded vStorage capabilities like VASA, the VMware Storage Virtual Array (SVA), host based replication, dSwitch enhancements, expanded vShield functionality, etc. These tools appear to be great for SMB customers or remote offices, but enterprise requires companies like ours to provide enterprise class capabilities.”
Nick: “These new features may be less expensive to adopt, but now customers have multiple means to accomplish common goals. Operational complexity can kill an ROI model for a large organization.”
Vaughn: “I look at this topic somewhat differently. Every project ha
s an associated budget, which each vendor works to obtain the largest possible portion for themselves. When one reduces costs in the solution they create an opportunity to secure a larger portion for themselves. Cost reduction is pretty straightforward capitalism and can only be offset by increased value. I think the real opportunity lies in the area of continuing to advance our technologies. I’m very excited about the release of technologies like the VMware Storage Virtual Appliance (SVA). I believe it will inevitably usher in a new type of storage array in the enterprise and I find that pretty exciting.”
“I think we could talk for hours, but unfortunately I’ve got to run to a customer briefing. I truly appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Would you be interested in continuing this conversation at VMworld?”
The vSpecialists: “Absolutely!”
To Be Continued at VMworld…