Cisco Live chat with Andy Sholomon of Cisco

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Next week I’ll be supporting the NetApp team at Cisco Live. Worldwide conferences can be a somewhat of a challenge for me, as I’d like to share the buzz and news of the show in blog posts yet my schedule tends to be booked solid with customer and partners meetings. This type of scheduling makes it rather difficult to find time to author a post.

This situation may be leading some to ask, “Does that mean we’re not going to read about what’s going on at Cisco Live next week?

That’s a fair question; to which I am excited to share that I think we have a come up with a creative way to address this challenge! Each day of next week we will share the thoughts and perspectives from some of the most brilliant minds at Cisco, VMware, and our partners via interviews that we will be conducting during the show!

We’re pretty excited about this format. We’re hoping it’ll prove to be a great way to share the excitement of the event, and with that said we’re going to kick-off our reporting in advance of the show…

It is my privilege to introduce you to Andy Sholomon, a Network Consulting Engineer (NCE) in Cisco’s Central Engineering Performance and Validation Testing team. While many of the FlexPod and virtualization experts may know Andy, allow me to introduce him to those who may not. In six years at Cisco, Andy has been involved in both planning and deploying some of the largest enterprise data centers in the United States and with some of worlds largest service providers. In addition, Andy has a background the global financial industry, including security and systems engineering.

Andy holds many industry certifications, he is CCIE #15179, and is a co-author of the book ‘Enterprise Network Testing: Testing Throughout the Network Lifecycle to Maximize Availability and Performance’.Andy has been a speaker at the Cisco Live Networkers Conference and this year he will be delivering the Cisco Data Center 3.0 Instructor-led lab session #LTRDCT-4077 at CiscoLive.

The other day we sat down over coffee in order to allow Andy to share his thoughts around Cisco Live and the IT industry. Here’s our interview:

Vaughn: “It’s great to see you. Are you and your team ready for the show and is there anything you can share about the Data Center 3.0 lab prior to Cisco Live?”

Andy: “The lab is 4 hours in length and is being delivered on Sunday beginning at 8:00 AM. Basically it’s a pretty neat class. Basically what we have available to the attendees is a pre-cabled data center in a classroom. The equipment includes Cisco UCS B-Series chassis, UCS C-Series servers, Nexus 6100s and 7010s and MDS 9506 fibre channel switches. Both the Nexus and the MDS switches will be connected to storage, where we have LUNs carved up for each blade that will run ESXi.”

“Attendees will be instructed on how to build a datacenter from the components in the lab. Lessons will include everything from provisioning UCS blades to configuring VLANs, service profiles, WWNs, VPCs, VLANS, HSRP, zoning a MDS, creating port channels, OSPF on 7ks to the core, configuring BFD for failover, and much, much more. At end of 4 hours, they will be able to boot the blades, connect to LUNs, boot ESXi, and connect to vCenter where they will register the UCS blades. From there attendees will be ready to deploy VMs.”

Vaughn: “Wow, the lab sound incredibly thorough. Is there any availability remaining for the lab? What about for a friend?”

Andy: “Sorry, the lab is completely full! Maybe we can do something after the show.”

Vaughn: “I should have expected as much, I may take you up on the offer following the show. After the lab wraps up what technologies, or session topics, do you plan on attending over the course of the week?”

Andy: “Quite a few. I’m interested in a number of items, for example IPv6. I feel all of us need to learn it. It’s the future, and while the current uptake isn’t huge, every customer wants to talk about it in order to prepare for their eventual deployment.”

“There are some new data center technologies like TRILL and multi-hop FCoE that I plan to learn more about. I also plan to attend Ron Fuller’s session on Virtual Device Contexts (VDCs), even if it’s only to heckle him (Andy laughs). Seriously, Ron’s session has something like 1,800 people registered. Well, I’m not sure if it’s actually 1,800, but let’s just say the session is huge and there will be hundreds of people in attendance. The guy is a genius.”

Vaughn: “Your team has been responsible for testing a number of the validated ‘stack’ architectures Cisco has released with their partners, like FlexPod with NetApp. Would you care to share some thoughts around these architectures?”

Andy: “You are correct. My team has done a significant amount of testing with FlexPod and other stacks as well as solutions deployed on them. Personally, I love the whole pre-validated architecture model as it simplifies the entire customer experience from acquisition to deployment.”

“In my role, I deal largest of our customers, as such I understand the complexity in engineering such in-depth solutions from a number of perspectives. Large-scale deployments require input from individuals who work on a number of technology teams or departments. Each has a different knowledge base and perspective, and while the collective set of these experiences provides a wealth of expertise a large volume of input it can also slow down a deployment process, especially when designing one that is complex and has areas of overlap, such as what you find with virtualized data center solutions such as VMware or Citrix. Decisions are often made from the perspective of one’s personal knowledge base and these can lead to engineering cycle spin as each team likely thinks in different terms.”

“The ‘validated pod-model’ simplifies this process, especially from the perspective of upper management, as out of the box a ‘pod’ natively delivers roughly 80% of the design work required to deploy. A customer can shift their focus to the areas of customization that are unique to their data center and operations.”

“I think it’s an ideal way of deploying a data center. It saves time, money, and is truly a best in class architecture as the technology vendors have jointly validated it. The solution simplifies the purchasing and deployment process.”

Vaughn: “You’ve really spent some time thinking about these types of challenges.”

Andy: “I’ve helped a lot of customers with solutions that include compute, network, and storage. In some cases, these large projects have taken a half a year just to complete the design phase. It can hard to be an engineer in a large organization.”

“The FlexPod team has thought about this real-world challenge, they’ve gone beyond the architecture. Consider requirements a business must consider in a design such as security or compliance. For these needs, FlexPod has made it a check box solution (with Secure Multi-Tenancy, and applications published as Cisco Validated Designs). We’ve already thought about compliance components like PCI, HIPPA, etc. or secure separation of tenants with delegated management (via Secure Multi-Tenancy). These are pain points in a design process, which may be unknown to some wo
rking on the solution. There’s nothing worse than working on a project for months only to have the security officer deny and architecture or solution as it fails to pass a security audit. FlexPod allows the customer to reduce the amount of work required to deploy an end-to-end solution.“

Vaughn: “That’s some great perspective, especially from a customer perspective. Can you share any thoughts that your team has around working with NetApp?”

Andy: “Everyone on the team has been very complimentary of the technology for a number of reasons. The NetApp storage component is very easy to manage. It’s rather intuitive as compared to some storage platforms the team has worked with as the features and toolsets are consistent across all of the various hardware platforms and protocols. Some on the team have said they actually prefer deploying NAS over SAN since working with NetApp! Your company has been a great partner to Cisco; nice technology and very easy to work with.”

Vaughn: “That’s awesome feedback, thanks for sharing. I think our time is nearly up, and it looks like we’ve finished off our coffee. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I look forward to seeing you at Cisco Live. I’ve got to hear the feedback from Data Center 3.0 class, it sounds awesome!”

Andy: “Hey, thanks for the coffee and I’ll see you next week!”

Wrapping Up This Post

My Sincerest thanks to Andy for sharing his thoughts. Cisco Live is going to be great, and I hope you find this series of interviews informative and interesting. The official NetApp at Cisco Live site highlights Cisco & NetApp speaking sessions, demos in the NetApp, Cisco and Wyse booths, our prize patrol and much more. We’re regularly updating our ‘Who to Follow for FlexPod at Cisco Live‘ list plus you can find the latest blog posts, pictures and updates on the FlexPod FaceBook page.

If you’re attending Cisco Live, Safe travels and I hope to see you there.


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