VSAN, NSX on Cisco Nexus, vSphere Containers, NSX Future & a chat with VMware CEO – Highlights Of My Day 2 at VMworld 2016 US

In this post,  I will aim to highlight the various breakout sessions I’ve attended during the day 2 at VMworld 2016 US, key items / notes / points learnt and few other interesting things I was privy to  during the day that is worth mentioning, along with my thoughts on them…!!

Day 2 – Breakout Session 1 – Understanding the availability features of VSAN


  • Session ID: STO8179R
  • Presenters:
    • GS Khalsa – Sr. Technical Marketing manager – VMware (@gurusimran)
    • Jeff Hunter – Staff Technical Marketing Architect – VMware (@Jhuntervmware)

In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure why I signed up to this breakout session as I know VSAN fairly well, including its various availability features as I’ve been working with testing & analysing its architecture and performance when VSAN was first launched to then designing and deploying VSAN solutions on behalf of my customers for a while. However, having attended the session it reminded me of a key fact that I normally try to never forget which is “you always learn something new” even when you think you know most of it.

Anyways, about the session itself, it was good and was mainly aimed at the beginners to VSAN but I did manage to learn few new things as well as refresh my memory on few other facts, regarding VSAN architecture. The key new ones I learnt are as follows

  • VSAN component statuses (as shown within vSphere Web Client) and their meanings
    • Absent
      • This means VSAN things the said component will probably return. Examples are,
        • Host rebooted
        • Disk pulled
        • NW partition
        • Rebuild starts after 60 mins
      • When an item is detected / marked as absent, VSNA typically wait for 60 minutes before a rebuild is started in order to allow temporary failure to rectify itself
        • This means for example, pulling disks out of VSAN will NOT trigger an instant rebuild / secondary copy…etc. so it wont be an accurate test of VSAN
    • Degraded
      • This typically means the device / component is unlikely to return. Examples include,
        • A permeant Device Loss (PDL) or a failed disk
      • When a degraded item is noted, a rebuild started immediately
    • Active-Stale
      • This means the device is back online from a failure (i.e. was absent) but the data residing on it are NOT up to date.
  • VSAN drive degradation monitoring is proactively logged in the following log files
    • vmkernel.log indicating LSOM errors
  • Dedupe and Compression during drive failures
    • During a drive failure, de-duplication and compression (al flash only) is automatically disabled – I didn’t know this before


Day 2 – Breakout Session 2 – How to deploy VMware NSX with Cisco Nexus / UCS Infrastructure

  • Session ID: NET8364R
  • Presenters:
    • Paul Mancuso – Technical Product Manager (VMware)
    • Ron Fuller – Staff System Engineer (VMware)

This session was about a deployment architecture for NSX which is becoming increasingly popular, which is about how to design & deploy NSX on top of Cisco Nexus switches with ACI as the underlay network and Cisco UCS hardware. Pretty awesome session and a really popular combination too. (FYI – I’ve been touting that both these solutions are better together since about 2 years back and its really good to see both companies recognising this and now working together on providing guidance stuff like these). Outside of this session I also found out that the Nexus 9k switches will soon have the OVS DB support so that they can be used as TOR switches too with NSX (hardware VTEP to bridge VXLANs to VLANs to communication with physical world), much like the Arista switches with NSX – great great news for the customers indeed.


I’m not going to summarise the content of this session but wold instead like to point people at the following 2 documentation sets from VMware which covers everything that this session was based on, its content and pretty simply, everything you need to know when designing NSX solutions together with Cisco ACI using Nexus 9K switches and Cisco UCS server hardware (blades & rack mounts)

One important thing to keep in mind for all Cisco folks though: Cisco N1K is NOT supported for NSX. All NSX prepped clusters must use vDS. I’m guessing this is very much expected and probably only a commercial decision rather than a technical one.

Personally I am super excited to see VMware ands Cisco are working together again (at least on the outset) when it comes to networking and both companies finally have realised the use cases of ACI and NSX are somewhat complementary to each other (i.e. ACI cannot do most of the clever features NSX is able to deliver in the virtual world, including public clouds and NSX cannot do any of the clever features ACI can offer to a physical fabric). So watch this space for more key joint announcements from both companies…!!

Day 2 – Breakout Session 3 – Containers for the vSphere admin


  • Session ID: CNA7522
  • Presenters:
    • Ryan Kelly – Staff System Engineer (VMware)

A session about how VMware approaches the massive buzz around containerisation through their own vSphere integrated solution (VIC) as well as a brand new hypervisor system designed from ground up with containerisation in mind (Photon platform). This was more of a refresher session for than anything else and I’m not going to summarise all of it but instead, will point you to the dedicated post I’ve written about VMware’s container approach here.

Day 2 – Breakout Session 4 – The architectural future of Network Virtualisation


  • Session ID: NET8193R
    Presenters: Bruce Davie – CTO, Networking (VMware)

Probably the most inspiring session of the day 2 as Bruce went through the architectural future of NSX where he described what the NSX team within VMware are focusing on as key improvements & advancements of the NSX platform. The summary of the session is as follows

  • NSX is the bridge from solving today’s requirement to solving tomorrow’s IT requirements
    • Brings remote networking closer easily (i.e. Stretched L2)
    • Programtically (read automatically) provisoned on application demand
    • Security ingrained at a kernel level and every hop outwards from the applications
  • Challenges NSX is trying address (future)
    • Developers – Need to rapidly provision and destroy complex networks as a pre-reqs for applications demanded by developers
    • Micro services – Container networking ands security
    • Containers
    • Unseen future requirements
  • Current NSX Architecture
    • Cloud consumption plane
    • Management plane
    • Control plane
    • Data plane
  • Future Architecture – This is what the NSX team is currently looking at for NSX’s future.
    • Management plane scale out
      • Management plane now needs to be highly available in order to constantly keep taking large number of API calls for action from cloud consumption systems such as OpenStack, vRA..etc – Developer and agile development driven workflows….etc.
      • Using & scaling persistent memory for the NSX management layer is also being considered – This is to keep API requests in persistent memory in a scalable way providing write and read scalability & Durability
      • Being able to take consistent NSX snapshots – Point in time backups
      • Distributed log capability is going to be key in providing this management plane scale out whereby distributed logs that store all the API requests coming from Cloud Consumption Systems will be synchronously stored across multiple nodes providing up to date visibility of the complete state across to all nodes, while also increasing performance due to management node scale out
    • Control plane evolution
      • Heterogeneity
        • Currently vSphere & KVM
        • Hyper-V support coming
        • Control plane will be split in to 2 layers
          • Central control plane
          • Local control plane
            • Data plane (Hyper-V, vSphere, KVM) specific intelligence
    • High performance data plane
      • Use the Intel DPDK – A technology that optimize packet processing in Intel CPU
        • Packet switching using x86 chips will be the main focus going forward and new technologies such as DPDK will only make this better and better
        • DPDK capacities are best placed to optimise iterative processing rather than too many context switching
        • NSX has these optimisation code built in to its components
          • Use DPDK CPUs in the NSX Edge rack ESXi servers is  a potentially good design decision?
  • Possible additional NSX use cases being considered
    • NSX for public clouds
      • NSX OVS and an agent is deployed to in guest – a technical preview of this solution was demoed by Pat Gelsinger during the opening key note on day 1 of VMworld.
    • NSX for containers
      • 2 vSwitches
        • 1 in guest
        • 1 in Hypervisor


My thoughts

I like what I heard from the Bruce about the key development focus areas for NSX and looks like all of us, partners & customers of VMware NSX alike, are in for some really cool, business enabling treats from NSX going forward, which kind of reminds me of when vSphere first came out about 20 years ago :-). I am extremely excited about the opportunities NSX present to remove what is often the biggest bottleneck enterprise or corporate IT teams have to overcome to simply get things done quickly and that is the legacy network they have. Networks in most organisations  are still very much managed by an old school minded, networking team that do not necessarily understand the convergence of networking with other silos in the data center such as storage and compute, and most importantly when it comes to convergence with modern day applications. It is a fact that software defined networking will bring the efficiency to the networking the way vSphere brought efficiency to compute (want examples how this SDN efficiency is playing today? Look at AWS and Azure as the 2 biggest use cases) where the ability to spin up infrastructure, along with a “virtual” networking layer significantly increases the convenience for the businesses to consume IT (no waiting around for weeks for your networking team to set up new switches with some new VLANs…etc.) as well as significantly decreasing the go to market time for those businesses when it comes to launching new products / money making opportunities. All in all, NSX will act as a key enabler for any business, regardless of the size to have an agile approach to IT and even embrace cloud platforms.

From my perspective, NSX will provide the same, public cloud inspired advantages to customers own data center and not only that but it will go a step further by effectively converting your WAN to an extended LAN by bridging your LAN with a remote network / data center / Public cloud platform to create something like a LAN/WAN (Read LAN over WAN – Trade mark belongs to me :-))which can automatically get deployed, secured (encryption) while also being very application centric (read “App developers can request networking configuration through an API as a part of the app provisioning stage which can automatically apply all the networking settings including creating various networking segments, routing in between & the firewall requirements…etc. Such networking can be provisioned all the way from a container instance where part of the app is running (i.e. DB server instance as a container service) to a public cloud platform which host the other parts (i.e. Web servers).

I’ve always believed that the NSX solution offering is going to be hugely powerful given its various applications and use cases and natural evolution of the NSX platform through the focus areas like those mentioned above will only make it an absolute must have for all customers, in my humble view.


Day 2 – Meeting with Pat Gelsinger and Q&A’s during the exclusive vExpert gathering

vExpert IMG_5750

As interesting as the breakout sessions during the day have been, this was by far the most significant couple of hours for me on the day. As a #vExpert, I was invited to an off site, vExpert only gathering held at Vegas Mob Museum which happened to include VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger as the guest of honour. Big thanks to the VMware community team lead by Corey Romero (@vCommunityGuy) for organising this event.

This was an intimate gathering for about 80-100 VMware vExperts who were present at VMworld to meet up at an off site venue and discuss things and also to give everyone a chance to meet with VMware CEO and ask him direct questions, which is something you wouldn’t normally get as an ordinary person so it was pretty good. Pat was pretty awesome as he gave a quick speech about the importance of vExpert community to VMware followed up by a Q&A session where we all had a chance to ask him questions on various fronts. I myself started the Q&A session by asking him the obvious question, “What would be the real impact on VMware once the Dell-EMC merger completes” and Pats answer was pretty straight forward. As Michael Dell (who happened to come on stage during the opening day key note speech said it himself), Dell is pretty impressed with the large ecosystem of VMware partners (most of whom are Dell competitors) and will keep that ecosystem intact going forward and Pat echoed the same  message, while also hinting that Dell hardware will play a key role in all VMware product integrations, including using Dell HW by default in most pre-validated and hyper-converged solution offerings going forward, such as using Dell rack mount servers in VCE solutions….etc. (in Pat’s view, Cisco will still play a big role in blade based VCE solution offerings and they are unlikely to walk away from it all just because of Dell integration given the substantial size of revenue that business brings to Cisco).

If I read in between the lines correctly (may be incorrect interpretations from my end here),  he also alluded that the real catch of the EMC acquisition as far as Dell was concerned was VMware. Pat explained that most of the financing charges behind the capital raised by Dell will need to be paid through EMC business’s annual run rate revenue (which by the way is roughly the same as the financing interest) so in a way, Dell received VMware for free and given their large ecosystem of partners all contributing towards VMware’s revenue, it is very likely Dell will continue to let VMware run as an independent entity.

There were other interesting questions from the audience and some of the key points made by Pat in answering those questions were,

  • VMware are fully committed to increasing NSX adoption by customers and sees NSX as a key revenue generator due to what it brings to the table – I agree 100%
  • VMware are working on the ability to provide networking customers through NSX, a capability similar to VMotion for compute as one of their (NSX business units) key goals. Pat mentioned that engineering in fact have this figured out already and testing internally but not quite production ready.
  • In relation to VMware’s Cross Cloud Services as a service offering (announced by Pat during the event opening keynote speech), VMware are also working on offering NSX as a service – Though the detail were not discussed, I’m guessing this would be through the IBM and vCAN partners
  • Hinted that a major announcement on the VMware Photon platform  (One of the VMware vSphere container solutions) will be taking place during VMworld Barcelona – I’ve heard the same from the BU’s engineers too and look forward to Barcelona announcements
  • VMware’s own cloud platform, vCloud air WILL continue to stay focused on targeted use cases while the future scale of VMware’s cloud business will be expected to come from the vCAN partners (hosting providers that use VMware technologies and as a result are part of the VMware vCloud Air Network…i.e IBM)
  • Pat also mentioned about the focus VMware will have on IOT and to this effect, he mentioned about the custom IOT solution VMware have already built or working on (I cannot quite remember which was it) for monitoring health devices through the Android platform – I’m guessing this is through their project ICE and LIOTA (Little IOT Agent) platform which already had similar device monitoring solutions being demoed in the solutions exchange during VMworld 2016. I mentioned about that during my previous post here

It was really good to have had the chance to listen to Pat up close and be able to ask direct questions and get frank answers which was a fine way to end a productive and an education day for me at VMworld 2016 US

Image credit goes to VMware..!!





Cisco HyperFlex – New Hyper-Converged Offering from Cisco



Cisco has just announced their newest datacentre infrastructure solution code named HyperFlex. This is a fully integrated Cisco proprietary Hybrid Hyper-Converged solution offering (similar to Nutanix / Simplivity / VMware VSAN) that consist of the followings

  • Cisco UCS C series rack mount servers (C220 or C240) with local storage (SSD+HDD)
  • Software Defined Storage virtual appliance (VSA)

HCI market is quite busy at the moment and there’s lot of demand as it was only natural that Cisco would join the party with their own offering to compete with the incumbents such as Nutanix, Simplivity and VMware’s software defined HCI solution based on VSAN.

While the UCS C series servers are nothing new and are the same familiar rack mount servers, the real introduction here is the SDS solution which effectively comes from their strategic partnership with Springpath and is what is worth considering. (For those who aren’t familiar, Springpath was supposedly founded by ex VMware engineers so naturally you’ll find many similarities between this SDS solution and VMware VSAN)

Now I’m not intending to cover the HyperFlex offering in depth here within this article but will highlight few key points and what I think of the solution and compare it to some competition.


As mentioned above, the hardware consist of 2 configuration choices on day 1 as follows,

  1. HyperFlex HX220c M4 (UCS C220 rack mount server based)
    • CPU = 2 x Intel Xeon E5 2600 v3 processors
    • Memory  = 256Gb to 512 Gb 2133 MHz DIMMs
    • Caching layer = 480GB high-endurance (Intel 3610) cache SSD
    • HDD = 6 x 1.2 TB 10,000 RPM 12-Gbps SAS disks
    • Network = Cisco VIC 1227 (10gbe x 2)
    • Software
      • VMware 5.5 or 6.0 u1
      • Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform Software version 1.7
    • Cluster
      • Nodes: Minimum of 3 nodes, Maximum 8 nodes (Initial version. Will increase in future)
      • Management: Cisco UCS Manager and vCenter plugin
  2. HyperFlex HX240c M4 (UCS C240 rack mount server based)
    • CPU = 2 x Intel Xeon E5 2600 v3 processors
    • Memory = 256 Gb to 784 Gb 2133 MHz DIMMs
    • Cache = 1.6-Tb high-endurance (Intel 3610) cache SSDs
    • HDD = 15 x 1.2 TB 10K RPM 12gbps SAS disks (8 additional disks supported through SAS expander)
    • Network = Cisco VIC 1227 (10gbe x 2)
    • Software
      • VMware 5.5 or 6.0 u1 (VMware only on day 1. Additional hypervisor may follow)
      • Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform Software version 1.7
    • Cluster
      • Nodes = Minimum of 3 nodes, max 8 nodes per ESXi Cluster (Will likely increase in future).
      • Management = Cisco UCS Manager and vCenter plugin

* Note that the hardware configuration on all nodes MUST be same (cluster validation fails otherwise)


Key Architecture Points


  • The HyperFlex SDS offering is a VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance)
    • In other words, its very similar to Nutanix or Simplivity’s implementation as its just a VM running on a Hypervisor (ESXi) that acts as a virtual storage appliance.
    • This is markedly different to VMware VSAN which is kernel based and may offer better scalability (though there are pros and cons to both in kernel and VSA type of architectures)
    • Springpath software will create a distributed NFS datastore that is made available to all the hosts in the cluster (It will rely on a control VM residing on each ESXi host to serve the IO).
    • Note however that unlike Simplivity’s offering, there’s no dedicated hardware to offload any de-dupe or compression work to so its all done in the SW (tax on CPU cycles)
  • Launch & Initial positioning
    • Cisco launched this solution internally within Cisco on the 25th of February followed by the public launch on the 1st of March
    • As a version 1 product, the initial target market for Cisco HF would be,
      • VDI deployments
      • Small to medium scale virtualisation (vSphere only) environments
      • Test and Dev environments
      • Branch office requirements
    • VMware vSphere based only
      • Future roadmap may include other hypervisors naturally
      • Support VAAI
      • vVol support is not there on day 1 but on the roadmap
      • vCenter plugin available
    • No native replication
      • Relies on application level data replication such as that of VMware vSphere replication or Zerto
    • Inline de-duplication is available on day 1 (always on. Approx 20-30% savings)
    • Inline compression (during de-staging from SSD to HDD) is also available on day 1 (variable block size, 30-50% approx. savings)
  • Scalability (day 1)                       
    • Independent compute nodes independently from storage nodes
      • 3-8 HF nodes per cluster + up to 4 additional compute nodes (has to be UCS B200 blades only)
      • When adding compute only nodes, HF cluster will automatically push a software component, referred to as IOVisor on to the new compute nodes (in the form of an ESXi VIB)
    • Hybrid HCI (SSD for caching and HDD for capacity) on day 1
      • No all flash offering available for now
      • Similar to competition, all disks are in pass-through mode (no local RAID)
  • Unique Selling Points
    • Unlike other HCI offerings in the market that typically do not include the networking components, Cisco HF solutions include the Networking elements. Full content included within the HF bundles are as follows
      • Compute Nodes with local storage
        • Comes with ESXi pre-installed
        • A wizard driven installer VM is used to simplify the initial deployment
      • Software license subscription for SDS (Yes you read it correct, its not a perpetual license but only a annual or 3 year subscription that need to be renewed)
      • Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnects for server HW managements
        • Pre-configured for rapid deployment
        • Include single UCS domain license
        • 48 or 96 port option for FI’s
        • Complete UCS manager software (used for hardware management only and no Springpath SDS management capabilities will be included on day 1)
    • Unlike all other competitive offerings, Cisco HF uses a dedicated 120GB SSD (separate from caching SSD’s) for data logging (meta data) on each host which should help with performance & scalability
  • Ordering Options
    • Orderable through normal channel partners as per usual process
    • Pre-Defined bundles available
    • Configure to order option also available

It is important to note that Cisco HyperFlex is not offered as a replacement or an alternative to converged architecture solutions that Cisco already excels in, such as FlexPod or VBlock but only offered as another silo option for appropriate use cases. Industry analysts predict that the Hyper-Converged market may be worth in the region of $3 billion and this is Cisco’s answer for their customers.

The marketing message around HF is going to be focused around its Simplicity, Speed to provision and scalability (linear, node based) which is no different to other HCI vendors such as Nutanix.

My Take

I think HyperFlex is a good version 1 HCI solution from Cisco and I like number of things it has to offer such as its cheaper cost (in comparison to competition) and the fact that it automatically include the networking and Fabric Interconnect modules within this cost. Architecturally it looks solid too, however there are some minor things that need to be addressed / improved which I’m sure will get addressed as the product evolves (quite normal for a version 1 product). Its designed from ground up to ensure the availability and the integrity of your data which means if there are multiple simultaneous node failures for example, that takes the HF cluster beyond the configured availability (replication) levels (similar to VSAN FTT) it will offline the cluster to ensure the integrity of your data.

However being pragmatic, I would personally like to wait and see how this performs out in the field with real customer data under normal working conditions. While established solutions like VMware VSAN may provide fully integrated HCI solutions for vSphere at a much more deeper level than a VSA based solution would provide, if you are a Cisco house and are happy with UCS server hardware (who wouldn’t btw? they are just awesome…!!), this solution may appeal to you quite easily.

I would urge you to register for the webcast (link here) to find out more or reach out to your Cisco AM or reseller to find out more (my employer Insight can help too)

In the meantime, additional information can be found here

Image credit goes to Cisco…!!





FlexPod: The Joint Wonder From NetApp & Cisco (often with VMware vSphere on Top)


During attending the NetApp Insight 2015 in Berlin this week, I was reminded of the monumental growth in the number of customers who has been deploying FlexPods as their preferred converged solutions platform, which now celebrates its 5th year in operation. So I thought I’d do a very short post on it to give you my personal take of it and highlight some key materials.

FlexPod has been gaining lots of market traction as the preferred converged solution platform of choice for many customers of over the last 4 years. This has been due to the solid hardware technologies that underpins the solution offering (Cisco UCS compute + Cisco Nexus unified networking + NetApp FAS range of Clustered ONTAP SAN). Often, customers deploy FlexPod solutions together with VMware vSphere or MS Hyper-V on top (other hypervisors are also supported) which together, provide a complete, ready to go live, private and hybrid cloud platform that has been pre-validated to run most if not all typical enterprise data center workloads. I have been a strong advocate of FlexPod (simply due its technical superiority as a converged platform) for many of my customers since it’s inception.

Given below are some of the interesting FlexPod validated designs from Cisco & NetApp for Application performance, Cloud and automation, all in one place.

There are over 100+ FlexPod validated designs available in addition to the above, and they can all be found below

There is a certified, pre-validated, detailed FlexPod design and deployment guide for almost every datacentre workload and based on my 1st hand experience, FlexPod with VMware vSphere has always been a very popular choice amongst most customers as things just work together beautifully. Given the joint vendor support available, sourcing support from a single vendor for all tech in the solution is easy too. I also think customers prefer FlexPod over other similar converged solutions, say VBLOCK for example, due to the non prescriptive nature of FlexPod whereby you can tailor make a FlexPod solution that meet your need (a FlexPod partner can do this for a customer) which keeps the costs down too.

There are many FlexPod certified partners available who can size, design, sell and implement a FlexPod solution for a customer and my employer Insight is also one of them (in fact we were amongst the first few partners to get FlexPod partnership in the UK). So if you have any questions around the potential use of a FlexPod system, feel free to get in touch directly with me (contact details on the About Me section of this site) or through the Flexpod section of the Insight Direct UK web site.



Cisco Live Europe – Day 2

Ok, the day 2 here has been a slightly better one for me than the 1st, and I aim to provide a brief summary of my day below.

I attended the morning keynote presentation which was about a new video conferencing and collaborating platform Cisco has introduced alongside WebEx called Project Squared which looked pretty awesome and I can see myself using this to do video conferences with my customers. you can sign up free here.

I had 2 events I had specifically planned to attend on day 2 both of which I managed to do. First one was a 1-on-1 meeting with a Cisco engineer to have a pure techie discussion without marketing BS about ACI. It was Bradley Wong from the Insieme Network business unit (ACI) I met up with and the meeting was very useful for me to understand the underlying architecture of ACI without having to put up with marketing / presales buzzwords. We also discussed about key features on the roadmap and the below key additions (due out soon apparently) would be worth mentioning I think.

  • Stateful packet inspection with the AVS (Appliance virtual switch) – AVS is a kernel module that sits on the hypervisor, similar to a nexus 1000v or a VMware distributed switch (or a logical switch if you are talking VMware NSX). One thing NSX has today, (marketing buzzword is “Micro Segmentation”) is the ability to do packet inspection at vmnic driver level and any packets that are bloked based on firewall rules are blocked at the vmnic driver level (packet never enters the virtual wire). This is achieved through the distributed firewall, which effectively relies on a special kernel module, which is a VIB added to the ESXi kernel during the host preparation stage. This is not something available today on ACI but with the above update due soon, that is going to be available within ACI also apparently.

Another thing we discussed was the co-existence of Cisco ACI along with VMware NSX (which I think would be a very common use case going forward and would be quite complementary of each other). While this was something Cisco internally anticipated too, not much testing had been done internally early on. However they are now testing this deployment internally and soon, we should start seeing more contents from Cisco, such as validated design guides, best practise guidance…etc. This should be really cool as I personally see places in the enterprise for both.

After the meeting with Bradley, I spent some time at the Cisco DevZone in the north wing and came across some really, really cool development projects, some of which are in the making within Cisco, and some 3rd party startups using Cisco development tools. Given below are couple of the ones I really liked

  • Relayr – Relayr is a small startup that has manufactured this awesome piece of circuit boards called a Wunderbar as a practical way of creating IOT (Internet of Things). It includes 2 modules, a master module and 6 independent mini modules (A tiny Light/Color/Proximity censor, Accelerometer/Gyroscope, Bridge/Grove censor, Sound censor, IR transmitter and a temperature/Humidity censor) each with an integrated Bluetooth chip and is powered by a small replaceable battery. The master module as a Bluetooth to WIFI bridge. You can buy this online and create an app on any supported API (Android, Windows, IOS…etc) using the free SDK (guidance available on their site) to capture the readings off of those mini units and do something with them or event post them on to the cloud via the master module. For example, there was another startup who had made a baby monitor using these circuit boards with an App on your phone to monitor readings which was awesome. Innovation is aplenty with these guys…. (I might even buy a one and try my own little project)

See the master board and mini board below (all come attached together which you can easily snap off,



  •  VIRL (Virtual Internet Routing Lab) – Again, a pretty awesome virtual network design & simulation platform that include VM’s running Cisco’s core network operating systems. You can use this platform to design, model and simulate a complete enterprise network, consisting of virtual version of the same physical Cisco networking kit such as routers that run the same code base. A potentially good dev and test platform. Apparently this could even be plugged in to your actual network and say, you had a VMware virtual network infrastructure with virtual switches, that it can discover those too to allow you to map and validate your entire network. Sounds pretty useful to the Networking folks (not so much for me being a Server, Storage & a Virtualisation guy). However the coolest part at Cisco live was that they had a modelled network on VIRL hooked up to a virtual reality system where you can, virtually enter the network and inspect each and every device (even interrogate them for information such as traceroute, ifconfig…etc. This required you to put these huge pair of goggles on and control your virtual walk using an Xbox controller but it was great fun, being able to walk from one router to another router in this virtual world and be able to run commands locally at each device. Fun aside though, I can see the real potential use of VIRL platform in the enterprise (doesn’t ship with the virtual reality bit of course :-))

After the DevZone experience, I attended my last planned session of the day which was a lecture by Ramses Smeyers from the Cisco Technical services center about Hypervisor Networking – Best practise for Interconnecting with Cisco switches. This was more of a refresher for me as I’ve done quite of integrating VMware systems with Cisco switches most my life, but a useful refresher nevertheless and it also covered other Hypervisors such as Hyper-V and Xen.

Al in all, it was a good day and having seen some interesting tech & Internet Of Things concepts being pioneered by Cisco on show, it was obvious that innovation is thriving at Cisco which is very good to see.



My first Cisco Live experience – Cisco Live 2015 Europe – Day 1

So, I’ve had the chance to attend Cisco Live for the first time this year and as a result, I’m now in Milan-Italy, attending the Cisco live Europe edition  during this week. Cisco live is an enterprise gathering for all Cisco enthusiastic, from across the Europe, be that you are a Cisco customer, partner, distributor…etc.

I’m usually a regular attendee at similar events from VMware (VMworld) and NetApp (Insight), and Cisco being another key vendor I often work with, when I was asked to attend Cisco Live this year, I was quite excited and was looking forward to a similar experience to that of  VMworld and NetApp Insight. I arrived at the venue for the first time on Monday evening through the Linate airport (closest airport to the venue in Milan) and unfortunately, there were no coach transportation from the airport to the venue provided by Cisco, unlike both VMworld or NetApp Insight. Once you arrive at the venue, you collect your badge from the registration desk which you need throughout the event for gaining access to the venue and everything else inside. Upon collecting your badge, you then collect a little back pack from the gift desk which seems to be customery for all such events (same with VMworld and Insight) which is semi filled with marketing leaflets (yeah…. mine usually go straight out of the bag to the bin 🙂 )

So Tuesday being my first full day at the venue, first event of the day was a general, opening key note speech from Carlos Dominguez and Jeremy Bevan from Cisco. I didn’t really sit through all of their speech as usually these key notes tend to have a bit of a marketing / salesy tone to them. I did listen in to some parts though and the general message seems to be Internet of things and software defined, application centric networking which is nothing new.

My first formal session was not due till 2:15 so I took the opportunity to browse around the World of Solutions  exhibition floor where Cisco and 3rd party Cisco partners were showcasing their products.  I’ve obviously been around the whole floor to see who’s out there with a view to go look at every solution stand in more detail during the course of the event, a notable absentee was Microsoft, which was suprising given that Cisco and Microsoft seem to have gotten a lot closer lately with their work together on areas such as FlexPod for Hyper-V…etc. There was a small (ish) EMC stand also highlighting the joint VCE alliance they have with Cisco and VMware and a NetApp stand highlighting their joint Flexpod solution which were probably the 2 key stands along with, Hitachi, Citrix and F5. There were lots of different Cisco stands, presumably from each different business unit within Cisco showcasing their technology offering which was good. however I was a little disappointed with the number of partner stands available as there weren’t many, at least not as many as I’ve seen at VMworld or NetApp Insight which was suprising. I expected the Cisco partner echosystem to be a lot bigger, especially with Cisco’s entry in to Unified Computing and SDN but most of the partner stands available were focused on traditional LAN, WAN and Switching products of Cisco and adding value around those products. I would have liked to have seen few more partner oferrings in the SDN (software Defined Networking-ACI) side of things such as Palo Alto networks and UCS (Unified Computing Systems) side of things (which, in all honesty are the areas of Cisco I am interested in rather than old school LAN, WAN, Switching and routing products)…. So overall, to me, it was little disspointing.

However, out  of the few 3rd party vendor solution stands I have explored closely so far, I did find this really interesting solution from Stratoscale, which I thought was a very interesting technology in what is supposed to be a true hyper-Converged Infrastructure software offering. (See my article about them here for more info)

As I had few hours to kill before my next session, I decided to attend the Cisco DevNet zone area and do some self phased labs. I had a go at one of the labs on REST API which was good. I’d encourage you to have a look at them online, they are kind of similar to VMware hands on labs if you are in to Development or DevOps side of things involving Cisco kit.

I attended the “Introduction to Application Centric Infrastructure” session (BRKAPP-9000) in the afternoon which was interesting and had quite a lot of content packed to a 2 hour session to give a good overview of the Cisco’s own SDN offering – ACI. I’m not going to mentioned everything mentioned in that lecture here, but one of the key messages was that ACI is a very good solution to co-exist with VMware NSX, contrary to popular belief that Cisco ACI and VMware NSX are always competing technologies, both technologies complement one another and its very much copete NOT compete which is good to hear. The content was very technical and not salesy or markettingy at all which was very good and I hope the other technical sessions I’ve planned to attend during the course of the next few are also as good.

After the ACI session, I headed straight back to the hotel (so I could put this article up) but there was a Welcome reception – a food and drinks filled gathering at the World of Solutions exhibition floor which I decided to take a rain check on.

All in all, day 1 has been a bit of a mixed day with the event so far as not being well organised as compared to VMworld or NetApp insight, not as well attended as those two events, lacked sufficient sessions or 3rd party solutions focused on areas outside of traditional LAN, WAN, Switching and Routing (which may not be an issue for the old school, traditional networking folks), but on the positive side, there were some interesting partner solutions on display along with good, technical lectures from Cisco engineers to attend.

Hopefully day 2 tomorrow would be more interesting…!!