Tag Archives: Cisco

Cisco, Hyundai to add software-defined platform to vehicles

Cisco and Hyundai Motor Co. said they would work together to develop vehicles anchored by software-defined networking. The first vehicles are slated to roll out next year, the companies said. Cisco and Hyundai released their plans at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, following up on an original announcement in 2016.

In smart-car fashion, Cisco and Hyundai will develop the vehicles with a focus on communication and sensors. That’s where the “software-defined” status comes in. The premium Hyundai vehicles will integrate a Cisco-built software-defined platform with an Internet Protocol (IP) and 1 Gbps Ethernet in-vehicle network, according to a Cisco statement.

The IP and Ethernet network will enable high-speed connectivity to each vehicle device, the statement said. But more than that, Cisco and Hyundai hope to develop a more open vehicle system to enable the actual communication among smart vehicles, roadways or traffic lights, Ruba Borno, Cisco’s vice president of growth initiatives, wrote in a blog post.

“This is the only way to achieve full autonomy and enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-roadways communication,” Borno wrote. “By putting software inside the central gateway, the new solution enables high-speed connectivity downstream to every device in the car — and upstream to the cloud. This IP connectivity is required for applications to control devices based on real-time data and analytics.”

The software-defined platform will also allow for easier feature updates.

“[The new platform] is highly configurable and secure — and offers the flexibility to design and build new services,” Cisco’s statement said. “It will provide ‘over-the-air updates’ and accelerate the time it takes to bring new capabilities to market.”

The software-defined platform will also act as a foundation for security, touting “integrated, multilayered security, as well as full end-to-end networking,” according to Cisco. This end-to-end security includes encryption, authentication, intrusion detection, firewall and network traffic analysis, Borno wrote in her blog post.

The companies said they are looking into integrating the software-defined vehicles with Hyundai data centers in order to access real-time data.

Windstream to acquire MassComm

Windstream said it plans to acquire MassComm, a New York-based competitive local exchange carrier, or CLEC, according to a filing submitted to the Federal Communications Commission the last week of December.

The proposal stated that Windstream will purchase in cash all issued and outstanding MassComm capital stock. Once the deal closes, MassComm will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Windstream, the filing said.

MassComm provides voice, data and networking technologies, in addition to telecommunications and connectivity management and consultation. The CLEC is authorized to serve customers in California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. Those areas will be combined with Windstream’s reach across the U.S.  Windstream runs a fiber network comprising approximately 150,000 miles.

“By combining MassComm’s customer base with Windstream’s presence and fiber network, the combined company will have the opportunity to serve more of MassComm’s current customers on Windstream’s own last-mile facilities,” the proposal said.

The companies explained the acquisition holds no competitive risks, as MassComm doesn’t own any last-mile facilities, thereby eliminating potential overlap with Windstream’s facilities. Further, the proposal stated competition in the medium-sized business market will be enhanced. The companies don’t expect the transaction to affect current MassComm customer rates or terms of service, according to the filing.

The proposal did not disclose specific financial terms of the transaction. Windstream completed acquisitions of Broadview and EarthLink last year and also partnered with VeloCloud to offer SD-WAN managed services.

Aryaka and Zscaler partner to boost security for cloud-bound traffic

Aryaka is working with Zscaler to offer an SD-WAN package that combines Aryaka’s private network connectivity with Zscaler’s cloud-delivered security.

Once the service is available later this year, internet and cloud-bound traffic will be directly forwarded to Zscaler’s cloud via Aryaka’s edge device, Aryaka Network Access Point, according to an Aryaka statement. All traffic will then undergo a variety of security processes, including antivirus, threat prevention, data protection and access control.

Aryaka said the security enhancement will allow its customers to use its private network to securely access cloud-based and on-premises applications.

Zscaler already provides security services to other SD-WAN vendors, including VeloCloud, Riverbed and Talari.

Businesses slow to embrace products like Samsung Flip board

Samsung has joined Cisco, Google and Microsoft in a digital whiteboard market that has attracted the interest, but not yet the wallets, of companies.

The Korean tech giant launched its Flip interactive display this week at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas. Scheduled for release this month, the Samsung Flip board will sell for $2,699, which is considerably less than competing products from the major vendors but higher than technology offered by smaller manufacturers.

The Flip has a 55-inch, 4K display that lets users annotate content using their fingers or stylus. The device has USB ports and a wireless connection for PCs and mobile devices. The latter lets remote workers view the Flip display.

Today, education, professional sports and media and entertainment account for a significant portion of whiteboard sales. Manufacturers are banking on businesses and government to grow the market.

To date, however, enterprises haven’t embraced the technology. A 2017 survey by Nemertes Research found only 23% of companies using interactive whiteboards and 47% evaluating them. Deployments have been limited mostly to workgroups focused on marketing, content development, engineering, application development and product management. Those groups find electronic whiteboards useful in brainstorming sessions.

“We don’t yet see them as a must-have in every conference room,” Nemertes analyst Irwin Lazar said. “Buyers are still struggling with the business case for whiteboards.”

Samsung Flip
The Samsung Flip can configure to horizontal or vertical orientations and features multiuser annotation.

Samsung Flip board pricing

Samsung’s product costs considerably less than similar size whiteboards from Cisco, Google and Microsoft. But those devices, which range from $5000 to $9000, offer more capabilities, including video conferencing and integration with the vendor’s collaboration software.

Independent analyst Dave Michels believes products that combine video and an interactive whiteboard will be more attractive to enterprises over time than whiteboard-only products. “Every room needs an HDMI display anyway,” Michels said. “Board-only solutions were probably obsolete before they found their way.”

But Lazar sees a “pretty good market” for whiteboards with fewer capabilities than those from the major vendors. Enterprises interested in those products have turned to vendors like Bluescape, DisplayNote, InFocus and Newline Interactive.

In general, those vendors offer whiteboard products that are less expensive than the Samsung Flip board, so the company will likely find it difficult to grab market share. “Given the higher price, and Samsung’s relative newness in the enterprise [whiteboard] market, I think they’ll have a difficult time competing with the other vendors,” Lazar said.

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1 x Console Cable
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Cisco ETA security integrated into Catalyst, ASR, ISR

Cisco boosted its IOS network operating system, integrating technology designed to spot malware activity in encrypted traffic. The company has incorporated the capability in the version of IOS that runs on Catalyst 9000 switches and ASR and ISR routers.

The integration makes it possible for companies using the hardware to subscribe to Cisco’s Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA), which the vendor made available for testing in June 2017. Cisco ETA is scheduled to be generally available Jan. 10.

The hardware support for Cisco ETA puts “meat on the bones of the initial announcement,” said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. Cisco chose the right products for ETA because they are designed for enhanced security capabilities.

How Cisco ETA works

The Cisco ETA technology incorporated in IOS XE makes it possible for the hardware to generate ETA metadata and export it with additional telemetry to the vendor’s Stealthwatch Enterprise Edition Flow Collector, Brian Ford, technical marketing engineer in the Cisco security business group, said this week in a blog post. Stealthwatch collects flow records about network events, so they can be analyzed for malware activity.

Stealthwatch sends the ETA metadata and telemetry to Cisco’s cloud-based Cognitive Threat Analytics service, which examines the data, formulates risk scores for events and sends them to the customer’s Stealthwatch Management Console.

ETA gathers metadata from traffic without decrypting the packet flow. The nondecryption technique, which involves Cisco-developed machine learning, is meant to preserve a company’s data privacy, Ford said.

ETA looks for signs of malware in three features of encrypted data, according to Cisco. They include the first data packet from a new network connection, the sequence of packet lengths and times, and the byte distribution across the payloads of the packets.

Attackers expected to adapt

Some security experts have told TechTarget searching for malware activity in encrypted traffic can lead to a cat-and-mouse game with cybercriminals. As attackers become familiar with detection methods, “they will likely try to modify their encrypted traffic to blend in and remove the features that machine learning models rely on for detection,” said Nick Bilogorskiy, senior director of threat operations at Cyphort Inc.

Security is a significant piece of Cisco’s strategy to generate half its revenue from software and services by the fiscal year 2020. Cisco’s fiscal year runs from August to the following July.

In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, which ended Oct. 28, Cisco reported security revenue rose 8% year over year. The company expects security and software-based networking initiatives to help drive a projected revenue increase of 1% to 3% in the current quarter. The growth would end an eight-quarter streak of revenue declines.

Recapping 2017’s biggest trends in networking technology

Editor’s note: Cisco accelerated its shift to software, vendors launched new tools for managing data centers, and analytics, fueled by machine learning, stole the spotlight. Here, a recap of some of the most significant 2017 trends in networking technology.

Data center infrastructure trends in networking

In February, Cisco joined Microsoft to offer Azure Stack services in its UCS server. Throughout the early months of the year, Cisco revenues continued to fall, dropping for a fifth consecutive quarter because of declining sales of routers and switches.

Cisco attracted a lot of attention for its Digital Network Architecture (DNA) software initiative, which included a new line of Catalyst campus switches engineered to pave the way for a more intuitive way to program the network. DNA eliminates the need to program devices manually through the command-line interface; instead engineers use a policy-based approach to determine network behavior. Later that summer, Cisco said it would acquire SD-WAN vendor Viptela for $610 million in a bid to consolidate its WAN offerings.

In the fall, Cisco launched Intersight, a software-as-a-service initiative slated to become a management option for the vendor’s Unified Computing System and HyperFlex, a hyper-converged infrastructure platform. It also bolstered its Application Centric Infrastructure SDN software by enabling it to run across multiple data centers.

Other data center news included Juniper’s work on a switch fabric intended for multiple data centers, with a single set of management tools and higher spending on public cloud services. Juniper also made a series of announcements in December that included the release of bot software aimed at automating certain network functions.

Additionally, Dell EMC made its NOS standard on new open networking switches and Arista expanded its spine-leaf architecture for hyperscale data centers. Dell followed up its NOS announcement by releasing a line of high-speed switches for data centers and carriers in the fall.

Vendor consolidation gained traction, with Extreme Networks purchasing the data center business of Brocade, as well as the networking assets of Avaya.

Wireless LAN technology trends

The past 12 months were relatively quiet in WLAN trends in networking, as enterprises worked to deploy systems based on the 802.11ac Wave 2 specification.

One important technological development took place, however, as vendors began to release switches and other components capable of supporting the 2.5 and 5 GbE standard, which was ratified by the IEEE in late 2016. Toward that end, Dell EMC, among others, released multigigabit campus switches for both wired and WLAN deployments.

In February, Arris International said it would purchase WLAN vendor Ruckus Wireless Inc. for $800 million. Arris said Ruckus would continue to operate as an independent unit as it targets its technology to service providers and the hospitality market.

That acquisition was followed by a similar move by Riverbed Technology, which bought wireless LAN vendor Xirrus to complement its SD-WAN portfolio.

In June, Aruba released a core switch, aimed at large campus networks and internet of things applications. The 8400X switch also supports Aruba’s WLAN portfolio of products and software.

Extreme Networks announced plans in July to embed its recently acquired Avaya fabric technology in switches and management software to centralize control of large campus wired and wireless networks. And Aerohive, one of the last remaining independent Wi-Fi vendors, said it would add SD-WAN features to its cloud-based wireless controller in a bid to offer a more comprehensive service package to its customers. It also released a low-cost version of its Connect management platform for smaller deployments.

Network performance management and monitoring

In February, Cisco added policy-enforcement capabilities to its Tetration Analytics engine. The upgrade included a cheaper version for midsize companies. Following on the Tetration update, the vendor also launched cloud management for hyper-converged infrastructure in early March, providing enterprises with more choices in how they oversee the vendor’s  HyperFlex product.

VeloCloud beefed up its SD-WAN software with policy options to make it more responsive to network performance problems. The new capabilities let enterprises dedicate segments of the network to specific traffic. In the event of glitches, the software reroutes traffic to alternative routes.

Intent-based networking (IBN) — policy-based software that tells the network what you want instead of telling it what to do — was one of the biggest trends in networking technology. Cisco said IBN would reshape much of its network management efforts, while startup Apstra Inc. upgraded its software that lets companies configure and troubleshoot network devices from multiple vendors.

The addition of analytics — fueled by machine learning — within network management and monitoring applications also gained steam. ExtraHop Networks added machine learning as a service to its Discover packet capture appliances.

In November, Nyansa upgraded its Voyance remediation engine to flag potential sources of network trouble, improve analytics and recommend fixes.

Cisco revenue expected to grow, as new products gain acceptance

Following a two-year revenue decline, Cisco has forecast an increase in sales in the current quarter, as enterprise customers warm up to new products stemming from the company’s security and intent-based networking initiatives.

On Wednesday, Cisco revenue was projected to increase by 1% to 3% in the current quarter. The company based the forecast on the progress it has made in transforming itself from a maker of traditional network switches and routers to a software-centric, subscription-based business.

“Cisco is prudent when it comes to guidance and outlooks; the executive team must be profoundly confident in the company’s ability to clear the bar,” said Brad Casemore,  an analyst at IDC.

In the fiscal first quarter ended Oct. 28, revenue from software and subscriptions rose 37% year over year to $5.2 billion. Nevertheless, total revenue from products and services fell 2% to $12.1 billion, marking Cisco’s eighth consecutive quarterly decline. A decrease in router sales was a significant contributor to the drop.

Cisco revenue helped by 1,100 new Catalyst 9000 customers

Despite the decline, Cisco continued to show progress in areas expected to drive future growth. Applications and security were up 6% and 8%, respectively, and the company had more than 1,100 customers for its latest line of campus switches, called the Catalyst 9000s.

Cisco is prudent when it comes to guidance and outlooks; the executive team must be profoundly confident in the company’s ability to clear the bar.
Brad Casemoreanalyst at IDC

“We’re pleased with the early feedback [on the Catalyst switches],” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said during a conference call with analysts. “We would hope the platform continues to accelerate.”

Sales of the switches — introduced in June — are significant because the software included with the hardware is sold through a subscription model. Cisco expects the central management console for the switches, called the Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center, to become an important contributor to recurring revenue, as more networking products are tied to the software.

DNA Center is also a component of Cisco’s recently announced intent-based networking initiative. The goal of IBN is to integrate automation and machine learning into network management so operators can make changes to devices through policy-driven software, rather than reconfiguring each piece of hardware separately.

Customers upbeat on Cisco-Viptela SD-WAN

Cisco reported encouraging talks with customers interested in the SD-WAN technology the company acquired in early August after completing the $610 million purchase of Viptela. “I would expect that we’ll start to see customers move somewhat this quarter. And then, in the second half of the [fiscal] year, I think our customers will begin to deploy some of these solutions,” Robbins said.

The SD-WAN market has evolved into a race between Cisco and VMware for the top slot, according to London-based IHS Markit. This month, VMware said it would acquire VeloCloud, which IHS identified as a revenue leader along with Viptela.

Other indicators of potential Cisco revenue growth include the company’s work in the hyperscale data centers of Google and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest online retailer and public cloud provider.

Cisco is helping Alibaba build a new data center that would use Cisco infrastructure technology. The partnership with Google includes building technology for interoperability between the Cisco HyperFlex hyper-converged system and the Google public cloud.

Cisco’s work with Google will improve its standing in the market for technology that sits at the edge of an enterprise data center and connects the organization to its public cloud provider, Robbins said.

“They [cloud providers] definitely have come to the conclusion that the edge is going to be mission-critical for our customers going forward,” he said. “As they think about that, we’re the very natural partner for them.”

Cisco’s net income for the quarter was down 2% to $3 billion, based on non-GAAP results. Earnings per share were 61 cents, which was flat from a year ago and slightly higher than the 60 cents forecast by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Cisco Spark app to get voice-powered virtual assistant

Early next year, Cisco plans to let a small group of enterprise customers test-drive a voice-powered assistant in Spark.

The virtual helper, announced this week at the Cisco Partner Summit in Dallas, needs practice before it can perform chores reliably in the company’s cloud-based team collaboration software. So, Cisco is asking for volunteers to let it gather enough employee user data to help ready the service for general availability within the Cisco Spark app.

“This technology will evolve as users use it,” said Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO for Cisco’s collaboration business. “It has to be trained constantly and improved based on real usage patterns.”

Initially, the Cisco Spark assistant will use people’s vocal cues to enter a person into a Spark or WebEx online meeting or call a person within the same organization. People can also command the digital aide to record or end sessions.

While the capabilities are modest, Cisco plans to use data collected from people’s interactions with the service to make it smarter. In time, the company expects to automate other routine chores in the Cisco Spark app, such as planning and scheduling, taking down to-do items and crafting and sending meeting summaries. Cisco did not disclose a timetable for rolling out the more advanced capabilities.

The Spark Assistant is built on technology developed by MindMeld, an artificial intelligence vendor Cisco acquired this year. The company bought the startup because of its work in voice-activated personal assistants.

For now, Cisco will offer voice assistance to customers of its Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus video conferencing devices. The rectangular hardware that plugs into a third-party display includes speakers, microphone and cameras powerful enough for up to 15 people gathered in a conference room to take part in a Cisco Spark app meeting.

Cisco introduces a virtual personal assistant to Spark, the company’s cloud-based collaboration software
A Cisco Room Kit video conferencing system displays the start of an online meeting before attendees ask the Spark Assistant to join the discussion.

Microsoft Cortana in the lead

Today, Microsoft’s Cortana is the most widely deployed virtual assistant for business, according to Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. Corporate employees using Office 365 can order Cortana to update work calendars, set reminders, create lists and read emails. The vendor has integrated the application into Windows 10.

Microsoft’s lead in business does not mean rivals, such as Cisco, do not have time to catch up. Organizations are aware of voice-controlled software but have yet to deploy it in large numbers. Nevertheless, companies consider virtual assistants a necessary technology within products and business processes reworked for the current digital age, Nemertes said.

The success of UC and collaboration vendors embedding voice-powered features in products will depend, in part, on addressing two of businesses’ most significant concerns — security and privacy. Suppliers will have to address potential risks through access controls and encryption of conversations.

Adoption of secured voice-controlled applications is sure to increase in business as consumers use the technology in the home. Spending on virtual personal assistant-enabled wireless speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, will reach $3.5 billion by 2021 from $700 million in 2016, according to Gartner.

New RingCentral app integrations include Google, Slack, Alexa

While Cisco and BroadSoft grabbed the headlines last week with their acquisition news, another unified communications provider showcased its market momentum. RingCentral Inc., a UC-as-a-service vendor based in Belmont, Calif., unveiled several application integrations that fortify its platform and highlight the pervasiveness of open, cloud-based communications.

RingCentral has expanded its API platform that lets developers integrate voice, messaging and fax into business workflows. In today’s multicloud applications environment, RingCentral said its open platform is an ecosystem-friendly approach that can enable business communications with new artificial intelligence, chatbot and app integrations.

For instance, the newly announced RingCentral for Google is a native integration with G Suite. With the add-on service, users can promote an email conversation to a RingCentral call and send SMS from Gmail. Users can also view recent call history, voicemail, SMS and see presence for online or offline status of RingCentral contacts.

Additionally, the new RingCentral for Alexa Skills is an integration with Amazon Alexa-powered devices that lets users interface through voice to request playback and respond to voicemails. Users could also send and check text messages and start a RingCentral outbound call and SMS through the RingCentral app. This integration is expected to be available by the end of this year.

App integrations enable chatbots

Another integration, RingCentral for Slack, is designed to introduce meetings and calling capabilities into the Slack messaging platform. The integration lets Slack users use slash commands to access RingCentral and launch video meetings and audio conferences. The service is available in the RingCentral App Gallery, and it requires a Slack account and subscription to RingCentral Office, the vendor’s cloud phone system.

RingCentral also announced last week updated integrations for its Glip team collaboration tool with AI and chatbot capabilities to automate business processes. For instance, the Salesforce Alert Bot in Glip can capture Salesforce events and send notifications to Glip teams. This feature enables sales managers to have immediate updates on opportunities without having to open Salesforce in a separate application. The bot is expected to be available in early 2018.

Kore.ai, a chatbot platform partner of RingCentral, has enabled four bots within the Glip platform, including Salesforce, Twitter, Asana and Trello. Gong.io, a conversation intelligence platform for sales teams, provides call transcription and analytics within the Glip platform, so teams can replicate best sales practices.

RingCentral’s platform enhances business communications through an integrated and pervasive approach, said David Lee, RingCentral’s vice president of platform products, in a statement. The RingCentral App Gallery has more than 7,000 developers and over 100 cloud app integrations.

Open APIs benefit communications

While the RingCentral integrations are important, many other UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) platforms are also fairly open, as they move to an API model, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass. App integrations are almost becoming a mandatory feature in the market, he added.

Many vendors, for instance, integrate with Salesforce, the popular cloud-based customer relationship management platform. But Kerravala suggested customers consider additional app integrations beyond the most common ones, especially integrations that could benefit certain vertical markets or business units.   

“Now that every vendor has exposed APIs, it makes it much easier to integrate with them,” he said. “I think that’s been one of the big benefits of the industry.”

RingCentral, in particular, has the most mature UCaaS platform, plus a team messaging service with Glip, industry analyst Dave Michels wrote in a recent report. But several providers are nipping at RingCentral’s heels.

“RingCentral is firing on all cylinders — UCaaS, messaging, video, contact center and integrations,” Michels said. “They are in the enviable position of delivering today what most of the industry is attempting to create.”

A supply and demand problem

We’ve got too many UCaaS providers today. There’s too much supply and not enough demand. Some consolidation is necessary.
Zeus Kerravalaanalyst at ZK Research

The UCaaS market is particularly packed with providers, including 8×8, West, Fuze, Mitel and Masergy, among others. Traditional telecom vendors, like AT&T, are also in the UCaaS market. System integrators, like Dimension Data, sell UCaaS tools. And traditional UC vendors, like Cisco and Microsoft, offer their respective UCaaS products.    

“We’ve got too many UCaaS providers today,” Kerravala said. “I think there’s too much supply and not enough demand. Some consolidation is necessary.” 

Some consolidation occurred last week when Cisco said it will acquire BroadSoft, a deal that validates the market’s strength, Michels said. Industry consolidation will continue, he added, as UCaaS alone is increasingly viewed as a commoditized service.

For now, Kerravala added, the acquisition will have a neutral effect on RingCentral and other providers, because small and midsize businesses primarily buy UCaaS products. But that effect could turn negative for RingCentral and benefit Cisco as more large organizations start to buy UCaaS.  

Go beyond calling capabilities

Users navigating this market need to understand what exactly they are buying, Kerravala said. Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution, for instance, is a private cloud offering sold to service providers that then offer it to their customers.

RingCentral, meanwhile, is more of a multi-tenant public cloud, where one change to the service can affect many customers.

The first thing customers need to do is not jump on board cloud just to do cloud, but to understand what they want and why.
Zeus Kerravalaanalyst at ZK Research

A private cloud offers more customization, but might require more upfront work, Kerravala said. Highly distributed and regulated companies with data sovereignty issues might prefer a private cloud. Big retailers, however, might favor a public cloud if they need to get telephony out to thousands of stores.

“The first thing customers need to do is not jump on board cloud just to do cloud, but to understand what they want and why,” Kerravala said.

After that initial step, organizations should compare UCaaS vendors more closely. While the calling capabilities and audio quality are quite comparable among the vendors, customers should dig deeper and examine other services, such as team messaging and mobility.

“Looking at the services outside the core calling is probably the most important criteria for determining which of these many vendors you want to go with,” Kerravala said.

Cisco telemetry data gets streamed from MDS 9700 32G modules

Cisco can now stream telemetry data directly from its 32 Gbps MDS 9700 Fibre Channel module, allowing data centers to capture real-time performance analytics on SAN fabrics without the use of network taps.

Cisco SAN Telemetry Streaming is designed to improve troubleshooting of SAN fabrics by improving visibility without affecting performance. The Cisco telemetry streaming capability has led to a technology partnership with SAN and NAS monitoring vendor Virtual Instruments. The Cisco MDS 9700 32G Module with SAN telemetry streaming will feed analytics data to Virtual Instruments’ VirtualWisdom performance management tool.

Also last week, Cisco introduced an expandable entry-level switch as the newest member of the MDS 9100 all-flash switches and added support for network port virtualization on the next-generation Nexus 9300-FX 16 Gbps switch, which is used for consolidating LAN and SAN infrastructure.

Virtual Instruments tapped as first Cisco telemetry streaming partner

The advent of 32 Gbps products are based on the sixth generation of the Fibre Channel (FC) protocol, also called Gen 6 FC. Cisco MDS SAN Telemetry Streaming is available only on its 32 Gb FC MDS 9000 modules. The SAN analytics in the MDS 9700 32 GB line card captures metrics on all IP traffic spanning across a fabric.

The functionality captures Fibre Channel and iSCSI headers, and it reads each data packet at full duplex line rate. Cisco application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) embed a dedicated network processing unit to analyze instrumentation data. Using an open source remote procedure call, Cisco streams the performance analytics from MDS line cards to a dedicated data store.

Adarsh Viswanathan, a senior manager of Cisco data center product management, said customers have been requesting Cisco for several years to retool the way MDS switches gather and disseminate analytics on FC storage traffic. The standard implementation has been to install a third-party hardware appliance and software to scan network ports.

“Previously, Fibre Channel customers were limited by visibility and by scale. We provide a pull model or a push model, based on how you want to consume the data,” Viswanathan said. “Our customers have been asking for this for years and years. We built this into our ASICs, so we can perform analytics at line rate and scale across fabrics.”

Virtual Instruments monitors storage fabrics using hardware taps that collect performance data and transmit it to its NAS Performance Probe hardware devices, which in turn relay it for analysis in the VirtualWisdom data store. The ability to stream Cisco telemetry data from MDS switches expands Virtual Instruments’ flexibility in large enterprises, said Tim Van Ash, its senior vice president of products.

The NAS Performance Probe tracks traffic by monitoring about 300 metrics. It presents performance data in digestible charts and histograms. The level of granularity served tier-one applications well, Van Ash said, but it’s not cost-effective on less critical data.

“This effectively turns VirtualWisdom into a software-only deployment for many Cisco customers. They would buy our monitoring and analytics, but not necessarily need to buy our taps and probes,” Van Ash said.

Cisco follows Brocade with launch of 32 GB fabric switch for flash storage

The Cisco MDS 9132T 32 Gbps FC switch is a 1U form factor that inserts as a top-of-rack or middle-of-the-row switch. It includes 16 ports and is geared to department-level or smaller SAN flash environments.

MDS 9132T comes with eight switches turned on by default. Customers can light up the remaining eight ports with an additional license and scale to 32 FC ports by inserting a 16-port expansion module. Cisco telemetry diagnostics are designed to pinpoint network issues that could hinder all-flash array performance.

Cisco has played follow-the-leader with its FC switching competitor Brocade when it comes to advancing FC technology. The 9132T 32 GB switch comes after Brocade in March launched the G610 entry-level device. The G610 switch tops out at 24 ports.

“We historically have been years behind our competition. But this time, we are introducing product within six months of the others,” Viswanathan said.

Nexus 9300-NX port virtualization is based on Cisco Cloud Scale networking software. The converged switch lets customers unify 48 fixed small pluggable form factor ports for 25 Gigabit Ethernet or 16/32 GB FC.

Cisco DNA Center harmonizes wired, wireless LAN management

Cisco has unified wired and wireless LAN management within its software-based network architecture, which the company sells on a subscription basis.

The company introduced this week the option of using the Cisco DNA Center software console for distributing policy-based configurations across both networking environments. Cisco is selling the wireless LAN (WLAN) option under a three-tier subscription model.

Instead of selling the hardware outright, Cisco is letting customers pay for their Aironet access points, WLAN controller and the management console through a three-, five- or seven-year subscription.

The latest network architecture does not support Cisco’s Meraki WLAN portfolio, which operators manage through a cloud-based software console. Cisco DNA Center software and hardware are for on-premises deployment.

Several years ago, Cisco embarked on a strategy of selling products through a subscription model that results in a more steady and predictable flow of revenue. Investors often favor companies with successful recurring revenue models.

Cisco has set a target of having subscription revenue account for 37% of annual sales by 2020. A significant portion of that is expected to come from DNA Center. This year, the company predicts 10% of sales will be recurring.

Cisco’s latest announcement “further extends this [revenue] model for the campus network and signals that Cisco is moving ahead with transforming how its legacy campus networking technology is consumed,” said Nolan Greene, an IDC analyst.

Managing the WLAN in Cisco DNA Center

In June, Cisco introduced the Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center as the central management console for a new line of campus switches, called the Catalyst 9000s. “With the importance of wireless networking in enterprises, it was inevitable that Cisco would eventually bring its WLAN portfolio into the fold,” said Mark Hung, a Gartner analyst.

A wireless controller running on a network appliance is the actual management application. The Cisco DNA Center is the front end that provides access to the controller’s user interface.

Based on policies set by the network operator, the controller configures the access points and provides visibility to traffic and hardware performance. It also delivers reporting and analytics based on telemetry data taken from network devices.

Cisco offers three different controller models: the 3504, 5520 and 8540. The higher-number models deliver more performance and throughput.

Differences within WLAN subscription models

The three levels within Cisco’s WLAN subscription model differ in security. The lowest level, DNA Essentials, has only baseline features, such as wireless intrusion detection to catch hackers trying to get to the corporate network through an access point. Essentials also has limited automation and monitoring capabilities.

The second level, DNA Advantage, includes the ability to segment a wireless network to prevent, for example, a hacked wireless video camera from trying to access corporate computers. Advantage also has policy-based automation and analytics.

The highest level, which is aimed at large enterprises, is called the Cisco ONE Advantage. The package includes the Cisco Identity Services Engine, which enforces security and access policies across the wired and wireless LAN.

Enterprises are spending more on the WLAN to provide employees with easier access to the corporate network. In the second quarter of this year, companies spent $1.5 billion on the WLAN — roughly 9% more than the same period a year ago, according to IDC.