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David Jansen talks data centers, Cisco Catalyst and EnergyWise

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Linda Leung and David Jansen talk about the future of Cisco's Catalyst family, the different versions of IOS, and his own certifications.
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David Jansen, CCIE No. 5952, is a technical solutions architect with Cisco Systems. He focuses on data center architectures for front-end Ethernet/IP, backend storage, application integration and Layers 4 to 7 services, among other disciplines. David has more than 20 years experience in the IT industry and has held multiple certifications from Microsoft, Novell, Check Point, and Cisco.

David is co-author of Cisco LAN Switching Configuration Handbook, 2nd Edition, and has just embarked on a new book: NX-OS: Deploying the NeXt-Generation Operating System for Data Center Architectures.

I caught up with David as he was preparing to attend this year's Cisco Live event taking place June 27 to July 2 in San Francisco, where he will be presenting sessions on data center issues. I asked him about the future of Cisco's Catalyst family, the different versions of IOS, and his own certifications.

Linda Leung: The Catalyst series has been around since the early 1990s and is a solid workhorse in campus backbones. What do you see as the future of the Catalyst range vs. the newer Nexus range?

David Jansen: Great question Linda. The Catalyst product family has been a solid workhorse and has offered our customers a tremendous life-cycle as well as investment protection. The investment protections allows customer to implement new features and technologies without having to forklift upgrade the entire network. Cisco introduced the Nexus platform as well as NX-OS next generation data center operating system, the Cisco Nexus platform in the data center platform to meet the demands of the virtualized data center. NX-OS also delivers features critical to data centers such as a modular, flexible architecture, continuous system availability, and switch virtualization capabilities. The Catalyst platforms will co-exist with Nexus, the Catalyst platform also has a long roadmap of innovation to meet our customer demands. Also, Nexus is a campus solution as well — as long as it fits into the customer's requirements.

LL: Some users are concerned that there are too many different versions, feature sets and varieties of Cisco IOS, which was particularly made apparent when Cisco created a new operating system (NX-OS) for the Nexus switches. Some users have raised concerns that having so many different versions make it difficult for network administrators to manage and maintain. What are the benefits of having so many different versions, and what's the best way for an organization with limited staffing resources to manage them?

DJ: IOS has been developed for many years and has offered many options for our customers. I support the enterprise space, and all of my customers standardize on a given IOS tracks/trains as well as feature sets. It takes enterprise customers time to qualify versions of IOS and feature sets to deploy enterprise-wide. While IOS has many feature sets and trains, it offers options based on customer requirements; NX-OS has made it easier by offering three feature set types: base license, enterprise license, and advanced license. The base license is bundled with the hardware at no extra cost. The enterprise license enables incremental functions such as IP routing, IP multicast, and GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation) for enterprise deployments. The advanced license enables next-generation data center functions such as VDCs (Virtual Device Contexts) and Cisco TrustSec.

LL: Cisco launched EnergyWise for Catalyst switches earlier this year as a way to proactively measure, report and reduce the energy consumption of IP devices. How far does EnergyWise go to help companies go green?

DJ: Cisco EnergyWise is innovation to align with how networking technology can support a low-carbon economy, cut energy use and promote overall environmental sustainability. Cisco EnergyWise is part of the company's technology roadmap for changing the value-chain of IT by placing the intelligent network squarely at the center of how companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their entire organization. Cisco EnergyWise will roll out in three phases to improve IT and building system energy utilization:

  • Network control: EnergyWise will be supported on Catalyst switches and manage the energy consumption of IP devices such as phones, video surveillance cameras, and wireless access points.
  • IT control: There will be expanded industry support of EnergyWise on devices such as PCs, laptops and printers.
  • Building control: EnergyWise will be extended to the management of building system assets such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), elevators, lights, employee badge access systems, fire alarm systems and security systems.

Cisco EnergyWise provides real-time, granular measurement capabilities to give CIOs better visibility into energy savings across an entire organization as well as specific places in the network such as the campus, branch office and data center. It supports currently deployed Catalyst switches worldwide with a free software upgrade. We also introduced adaptive power management functionality in the Cisco Wireless Control System to save power by enabling customers to turn off redundant radios during off hours.

LL: Cisco opened the APIs to EnergyWise so that third-parties could potentially enable EnergyWise to manage the power consumption of non-IT related functions such as lights, elevators, and temperature. What kinds of third parties have pledged support so far? Where else can you see EnergyWise being put to good use?

DJ: Cisco has always had strong partners, as we cannot do it alone. Cisco is working with Schneider Electric for building utility management; SolarWinds for network monitoring; and Verdiem for monitoring PC power in order to extend EnergyWise as a platform for power management across IT and the building systems of an organization by early 2010. Cisco also announced the acquisition of Richards-Zeta's intelligent middleware to provide simplified and cost-effective interoperability and integration between building infrastructure, IT applications and Cisco EnergyWise.

LL: Cisco in 2007 upgraded its higher-end Catalyst 6500 switches by adding Virtual Switching Systems to better support enterprise communications and collaboration. A Virtual Switching Supervisor Engine also enables users to manage multiple Catalyst 6500s to increase bandwidth and performance. How has VSS been accepted by customers and what are the other benefits they're seeing?

DJ: Yes, VSS reduces the amount of devices needed to be supported throughout the enterprise as it is a single control-plane. VSS provides a single point of management, a single gateway IP address (no FHRP), a single routing instance, and most importantly eliminates the dependence of spanning-tree protocol (STP). In a traditional Layer 2 environment, we used STP to block links to prevent loops within a L2 switched environment — VSS allows for all links to be forwarding. STP is only behind the scenes in the event of a miscabling or misconfiguration. VSS has been very successful and it's growing as we will have MPLS and IPv6 support next month in 12.2.33SXI2.

LL: Let's talk about certification and training. In addition to being CCIE and VMware VCP certified, you also hold the TOGAF — The Open Group Architecture Framework — certification. What made you choose to attain that certification?

DJ: As more and more organization focus on virtualization and enterprise architecture, I thought it would make sense to obtain TOGAF. I chose the VMware certification as VMware is the industry leader and most of my enterprise customers have chosen to deploy and standardize on VMware; also Cisco made investments into VMware and has joint product developments with the company.

One example of the engineering collaboration between Cisco and VMware is the Nexus 1000V. The Nexus1000V switch takes advantage of the VMware vSphere vNetwork Distributed Switch framework to offer tightly integrated network services as part of both a server virtualization strategy and a broader data center virtualization strategy. In addition, the switch provides operations and management consistency with existing Cisco Nexus and Cisco Catalyst switches.

As it relates to TOGAF, I chose this to have conversations at the enterprise customer's enterprise architecture level, as most organizations have chosen the TOGAF framework to develop their enterprise framework, methodology, roadmap and direction.

LL: Do you have plans to go for the Cisco Certified Design Expert qualification?

DJ: Yes, I have plans but have not started to study. I am also weighing my options as we will be introducing a Cisco UCS certification track, and I am very interested in that. If time permits I would like to do both, but with my day job, 3 kids, a wife, and dog — time management is often challenging.

LL: How about adding certifications from other virtualization vendors to your portfolio — Citrix and Microsoft?

DJ: I have thought about it, but I do not have the cycles currently to complete. As time permits I will peruse other vendor certifications.

LL: Final question: What will you be doing at Cisco Live?

DJ: I will be presenting BRKDCT-2840 — "Data Center Networking: Taking Risk Away from Layer 2 Interconnects." As customers consolidate and virtualize more and more, the need for Layer 2 connectivity between data centers is increasing. We need a reliable and scalable way to extend Layer 2 to meet the businesses' SLA (service level agreement), RPO (recovery point objective), RTO (recovery time objective), DR (disaster recovery), and BC (business continuity) needs and requirements. The session will run twice next week, first on Monday, June 29 and then on Wednesday, July 1.

Linda Leung is an independent writer and editor in California. Reach her at leungllh@gmail.com.

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