Here’s a brief résumé of TFDx Day 1. A busy morning with several presentations and great interactions. My first big conference actually and very impressed by the organization.
Disclaimer: I’m not a network guy so please keep that in mind when reading the primitive statements below.
Multigigabit, NBASE-T & IEEE 802.3bz
We started early morning with Peter Jones presenting on « Multigigabit, NBASE-T & IEEE 802.3bz ». The presentation started with introducing the context of how we got to 1G Base-T cabling, what is covered by the standard, specifically Base-T allows for incremental scaling through AutoNeg and the fact that although current cabling supports 1 Gb/s speeds, faster data rates are possible and achievable. We learned interesting insights about network cable (for example the fact that there are 70 billions meters of ethernet cables laid out in the world). So what about NBASE-T? Through improvements in noise elimination and signal processing, speeds up to 5 Gb/s could be attainable provided that the proper network equipment is used (on the switch side as well as network cards supporting this). There are several use cases but the main advantage is to preserve existing investments made in copper cable infrastructure. Would that make sense on hyper-converged deployments in remote branches / manufacturing plants?
IoT use case (embargoed)
Due to the embargo, this chapter will unfortunately be very short, much to my dismay. Cisco’s John Baekelmans and John Parello provided us with a fantastic presentation of a specific use case of IoT. I cannot speak about it unless saying that it’s impressive to know that we reached this level of application. This topic will be made public on Wednesday and I hope to extend my thoughts on it later on.
Integrated Infrastructure Solutions with UCS and ACI
Chris O’Brien presented on this topic first by introducing Cisco vision of the UCS platform of a single system to cover many deployment scenarios (specifically mentioned were Nimble, FlexPod, vBlock as well as a couple more use cases). The presentation then shifted on the tight integration of ACI with a FlexPod.
I’m not an expert in ACI therefore this was more « discovery » for me than anything else. I was however surprise of the lack of any mention for vBlocks even if VCE claims they have ACI-aware vBlock configuration. Same for SimpliVity, although that solution may not belong to the intended ACI use cases.
I thought of ACI as a great and innovative solution for data centers but kept the impression that this is very hardly applicable to brownfield sites unless you have a real strategic view on this and are committed to dedicate skilled engineers to work on such a project on the long run.
ACI Implementation and Deployment
After Chris O’Brien, Raphael Muller (Cisco Principal Engineer) presented on how UCS Director can help automate ACI Deployments. The very same concern we had on the previous presentation about brownfield sites was discussed.
An important point was that Cisco ACI is built on top of a RESTful API and is 100% API driven product, whatever is on the GUI is also on the API. We can only hope -and I’ve hear that from several top notch Cisco folks- that Cisco will standardize this approach to all of their products.
Raphael covered an interesting case on how to migrate an existing L2/L3 network into an ACI Fabric. Several steps are involved, such as the creation of EPG (Endpoint Policy Groups) that allow to apply rules to the « external » network to be migrated. But because I’m not your network guy (3rd mention in a row!), you may have a look at this document that I found out and seems to cover the use case explained by Raphael: http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/data-center-virtualization/application-centric-infrastructure/white-paper-c07-732033.html
Bonus Session: Cisco Enterprise ASICs
In this session Dave Zacks, Distinguished Engineer, gave us a magistral presentation on Cisco ASICs and an overview of silicon chips manufacturing processes, the production cycles, benefits and risks, as well as what the future holds as the dyes shrink and shrink to a level where we will have to go to a subatomic scale. This session was truly amazing and everyone was flabbergasted. Peter Jones joined us and Dave told us of Peter’s heavy involvement in the development of the UADP ASIC chip – the heart of Cisco’s new Catalyst 3850 switch. We were all gifted with a very special thing that every geek loves: a true ASIC chip. Nearly everybody asked Peter Jones to sign it, to which he gladly obliged.
This memorabilia piece will sit proudly next to my Pentium Pro, 486 SX 33 and other babies I’ve amassed in the past. The rich and vibrant discussion with Dave Zacks on quantum physics and space exploration continued as we went for lunch.
Afternoon & Evening
Upon our return we were gifted with a visit to the Cisco Innovation Center where we were lucky to see a lot of NDA stuff that nobody usually has a clue about. Great, innovative tech from Cisco that may or may not hit the market, and many enthusiast and friendly engineers eager to share their breakthroughs and advancements. We had many interesting discussions with top-notch individuals and we endured through the fatigue as the topics were truly interesting.
We then had the privilege to join one of the VIP Parties where the networking and further fusion of the TFD delegates team continued. At this time some of us realized that it might have been a clever decision to come with running shoes, after all. That was followed by a very interesting and fruitful discussion between Stephen Foskett and the delegates about the presentation topics. Delegates were extremely enthusiastic about Dave Zacks presentation on ASIC chips. This was followed by a fruitful debate on the embargoed technology. I hope to share more very soon about it.
Finally, our dinner was the occasion of remembering the inevitable IT horror stories and we got to talk about… storage! Especially hyper-converged. It was a very delightful discussion that kept me awake!
See you tomorrow for more good stuff.
Disclosure: I was invited at Cisco Live Europe and Tech Field Day Extra by Gestalt IT. Gestalt IT has covered travel, accommodation and food & provided me with a Cisco Live Pass. I have received no compensation for participation in this event, and I am also not obliged to blog or produce any kind of content. Any tweets, blog articles or any other form of content I may produce are the exclusive product of my interest in technology and my will to share information with my peers. I will commit to share only my own point of view and analysis of the products and technologies I will be seeing/listening about during this event.