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Inside Cisco's private cloud

John Dix | March 6, 2014
The company has virtualised all servers supporting internal IT and is now getting ready to deploy SDN.

Do private clouds work? 

You bet they do, says Cisco, which has more than two years of experience under its belt with its Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS) cloud. 

Today, 90% of the company's 30,000 operating system instances are virtualized, including all 15,000 virtual machines in CITEIS, which is supported by Cisco Unified Computing System blade servers tied together with Nexus switches.

Cisco employees can dial up server resources in minutes, and even line up virtual data centers at the click of a button, says John Manville, senior vice president, Information Technology, Global Data Centers. Manville is responsible for all of the company's infrastructure, which includes compute, storage and network platforms as well as databases and middleware. 

With the core now in place, the company is looking forward to rolling out its Application Centric Infrastructure, the Software Defined Networking (SDN) vision the company announced in November last year. Manville says some ACI components are already in beta and ACI should be fully deployed by calendar year 2017 (more on the expected benefits below).

One of the first data centers to get ACI gear is the company's newest, a 160,000-square foot building in Allen, Texas, with 35,000 square feet of "raised floor" that was completed in 2011 (see our in-depth tour, in pictures, and our recent update). This data center was built from the ground up to use UCS and is the crown jewel in Cisco's Global Data Center Strategy, a multifaceted, multiyear plan to consolidate and modernize the company's data centers to ensure Cisco had the capacity and resiliency needed to support the business. 

"The first step on our journey into the cloud was to get to an x86 architecture with UCS and Nexus where we could actually begin virtualizing in a large way," says James Cribari, Manager, Information Technology Global Infrastructure Services.  "And then the next thing was to build intelligent automation to take it to the next level. Not just a Web portal, but a portal tied to an electronic service catalog with electronic orchestration built into the provisioning tools. Then the third step is to logically segment the work to make sure customers don't get their peanut butter in their jelly. You have to make sure you isolate and can manage that environment."

When the Global Data Center strategy was rolled out in 2008 Cisco had 51 data centers, some for engineering and others for production, and the goal was to optimize the entire footprint to become more compact and dense, while balancing where critical workloads are assigned. "We're down to 36 today, and by the end of 2014 we hope to be down to 26," Cribari says.


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