How Cisco Live NOC Runs on FlexPod: Q&A with Patrick Strick, Engineer Supporting the Network Operations Center

NetApp is a Platinum Sponsor of Cisco Live and the Network Operations Center (NOC) at the event. This post spotlights how the NOC, running on FlexPod, fuels the infrastructure behind Cisco Live.


Cisco Live will bring together thousands of IT and technology professionals this week in Orlando for education, insight, and trainings around the technologies that are redefining our future. Not surprisingly, a technology trade show requires its own proven, advanced technology simply to keep the data, video, and infrastructure pieces running reliably and without interruption. Last year’s event in San Diego saw more than 50 TB of data sent over the network, and this year will only build on that.         


That’s where FlexPod comes in. FlexPod, a pre-validated solution from Cisco and NetApp, will run the entire show infrastructure on-site. But FlexPod was not specifically created for this event; it is a technology that thousands of customers are already using to deliver on demanding workloads day in and day out.


We sat down with Patrick Strick, Technical Marketing Engineer at NetApp and one of the key players in getting FlexPod up and running at Cisco Live, to find out why FlexPod was the tool of choice and how it is being implemented at the event:


Q: How much time and effort has gone into setting up FlexPod to run the Cisco Live NOC?

A: We started this project for last year’s Cisco Live US, where we provided a FAS3240 HA pair and two DS2246 disk shelves with 24 600GB disks each. For that initial deployment I went on site where the equipment was staged in Cisco’s lab and spent a couple days cabling and configuring not only the NetApp storage, but all components of the FlexPod, including the Cisco UCS and Cisco Nexus 5548. Between that initial show, Cisco Live London (which used a different set of equipment) and this year’s Cisco Live Orlando, I have spent several weeks’ worth of time installing monitoring applications such as NetApp Insight Balance and NetApp Virtual Storage Console for VMware vSphere, upgrading to the latest versions of Data ONTAP, and adding storage as requested by the rest of the Cisco Live Network Operations Center team.


Q: Tell us about what types of apps are running on FlexPod at the event? Which are the most demanding?

A: The FlexPod is the primary compute and storage resource for everything that makes the Cisco Live show run. Everything from the virtual desktops behind the Internet kiosks and hands-on-labs, to the network monitoring applications such as Cisco Prime and infrastructure services including DHCP and DNS. FlexPod also runs the video storage for Cisco MediaNet digital signage, video surveillance, and the recordings of every session, all week. The session recordings are new for this show and will likely be the highest bandwidth and highest storage consumption service we are hosting. We are confident, however, that the NetApp FAS storage array will be up to the task.


Q: Tell us about what makes FlexPod such a good tool for running the Cisco Live NOC?

A: FlexPod is ideal for this environment because of its simplicity, flexibility, and reliability. Everyone on the NOC team is a volunteer with a day job to handle in addition to setting up and running the show. Because FlexPod is pre-validated, we don’t have to worry about whether specific components will work properly together. This testing has already been done and various FlexPod solution best practice documents (in the form of Cisco Validated Designs and NetApp Verified Architectures) exist to give us guidance on implementation.


Q: How does Cisco Live's demands compare to other types of FlexPod workloads?

A: Cisco Live has many similarities to a typical customer’s data center. It has an extensive network with tens of thousands of connected wired and wireless devices, video surveillance and telepresence systems, VDI clients, a high-speed Internet connection, and the network monitoring and management tools to keep it all running smoothly. The biggest difference is that it is all running at a location (the Orange County Convention Center) where prior to the week of the show week, there was no infrastructure to speak of. The entire data center effectively gets packed up and shipped out two weeks before the show, then inspected to make sure nothing was damaged in transit. One week before the show wireless access points and network switches are mapped out and placed, the network core is connected into the convention center’s (hopefully functional) network distribution cabling, and the FlexPod is powered on, bringing the show’s data center to life.