The Cloud of Many Clouds…

By Sumit Lahiri, Sr. Product Manager - Service Provider Solutions, NetApp


We speak of many types of cloud, built on different architectural paradigms to serve various “business needs”. Come to think of it, the cloud is essentially an interconnected mesh of nodes, each assigned a specific function. The mesh is segmented into localized regions of control and each region of control collaborates with the others to present this notion of infinite capacity, highly available and self-correcting system. Cisco and NetApp are partnering together to help build that experience…or a large part of it! This appears to be a tall claim so let me provide the raison d'etre in the next few paragraphs to substantiate some parts of this claim.


The inspirations and motivations of enterprise and service providers to build private cloud capabilities have elements of commonality and differences. While the primary drivers for enterprises are business agility, data sovereignty & reduced TCO, the service providers are looking at that and others, more importantly service differentiation. Our joint NetApp / Cisco solution portfolio is built on deep and intimate understanding of these choices and reflects our commitment to provide customizability (i.e. no two clouds are built alike!). To this end, NetApp is partnering with Cisco to build complete Data Center reference architectures with an application centric design focus. These architectures have come to be known as Cisco Virtualized Multiservice Data Center or VMDC for short.


VMDC is a collection of components segmented and layered, one on top of another. The components by themselves provide discrete functionality, however the VMDC reference architecture lays out design principles that describe how the components integrate together to provide highly reliable, resilient & scalable cloud ecosystem. The design principles are then tested and validated at Cisco labs before being published at VMDC design center.


At the base of the ecosystem is the infrastructure building block.  An “Open Management Ecosystem” (OME) layer overlays on top of the infrastructure layer. The “OME” offers the customer a range of choices for infrastructure orchestrators, such as: UCS-D/CIAC, vCloud Director, System Center and OpenStack. In addition, home grown orchestration engines are also supported.


Over the past several months NetApp & Cisco have been collaborating to publish reference architectures that focus on the core infrastructure building block. This building block can be visualized as having a network fabric that overlay on top of converged infrastructure pods i.e. FlexPods. The network fabric offers customer the option to select from three distinct network design options: (a) classical 3-tiered topology with spanning tree limitations (referred as VMDC 2.X track), (b) Cisco’s fabric path technology based on spine-leaf topology eliminating spanning tree limitations (referred as VMDC DCI track short for Data Center Interconnect) and finally (c) virtualization of network functions (referred as VSA 1.0 track short for Virtual Services Architecture).


NetApp/Cisco solutions focus on integration at the infrastructure building block layer. On the 2.x and VSA tracks NetApp offers storage options for both 7-mode and clustered Data ONTAP. The storage subsystem integrates with VMDC’s secure network containers (also referred as “point of delivery” or PODs for short – not to be mistaken for converged infrastructure PODs).  Each POD may contain one or more storage clusters. The PODs can then be replicated to build secure multitenant solution at scale.


On the DCI track, NetApp/Cisco is developing business continuity solutions. While Cisco provides the network functions to move virtual compute resources securely, the underlying data management is achieved by leveraging NetApp’s MetroCluster solution (for synchronous replication) and SnapMirror technologies (for asynchronous replication). The network and data management components cohesively work together to provide an end to end solution for planned application mobility and site disaster recovery.


Cisco and NetApp continue to partner together to bring VMDC reference architectures to market that are built on the latest technology innovation between the two companies. These validated architectures, jointly supported by NetApp and Cisco, accelerate our customer’s journey into the cloud….customized to their vision.


PS: If you happen to be attending Cisco Live at Milan and interested to learn more details, please take a moment to visit the NetApp breakout session ...