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July 13, 2015

Q&A: Cisco Data centre chief clears fog, reveals IoE cliff-hanger

Company prepares partnerships and acquisitions in the data centre space to push its IoE strategy.

By Joao Lima

Sitting down with CBR’s Joao Lima at Interop London, Joachim Mason, Head of data centre at Cisco UK&I spoke about how his department, "Cisco’s fast IT team", is ushering in the era of the Internet of Everything.

Cisco has adopted edge computing technology – also known as Fog. The idea is for data to be analysed and translated in real-time in order to foster the creation of an IoE environment.

Mason said: "For example, cars talking to each others. In that scenario, for that analysis to take place to the point where the cars can react and avoid dangers, that data and analysis has to happen in real time.

"We cannot afford to transmit that data back to the data centre and back again to get the analysis at the point to avoid the accident. That has to happen somewhere closer to the edge.

"Edge or fog computing is about intelligence in the network at the edge of the network."

The data centre chief believes the key in coping with the ever-increasing amount of data is to understand "how much data is needed, how long do we need that data for, and at what point does it need to be analysed".

Fast IT in the data centre

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Moving on to the concept of fast IT, Mason said businesses can benefit enormously by digitising themselves.

"Customers’ demands on IT are changing rapidly. We can see that in the rise of different forms of accessing technology and software applications for example."

Mason said: "We talk about being defined by applications, that experience that I have is actually defined by the quality of experiencing an application. For example, a bank app.

"Fundamentally, if the app is rubbish, I will probably move on and think about banking somewhere else because if I cannot access it the way I want to, the choice is that I will go and find something else that works better for me."

The concept can be applied to many other industries including retail and transport.

Mason believes this fast IT environment will create huge amounts of change, with new opportunities for customers.

Today’s examples include companies like Uber, Spotify and Airbnb, "the world’s largest hotel company that does not own a single hotel".

"These are very disruptive businesses that took on normal industries and pushed them to new limits."

UK’s colo market

As these aforementioned disruptive businesses are created, they are leveraging the opening of new data centre spaces in the UK.

"A lot of things, if we think about the boardroom and their priorities, will be enabled by something that is digital. Looking at IoE, the data needs to seat somewhere [hence the expansion we are seeing].

"There is a lot of change going on in IT. Part of that is on how customers can utilise SaaS, cloud, and other technologies, but also what they do with their own IT environments."

For Cisco the major new trend is software-defined networking (SDN), which is "accelerating this year", and in the company’s mind, SDN is Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).

"If we think about all the configuration points that would exist to deploy something, then we need to abstract that, to make it quicker.

"With all the demands on IT and the data centre, we cannot afford to do things the way we have always done, so that is something that has to change."

Another important part of Cisco’s business today is hyperconvergence.

Mason said: "The converged infrastructure market is one that is growing really strongly, and it is because it integrates things and makes it simple to customers"

Going green

All this translates into power consumption and the needs to improve PUE in the data centre, which led Cisco to build a Green Agenda.

"We have a massive responsibility to reduce the power consumption of data centres and the capability from an energy management stand point of view."

To achieve this, the company acquired Joulex in November 2013 to enhance its EnergyWise Suite that helps enterprises become more energy efficient, reducing costs and carbon emissions.

Because there is "nothing more costly than having a server running at 20% capacity utilisation and always switch on", energy reduction is focused very much on server utilisation.

"JouleX is all about monitoring that and really managing the energy consumption across the data centre, even extending to the physical environment of the building, and using that technology to ensure we are only consuming energy when we need to."

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