Cisco Reimagines the Business Data Center

Data center in the dark

Learning@Cisco senior manager for products Antonella Corno hit some interesting notes in a post this week to Cisco Learning Network's Talking Tech with Cisco blog. Corno's piece, which popped on Monday, is titled "In the Word of Digitized Business, the Data Center Reigns Supreme" and lays out a new, forward-leaning vision of modern data centers, particularly at the enterprise scale.


Her primary thesis appears in the second paragraph of that piece, is as follows:


"Enterprises need access to data from anywhere. They must analyze it instantly and then use it to make rapid decisions closer to where the data came from in order to fuel innovation and reach their desired business outcomes. Thus, the business need has changed from simply connecting devices. It is now about securing, aggregating, automating, and drawing insights from the data these devices generate. All done in a way that opens up new markets and new business models."


According to Ms. Corno, it's a big market to contemplate as well. She turns to IDC as a data source to observe that, "Spending on data centers will rise to $16 billion by 2019." That same firm also forecasts that by next year (2018), more than half (60 percent) of companies will turn to "highly instrumented data centers that use automation to boost efficiency and tie data center and IT spend to business value."


Corno is making a strong case that those who thrive in this brave new world will be those who master the new skills needed to make modern data centers accomplish this mission. I have to agree, as the IT world continues to pivot into virtualization at all levels, including SDN and NFV, along with virtualized applications, platforms and, infrastructures (aka SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS).


What Skills? What Services? Automated Exactly How?


The skills involved require a mindset that breaks out of narrow fields such as servers, storage, networking, and hardware. Rather, these new skills tie all of these elements together, just as assembling all the disciplines just named into a coherent, functioning data center involves understanding, designing, implementing, and automating infrastructures that tie everything together.


Into the mix, of course, savvy IT pros also must understand how to bring together software (applications and services), the cloud, virtualization, and secure data centers (and data protection), along with the infrastructures that make them go. This leads to an interesting mix of skills and topics that Cisco is starting to emphasize at all levels of IT in business environments:


CertMag Slider right AWS cert

Automation: programmability and well-understood tools and APIs helps reduce the time required to get applications up and running, and to anticipate and better serve business needs.


Software Defined Networking (SDN): SDN enables business focused needs and objectives to drive policies that cover "physical and virtual networks, servers, storage, security and services" as Ms. Corno states in her blog post.


Policy Integration: Businesses are gravitating toward monolithic policy models, driven by SDN and NFV, to enable them to extract added value from growing data volumes quickly and efficiently, and to improve IT responsiveness using current human and technical resources.


Of course, Cisco is ready to help with certifications that help to meet these needs. To that end, Ms. Corno identifies the following list of "new skills for the data center" that IT pros should consider acquiring and developing. Here's that very list, reproduced verbatim:


? Basic skills for installing, configuring, and maintaining data centers
? The basics of cloud computing, automation, and orchestration of data center infrastructure
? Unified computing
? Virtualization
? Data center virtualization
? SDN management and monitoring
? Data center security
? Policy-driven infrastructure
? Storage networking
? Evolving technologies like IoT and cloud


To me, it's absolutely fascinating to see Cisco reinventing itself at the same time that it seeks to reimagine and support a new vision of the data center. Given that hardware takes a back seat to policy and virtualization in such a milieu, it must be both exhilarating and terrifying for Cisco to put itself front and center in these new developments and into this mindset.


This also makes it equally absorbing to see how Cisco's certification and training portfolio adapts and evolves to keep its cachet, value, and relevance. Stay tuned, and I'll keep you apprised of all this, and more!


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.