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Cisco platform lets IT rein-in disruptive data center operations, security, applications

Michael Cooney | June 16, 2016
Cisco’s Tetration Analytics full rack appliance tackles critical data center operations such as policy compliance, application forensics.

Two years in the making, Cisco today rolled out a turnkey, full-rack appliance that promises to do just about everything it takes to control a data center -- from easing IT operations and controlling security to application monitoring.

The platform, Cisco Tetration Analytics gathers information from hardware and software sensors and analyzes the information using big data analytics and machine learning to offer IT managers a deeper understanding of their data center resources. The system will dramatically simplify operational reliability, application migrations to SDN and the cloud as well as security monitoring, said Yogesh Kaushik, Cisco senior director of product management, Tetration.

“Right now there is no single tool designed to collect consistent telemetry across the entire data center and analyze large volumes of data in real time, Kaushik said.

“Data centers have many blind spots – cloud servers, new devices coming online – its tough to keep track and monitor all of that,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research as well as a columnist for Network World. “Being able to gain visibility into those systems, extract data into the Tetration analytics system and get a better understanding what that data means would be a big help for IT.”

Kerravala noted that there are point products that do some of what Tetration promises – VMware is good with managing the virtual environment, Docker offers container management and Cisco’s own Netflow with network performance but Tetration is the first purpose-built, pervasive data center visibility tool.

So how does this all work? On the hardware side, Cisco says the turnkey, full 39 rack unit cluster Tetration appliance will sit on the customer premise. The rack unit cluster consists of 36 UCS-C220 servers and three Cisco Nexus 9300 switches combined with the Tetration analytics software. Cisco-developed software sensors will need to be installed on end hosts, either virtual machine or bare metal servers Kaushik said.

In the first Tetration release, software sensors support Linux and Windows server hosts, while hardware sensors are embedded in Cisco network switch ASICS: Nexus 9200, Nexus 9300-EX and Nexus 9500-EX, to collect flow data at line rate from all the ports. A single Tetration appliance will monitor up to 1 million unique flows per second, Kaushik said. If installed in a data center with a non-Cisco network, Tetration collects data only from the server sensors, providing about 85% visibility into the data center, he said.

Once in place, the Tetration platform learns its enterprise environment and any policies IT has in place. From there it can learn which applications are dependent on each other throughout their data center and into the cloud. It can monitor server behavior patterns and group servers more efficiently, Kaushik said.


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