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Cisco channel partners see multiple uses for vendor's analytics tool

Channel companies cited application dependency mapping and IT security among the top applications for a new data center analytics tool from Cisco.

Cisco channel partners see plenty of potential uses for the vendor's new analytics tool that takes advantage of sensors and machine learning to probe data center operations.

Cisco today launched Tetration Analytics, a product that collects telemetry from hardware and software sensors, and sends that data to an appliance for analysis. Cisco said the Tetration Analytics platform, available in July 2016, can be deployed in any data center, "with any servers and any network switches."

Cisco channel partners briefed on the technology said they believe it can help with network troubleshooting, assist with data center or cloud migration, provide insight into application performance and pave the way for emerging security approaches. The tool, partners said, will initially be installed in customers' data centers. But they also noted Cisco's new analytics platform could also find its way into their own data centers, from which the tool could be offered on an as-a-service basis.

Dave Chandler, practice manager for enterprise network solutions at World Wide Technology Inc., a systems integrator based in St. Louis, suggested Cisco will continue to evolve its analytics platform over time.

"I'm interested to see where it is going to end up," he said. "They are just scratching the surface right now."

Application dependency mapping

One particular application currently piquing channel interest is application dependency mapping. Dependency mapping lets organization see how different applications interact with each other, while also providing insight into the infrastructure elements associated with those applications, such as servers and databases.

Tools for application dependency mapping exist today, but Chandler said he considers Tetration Analytics a much better tool in light of the "amount of granularity and the amount of detail you get."

Chandler said previous tools are based on NetFlow, a sampling technology he said will only sample X number of network flows out of the total amount and report on those flows. Cisco developed the NetFlow network protocol, which has become a de-facto standard.

Tetration Analytics, in contrast, provides information on every packet that goes through a given network, pulling metadata out of the header of each packet, Chandler said. The result, he noted, is a precise mapping of how an application works. That understanding helps Cisco channel partners preparing to migrate customers' applications between data centers or from an on-premises data center to the cloud.

"We do a lot of data center moves and moves to the cloud, and having that information is crucial," Chandler said.

Security support

The larger sample size available via the Tetration Analytics platform also has implications for channel partners and their IT security work.

I see huge implications around this for compliance and security.
Dave Chandlerpractice manager for enterprise network solutions at World Wide Technology

That larger sample size lets organizations go back and replay what has happened in their data center environments over a much longer period of time, according to Brian Finzen, vice president of networking solutions at Sirius Computer Solutions, an integrator and managed service provider based in San Antonio. He said the ability to find out what happened in an environment -- and when -- will let organizations use Cisco's platform like a forensic tool.

"I think there is a pretty significant security aspect to this," Finzen said of Tetration Analytics.

"I see huge implications around this for compliance and security," Chandler added.

He said the Cisco tool could help its customers move to a zero-trust data center model. This model calls for enterprises to enact strict access control, segment networks and inspect all network traffic, among other measures.

Data center analytics as a service

Cisco channel partners said the consulting and professional services opportunities with regard to Tetration Analytics will, at first, involve deployment of the tool at the customer's location. Over time, however, data center analytics as a service may become another partner angle.

"It is an interesting opportunity in the future that opens creativity. How could a tool be provided on an as-a-service basis to customers?" Finzen noted.

Chandler also cited the potential to provide Cisco's tool as a service, bringing customers back in to its data center, as opposed to installing the device in a customer's network.

Nirav Sheth, senior director of Americas Partner Organization at Cisco, said the company's analytics tool can provide the foundation for next-generation managed services, noting Tetration's APIs will let partners build custom extension on top of the platform.

Next Steps

Read about Cisco and IBM's work on IoT analytics

Learn about data center tools that combat disorganization

Get an update on Cisco's partnering strategy

Dig Deeper on IT solution provider and managed services software

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