Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cisco Tetration analytics

Cisco Tetration Analytics: the most Comprehensive Data Center Visibility and Analysis in Real Time, at Scale, June 15, 2016, announced the new Cisco Tetration Analytics platform. The platform collects telemetry from proprietary agents on servers and embedded in hardware on certain Nexus 9k switches, analyzes the data, and presents results via Web GUI, REST API, and as events.

Cisco Tetration Analytics Data Sheet describes the hardware requirements:
Platform Hardware
Cisco Tetration Analytics computing nodes (servers)
Cisco Tetration Analytics base nodes (servers)
Cisco Tetration Analytics serving nodes (servers)
Cisco Nexus 9372PX Switches

And the power requirements:
Cisco Tetration Analytics Platform
Peak power for Cisco Tetration Analytics Platform (39-RU single-rack option)
22.5 kW
Peak power for Cisco Tetration Analytics Platform (39-RU dual-rack option)
11.25 kW per rack (22.5 KW Total)

No pricing is given, but based on the hardware, data center space, power and cooling requirements, this brute force approach to analytics will be reassuringly expensive to purchase and operate.

Update June 22, 2016: See 451 Research report, Cisco Tetration: a $3m, 1,700-pound appliance for network traffic analytics is born, for pricing information.
A much less expensive alternative is to use industry standard sFlow agents embedded in Cisco Nexus 9k/3k switches and in switches from over 40 other vendors. The open source Host sFlow agent extends visibility to servers and applications by streaming telemetry from Linux, Windows, FreeBSD, Solaris, and AIX operating system, hypervisors, Docker containers, web servers (Apache, NGINX, Tomcat, HAproxy) and Java application servers.

The diagram shows how the sFlow-RT real-time analytics engine receives a continuous telemetry stream from sFlow instrumentation build into network, server and application infrastructure and delivers analytics through APIs and can easily be integrated with a wide variety of on-site and cloud, orchestration, DevOps and Software Defined Networking (SDN) tools.

Minimizing cost of visibility describes why lightweight monitoring is critical to realizing the value that telemetry can bring to improving operational efficiency. In the case of the sFlow based solution, the critical data path instrumentation is built into the switch ASICs and in the Linux kernel, ensuring that there is negligible impact on operational performance.

The sFlow-RT analytics software shown in the diagram provides real-time (sub second) visibility for 5,000 unique end points (Virtual Machines or Bare metal server), the upper limit of scaleability in the Tetration data sheet, using a single virtual machine or Docker container with 4 GBytes of RAM and 4 CPU cores. With additional memory and CPU the solution easily scales to 100,000 unique end points.
How can sFlow provide real-time visibility at scale and consume so few resources? Shrink ray describes how advanced statistical techniques are used to select and analyze measurements that capture the essential features of network and system performance. A statistical approach yields fast, accurate answers, while minimizing the resources required to measure, transport and analyze the data.
The sFlow-RT analytics platform was selected as an example because of the overlap in capabilities with the Cisco Tetration analytics platform. However, sFlow is non-proprietary and there are many other open source and commercial sFlow analytics solutions listed on

The Cisco press release states, "Available in July 2016, the first Tetration platform will be a full rack appliance that is deployed on-premise at the customer’s data center." On the other hand, the sFlow based solution described here is available today and can be installed and running in minutes on a virtual machine or in a Docker container.

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