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VMware, Cisco SDNs bring home the bacon

Jim Duffy | Jan. 28, 2016
Both play key roles in food processor SugarCreek's data centers.

Rodden says ACI would play a larger role if SugarCreek implements bare metal servers at some juncture.

“NSX doesn’t reach outside of VMware,” he says. “If it’s not a virtual server, NSX wouldn’t know how to be able to (support it).”

But for now, ACI is attractive not only because of the Cisco infrastructure SugarCreek has, but because it came pretty cheap when bundled with the company’s Nexus 9000 switch purchase.

“It wasn’t free, but it was pretty close,” Rodden says. “But if we were to use it to its full extent, obviously the price tag would go up.”

Still, as the ACI/NSX environment operates in production mode for some time and as NSX and ACI mature and evolve, SugarCreek may determine which SDN technology goes forward from there.

“Initially, ACI and NSX will not be competing in our environment,” says IT Director Todd Pugh. “ACI will stop at the switches and NSX will be controlling within the VMWare hosts. Longer term will depend on the advances from the competing technologies.

“We also wanted to hedge our bets with the SDN technology because of it being so new,” Pugh adds. “We are expecting lots of advances in the next year or two and we want to be positioned to take advantage of advances by either company.”

“It’s still not crystal clear to us where they are both going to go next,” says Rodden.

The SDN project is part of a data center refresh for SugarCreek to inject more security and automation into its operations. With two new plants brought on line in the last nine months -- for a total of six in three states – SugarCreek is on a growth trajectory that is expected to make it a $1 billion company within the next few years, Rodden says.

The data center refresh also dovetails with an Internet of Things (IoT) implementation at the food processor. In the company’s Indiana facility opened in July, 2015, is an IoT-enabled network project begun 18 months ago with Cisco Advanced Services to support a new SugarCreek labor model, a High Performance Work Team structure. This uses internally-developed data acquisition systems on the production floor with bar codes and RFID for both inventory and to process data from a variety of network sensors and devices.

SugarCreek is now moving into the second phase of the project, which will implement real-time location services and video analytics in processing and data visualization. And all of the data collected in the IoT infrastructure is be stored in the SDDC pods managed by NSX and connected via Nexus 9000/ACI.


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