Cisco CCNA – Full Lab Guide for your exam by Flackbox

Today I want to make sure you don’t miss the chance to get a free Cisco CCNA Lab Guide to pass the latest 200-125 CCNA and 100-105 & 200-105 ICND exams.

One of my blog colleagues Neil Anderson ( spend a lot of time to put together a 350 page gudie that helps you to pass the exams and understanding the content. The guide contains:
– The IOS Operating System
– The Life of a Packet
– The Cisco Troubleshooting Methodology
– Cisco Router and Switch Basics
– Cisco Device Management
– Routing Fundamentals
– Dynamic Routing Protocols
– … and much more

To get started and for more information’s click on the image below to reach his website.

Well done Neil.



Cisco HyperFlex integration details and Q&A

With Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 2 we launched our integration with Cisco HyperFlex. The integration leverages our Backup from Storage Snapshot technology to optimize the data transfer for Veeam backups as well as replications. Since then I got a lot of positive feedback and questions around the integration. That’s why I want to answer the most common questions in this blog post. A brief overview on the integration itself was already done by my colleague Michael Cade earlier this year.

Besides this blog post we already started the work on an implementation and best practice guide so stay tuned and check our website regularly.

Why does Veeam integrate into Cisco HyperFlex?

The main reason why Veeam started to integrate into storage arrays, regardless if it is Cisco HyperFlex or any other storage we support, is to avoid or at least minimize the time of VMware Redo-Log Snapshots (native VMware VM Snapshots).

If you run a VM backup without the integration, the workflow will always create a VMware Redo-Log Snapshot; Veeam will read all data while VMware redirects all writes into the Redo-Log File and after the backup/replica is done, the VM Snapshot will be deleted as shown in the graphic below on the left side. Especially the VM snapshot delete can take a lot of time and consume serious amounts of storage resources until done.

Cisco HyperFlex integration

Using the Cisco HyperFlex integration means avoiding VMware VM Snapshots completely. As you can see on the right side in the graphic above, the workflow will create a Cisco HX Snapshot; Veeam reads all data out of the Snapshots and after the backup/replica is done Cisco will delete the HX Snapshot which has almost no impact in the VM or the rest of the production.

With that the Veeam integration into Cisco HyperFlex is the only one where no more VMware Snapshots are needed at all.

What are the requirements and which Veeam features can be leveraged with Cisco HyperFlex?
Before going ahead and trying the integration please be aware of the following requirements. 50% of the questions and errors I get are due to the fact that at least one of the following requirements is missing:

  • VMs reside on a Cisco HyperFlex 2.0 or newer cluster (HX version < 2.0 are not supported)
  • Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 2 or newer is installed on the backup server
  • License for Veeam Backup & Replication Enterprise Plus Edition is installed on the backup server
  • Cisco HyperFlex storage system is added to the Veeam storage infrastructure and the vCenter server is added to virtual infrastructure
  • Backup proxy is properly configured in the backup infrastructure
  • VM must not have any existing VMware native Snapshot before the first job kicks off
  • The “Enable backup from storage snapshots option is selected in the job settings
  • When using Backup from Storage Snapshot over NFS:
    • Veeam Proxy server has access to the Cisco HyperFlex NFS Backend
    • Required VMware Firewall Ports are open for IOVisor Backup (see Helpcenter article)

As of today Veeam supports Backup from Storage Snapshots with Cisco HyperFlex. All other storage related features like Veeam Explorer for Storage Snapshots, OnDemand Sandbox from Storage Snapshots, Snapshot only job…etc. are not supported. Of course, you can use all regular Veeam features leveraging the Veeam backup.

How do I configure the Cisco HyperFlex integration?

The Cisco HyperFlex integration is like any other Veeam Storage Integration. For us Cisco HyperFlex is not a HyperConverged system but seen as a storage system. That’s why you need to navigate to “Storage Infrastructure” within your Veeam Backup & Replication installation to add the Cisco HyperFlex system. After selecting “Add Storage” you will be promoted with the following wizard:

1. Select “Cisco HyperFlex”

Cisco HyperFlex integration

2. Add the Cisco HyperFlex Management IP address of the Data Platform

Cisco HyperFlex integration

a) To find the needed IP address simply open the advanced Cisco HX settings within your VMware Webclient

Cisco HyperFlex integration

b) The needed IP can be found here

Cisco HyperFlex integration

3. Define the login credentials for the management

Cisco HyperFlex integration

4. Optional: Define Veeam Proxies to be used for this cluster

Cisco HyperFlex integration

5. Finish the wizard

Cisco HyperFlex integration

After finishing the wizard, you will see the following dialog that adds the Cisco HyperFlex system to the Veeam installation.

Cisco HyperFlex integration

If you see any warning message here the reason is most likely that your Veeam proxy server doesn’t have the needed backend NFS data access or the VMware Firewall ports are not opened. More details in the next questions.

What access is needed on the Veeam Proxy to get Backup from Storage Snapshots working?

The Veeam integration with Cisco HyperFlex works with all available data transport modes.

Cisco HyperFlex integration

No matter if you use NFS (1, 2) as the transport protocol by accessing the backend Cisco HyperFlex data network or if you use the regular transport modes Hot-Add (3) and NBD (4), Veeam will always leverage a Cisco HyperFlex Snapshot as a source.

For NBD and Hot-Add, no additional configuration is needed. After the Cisco HX system is added to the Veeam installation Cisco HX snapshots will be automatically used.

For NFS as transport mode there are two ways to access the data:

  • Backup from Storage Snapshots over IO Visor on ESX(i) hosts (1): The IO Visor is a Cisco HyperFlex software module that runs on every ESXi host that is part of the Cisco HyperFlex cluster. It presents HyperFlex NFS datastores to the ESX(i) hosts and optimizes the data paths in the HyperFlex cluster. The backup over IO Visor is the preferred method as it provides the high speed of VM data reading and balances the load across the HyperFlex cluster.
  • Backup from Storage Snapshots over HyperFlex Controller Cluster IP (2): In this processing mode, all traffic is handled by a single HX controller that holds the HyperFlex Controller Cluster IP.

Cisco HyperFlex integration

No matter which NFS mode you use, the Veeam Proxy will need access to the backend NFS data network of Cisco HX. The graphic above shows which networks are accessed by the Veeam proxy server. I’m used to saying, configure your Veeam proxy server with the same management and storage access like what you would do with an additional ESXi host.

The HyperFlex Controller Cluster IP does not require any additional confirmation as all needed communication will be handled by Veeam and Cisco APIs.

For the IOVisior backup you need to open specific VMware Firewall ports as the Veeam proxy server needs to access a module running within the VMware ESXi. Information on how to open the needed ports is listed in the next question.

How do I open the needed VMware Firewall Ports?

The Cisco HyperFlex IO Visor is a software component that runs on all ESXi hosts within a Cisco HyperFlex cluster. It works as an NFS server for Veeam traffic.

You need to allow NFS traffic from the backup proxies to ESXi hosts. As Cisco IO Visor based NFS communication uses dynamic ports, you need to create an ESXi firewall rule with inbound ports 0-65535 and the backup proxy IP addresses as allowed IP addresses.

You can do this in three ways:

  • Create a VMware ESXi host VIB host extension file that creates the firewall rule, install/enable it on all hosts and set the backup proxy IP addresses as allowed ones. For more information, see KB article 2291.
  • Use a predefined VMware ESXi host extension VIB file from the Veeam Community GitHUB project. For more information, see KB article 2298.
  • Use ESXi command line interface to create a temporary firewall rule (until the next ESXi host reboot). For more information, see KB article 2299.


As you can see the integration is very powerful and there are a lot of details when it comes down to the configuration. Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 2 offers Availability for Cisco HyperFlex 2.0 by providing both an optimized backup and replication workflow to lower the recovery time and point objectives (RTPO) to < 15 minutes for ALL applications and data running on top of it.

Here are some useful links, including our newly released Cisco Validated Designs:

FlexPod goes SolidFire: FlexPod SF

Being at Cisco Live in Las Vegas last week I was glad that I had the chance to join the FlexPod SF launch happening on June 22nd. Unfortunately, I forgot to make some pictures but I want to tell you some details on the new FlexPod.


According to IDC, FlexPod® is the #1 worldwide fastest growing integrated infrastructure and certified reference (source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Converged Systems Tracker 2017 Q1) with a revenue growth rate of 26.1%. The other two vendors in the top three of market share saw their revenues decline. FlexPod SF is the first scale-out converged infrastructure solution in the industry, allowing customers to incrementally add storage as they consume it.

Since FlexPod was started in 2010 the validated Cisco + NetApp solution had great success and shows some amazing numbers:
2017-06-30 04_33_27-FlexPod_SF_Winnning Together June 15 PARTNER WEBCAST.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Reader .jpg

In 2015 NetApp then acquired SolidFire to grow their All-Flash Leadership and to offer a Scale-out storage system for the Next-Generation, Application-Centric data center.

And now, 2 years later FlexPod & SolidFire get together and the FlexPod SF is born.

2017-06-30 04_38_55-FlexPod SF partner deck_Final.pptx [Schreibgeschützt] - PowerPoint.jpg

The new FlexPod comes with Cisco UCS B-Series M4 Blades and Nexus 9k switching and contains the SF9608 storage nodes which can get up to 300000 IOPS in a 4-node cluster.
The design is fully validated and can be implemented like the regular FlexPod installations. 2017-06-30 04_41_56-FlexPod SF partner deck_Final.pptx [Schreibgeschützt] - PowerPoint.jpgLooking at the high-level design picture it is similar to what we already see and install since years so there won’t be a big need to learn everything from scratch again which is another plus point here.
The backend runs end-to-end iSCSI and depending on the B-Series Blade configuration you can run a 10G or 40G environment.
2017-06-30 04_45_43-FlexPod SF partner deck_Final.pptx [Schreibgeschützt] - PowerPoint
The SF9608 Node itself runs on Cisco UCS C220 M4 Hardware and comes with the following hardware:
– CPU: 2 x 2.6GHz CPU (E5-2640v3)
– Memory: 256 GB RAM
– 8 x 960GB SSD drives (non-SED)
– 7.6TB raw capacity (per node)
2017-06-30 04_51_42-FlexPod SF partner deck_Final.pptx [Schreibgeschützt] - PowerPoint
As mentioned before the solution runs iSCSI all the way and offers all benefits and features SolidFire had build-in. Esp. the QoS policies to define min. as well as max. performance for dedicated data streams is one of my favorite feature. It also helps to avoid “Noisy Neighbors” by setting limits for these workloads. Below you can find a performance chart before SolidFire QoS was enabled and after it was enabled:
QoS disabled:
Bild2QoS enabled:

Overall I like the fact that the FlexPod Family is growing, not only in revenue but also with new family members. I’m looking forward to see the FlexPod SF in action (ok I saw it at Cisco Live already) and to talk to customers using it to get some feedback.
2017-06-30 04_53_14-FlexPod SF partner deck_Final.pptx [Schreibgeschützt] - PowerPoint.jpg

That’s me done for now, need to board the flight back home. I hope you like the post and look forward to see u again on my blog or receive your feedback.


Cisco Champion 2017

ciscochampion2016-512-nodateI’m glad to announce that I was selected once again as Cisco Champion for 2017. After being in the program since 2015 I can say it’s worth to be part of it. Compared the other programs it is a very active community with a lot of activities throughout the year. Especially at the global conference it’s great to get in contact with other Champions in person.

If you are interested in becoming a Cisco Champion next year check out the official site here:

To give you a better picture please find here some details:

Read More »

Datacenter 4.0 – A reference architecture with Cisco, NetApp and Veeam

Today’s business relies on the IT department more than ever. The Internet of Everything (IoE) now requires a fully functioning datacenter to avoid business grinding to a halt, products not reaching the market and services disappearing. It is impossible to meet all user, customer or partner expectations without a fully functioning datacenter, which is the driving force for organizations to modernize and optimize their IT resources.

An important part of this modernization is standardizing predictable, repeatable and very stable data center reference architectures.

The reference architecture defines a technology design and deployment that addresses the specific requirements of a business need. This includes the blueprint and best practices for installation and configuration, which all work together in the most optimal state. The reference architecture defines which specific technologies and products are combined and how address them in a particular use case. The reference architecture is a template solution for enterprise IT.Read More »

Cisco Live – Number one Datacenter conference year Cisco Live has some very interesting and new topics to discover. When I joined Cisco Live 2016 EMEA in Berlin earlier this year I had the feeling that it is still number one Networking conference in EMEA (would say that 80% network). Now you could say, “yea, that’s what it should be”, but I would say “yes and no”, because Cisco is much more than just Network, ACI and IoT.

Years ago Cisco started to be not just an Network company. With Cisco UCS they became a data center company and started to deliver high-quality dc equimpent. Together with NetApp and the FlexPod this became even bigger.
Now this year in march Cisco announced their first and very unique Hyper-Converged system, Cisco Hyperflex, which is the first solution to offer a whole data center stack including storage, network, virtualization and server performance.

Because of that I would say that Cisco Live is not longer just an Network conference. It is going to be the number 1 data center conference in the next couple of years.

The next Cisco Live will be July 10-14 in Las Vegas, US and here you can find some reasons why you should attend (official copy from here, copyright, by Cisco):

Immerse yourself in five days of sessions and specialty programs on topics such as Cloud, Collaboration, Data Center, Mobility, Network Infrastructure, Security, SP, and SDN.

World of Solutions
Catch up with your existing IT suppliers, view demos, and explore the latest solutions from Cisco and the industry’s top vendors in the World of Solutions.

Free certification
Validate your skills with a free Cisco Certification exam.

A personalized experience
Learn in the format that works for you, from traditional breakout sessions to labs and technical seminars, and customize your learning through our Learning Paths.

Hands-on learning
Get hands-on Cisco training in interactive labs, technical seminars, and Walk-In-Self Paced labs.

The Internet of Things
Learn what the Internet of Things is all about in the Cisco Campus through demos and connected experiences.

Meet with colleagues from around the world to share ideas and insights – including the chance to connect with your peers at the Social Media Hub.

After you have registered for Cisco Live you can schedule your sessions here.
Don’t miss to attend our Veeam session and stop at our booth. I’ll be

I will be there as well to meet up with you and talk about all the nice things happening in Industry. Let me know if you’re around and we can have a nice chat. Ping me on Twitter with @rennerstefan.

Cisco LIVE US – Session scheduler is open

2016-05-04 10_20_14-Session Catalog - Cisco Live US 2016

Yesterday Cisco opened the session scheduler for this year Cisco Live US in Las Vegas. Don’t miss to schedule your sessions as soon as possible as the free seats will fill up quickly.

Please follow the link to schedule your sessions: Cisco Session Scheduler

Some recommended sessions from my side are:

Learn How to HyperFlex YOUR Virtualization and Availability Muscles with Cisco’s Hyperconverged Systems and Veeam! PCSZEN-3000
UCS Storage Integration, Technologies, and Topologies BRKCOM-2007
Enabling Edge Analytics BRKDGT-1261
Enterprise Networks: The Platform for Digital INTGEN-1002
Advanced Storage Area Network Design BRKSAN-2883
Cisco Nexus 9000 Architecture BRKARC-2222
Cisco Executive Discuss the the Internet of Things (IoT) DEVNET-1038
Cisco Data Protection Architectures BRKARC-2018
ACI Real World Deployment CCSACI-3000
Virtual Managed Services (vMS) PSOSPG-2001
How Digitization is Transforming Cities PSODGT-1255
Introduction to Cisco HyperFlex Systems PSODCN-2375
UCS Director Enables Storage SDN BRKDCT-2498
Hyper-converged Computing BRKCOM-1125

Don’t miss our Veeam session. Let me know if you plan to be at the conference and we can organize a nice chat to talk about Veeam and Cisco.

Cisco Hyperflex Availability powered by Veeam: What you need to know

On the occasion of Cisco’s Hyplerflex announcement I wrote a short blog post for our official global site. You can find the post here or below.

Hyper-converged infrastructure is a very hot topic in IT right now, without a doubt. Customers are interested in building a fully functional virtualized infrastructure including compute, storage and management. On March 1, Cisco announced the new hyper-converged solution, Hyperflex, at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego. Based on Cisco UCS technology, the solution offers a unique way to leverage virtualized SAN and compute power across different nodes within one cluster and one management instance. With the HX220c and HX240c nodes, the hyper-converged system can be built up and extended dynamically and flexibly to fit in to the requirements.

2016-02-24 13_15_46-20160222_Hyperflex_v1 - PowerPoint

Efficient and scalable backup for Cisco Hyperflex
Veeam® Availability Suite™ v9 delivers the data Availability and monitoring to complete the new solution and meet the demands of the Always-On Enterprise™. Veeam Backup & Replication™ is used to lower the recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs), or RTPO™ to <15 minutes for ALL application and data in case of a disaster or lost data. In combination with Cisco’s NEW Backup and Replication Appliances for Veeam, built on Cisco UCS C240 and C3260 in Starter, Medium and Large configurations, it’s easy to deliver a full data protection design for Cisco Hyperflex environments.

2016-02-24 13_21_46-20160222_Hyperflex_v1 - PowerPoint

Veeam delivers powerful and efficient virtual machine (VM) backup, fast and flexible recovery and advanced VM replication functionality for Cisco Hyperflex including:

Fast and reliable image-based backup for Cisco Hyperflex virtual environment — all without the use of agents — giving you the ability to achieve shorter backup windows and reduce backup and storage costs.
Instant VM Recovery™ helps maintain system Availability when you need it most. Instead of making users wait for hours, Instant VM Recovery immediately restores a VM back into your production environment by running it directly from the backup file.
Veeam Explorer™ offers revolutionary technology that gives you instant visibility into application backups and granular recovery of individual items.
SureBackup™ automatically verifies the recoverability of every backup, every VM, every time by automatically starting VMs in an isolated Virtual Lab environment, performing a set of tests and sending a status report to your mailbox, so you know if your VMs are recoverable at any time.

Disaster Recovery for Cisco Hyperflex with Veeam
Veeam delivers advanced, imaged-based VM replication and streamlined disaster recovery (DR) — ensuring Availability of your mission-critical applications. Veeam gives you the ability to achieve RTPO of < 15 minutes for ALL application and data.

2016-02-24 13_26_19-20160222_Hyperflex_v1 - PowerPoint

More than that, Veeam Backup & Replication offers you additional capabilities to leverage the replicated Cisco Hyperflex VMs and data on secondary sites.

For more information about Veeam Availability Suite check out our product page here.
Find more information on Veeam and Cisco backup appliance here.

Cisco HyperFlex – A brief overview

Cisco just announced their brand new hyper-converged solution Cisco Hyperflex. In this post I want to share some of the “must know” around it.

What is Cisco Hyperflex?

Cisco HyperFlex is a flexible, scalable, enterprise hyper-converged solution. It combines software-defined networking and software-defined computing from Cisco UCS with the storage features of Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform Software to provide a single distributed data store. It is available with the VMware vSphere Hypervisor and delivers a unique way to build up a software defined datacenter.

How the Cisco Hyperflex architecture looks like?

In Cisco HyperFlex Systems, the data platform spans three or more Cisco HyperFlex HX-Series nodes to create a highly available cluster. Each node includes a Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform controller that implements the distributed file system using internal flash-based SSD drives and high-capacity HDDs to store data. The controllers communicate with each other over 10 Gigabit Ethernet to present a single pool of storage that spans the nodes in the cluster. Nodes access data through a data layer using file, block, object, and API plug-ins. As nodes areadded, the cluster scales linearly to deliver computing, storage capacity, and I/O performance.

2016-02-28 16_06_58-white-paper-c11-736814.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

The Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform controller handles all read and write requests for volumes that the hypervisor accesses and thus mediates all I/O from the virtual machines. The data platform implements a log-structured file system that uses a caching layer in SSD drives to accelerate read requests and write responses, and a persistence layer implemented with HDDs.

Hyperflex leverages Cisco UCS!!!

The new Hyperflex solution is using Cisco UCS C- and B-series as the hardware layer to run on. With every Hyperflex installation you will get a pair of Cisco 6200 Fabric Interconnects to use service profiles for all assigned nodes. By using this profiles you can make sure that every node configured in the same way and in case of a failed node it is very easy to replace it. The Cisco UCS management handles all of a cluster’s hardware management functions and is accessible through a VMware vSphere plug-in, providing a single point of control.

The new Hyperflex nodes are called HX220c and HX240c.
2016-03-01 19_00_25-New notification
By combining a existing Cisco UCS system with Hyperflex you can leverage the new storage layer and use existing B-Series blades to add more compute power. A whole solution could look like the following:

2016-02-28 16_12_22-solution-overview-c22-736815.pdf - Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

Additional Hyperflex features you should know

Furthermore the new solution offers a couple of enterprise datacenter features like the integration into Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure, Deduplication, Compression, Thin Provisioning, Snapshots and Cloning capabilities.

Technical details around the Hyperflex nodes:
2016-03-01 20_04_04-Date and Time Information

I will definitely check this new solution more in depth within the next couple of week and working on blog posts and also Veeam related tests and papers. So stay tuned for it.
Check out my other post on how Veeam fits into the HyperFlex solution here.

The information’s are based on the “Next-Generation Data Platform for Hyperconvergence” Whitepaper from Cisco, the “Cisco HyperFlex Systems” at-a-glance overview and my own experience.

The IT is changing

Over the last couple of years a lot of things changed in the IT business. Looking back in the early 21. Century there was one vendor introducing the virtualization on commodity hardware. VMware was for sure the big horse driving this business. Since then we saw a lot of other products coming up in the market. Lot of them appeared and disappeared over the time. Right now we are facing to environments where 80-95% of all systems are running in virtual machines. More than that we’ve much more virtualization coming up in the last years. In a modern data center you can find virtualized storage as well as virtualized applications. And the network virtualization is already there already. You will find data center where the IT staff if facing to multiple depending layers of virtualization to deliver the services. Virtualization is making thing easier and more flexible for sure but on the other site it is adding a lot of complexity as well. It’s not that easy to understand all the different layers and especially not that easy to know what to do in case of and failure. That’s the reason why lot of companies are thinking about orchestration and management these days. When we look to the availability demands in these data center we see that the company are depending on their infrastructure and data more or less to 100%. At the end they need to make sure that the systems are online and accessible 24/7 and any kind of downtime is unacceptable. It is mandatory to have the right tools and design in place and you need to make sure that in case of a disaster there is somebody who can handle the tools and manage to come back online as soon as possible. That’s exactly what Veeam is thinking about and what the availability suite can deliver. Make the availability easy to focus on the core business in your data center.