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Cloupia + Cisco Unified Management = Better Together

Yesterday, Cisco announced that we closed on the acquisition of Cloupia.  Cloupia is now officially part of Cisco and a very exciting new addition to our Unified Management software portfolio.

Ever since the news broke about Cisco’s intent to acquire Cloupia, I’ve been asked how this fits with our other data center and cloud management software products.  In short, Cloupia’s strength is in converged infrastructure management and it’s a powerful complement to Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) Manager as well as our cloud management software.

The Cloupia Unified Infrastructure Controller extends the value of UCS Manager and provides deeper compute, storage, and network provisioning for converged infrastructure solutions including FlexPod, ExpressPod, Vblock, and VSPEX.  It delivers a unified control point for this infrastructure, with physical and virtual resource management that can be combined with our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud solution.  There are also potential synergies with other management software products in our portfolio including Cisco Network Services Manager and Cisco Virtual Network Management Center for the automation and provisioning of network resources.

Last week, I was at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas where I spoke with several analysts, customers, and partners about this new addition to our software portfolio. I’ve used the graphic below to illustrate our perspective on the management requirements for cloud computing – showing how infrastructure management provides an essential foundation for cloud management and orchestration.

One of the key take-aways from the feedback I heard at the conference was that Cisco has a highly differentiated position in the data center and cloud management market. Many of our competitors have resource management for virtual compute, but their functionality to manage physical resources is limited; few have the ability to manage storage and network infrastructure.

With Cloupia, we’ve strengthened Cisco’s ability to manage both physical and virtual resources across compute, storage, and network infrastructure.  Now IT administrators can quickly setup and configure Unified Data Center solutions built around our best-in-class Cisco UCS and Nexus products, from within a single management console – improving both IT speed and agility.

And how does this fit with Cisco’s existing cloud management products?  Like peanut butter and jelly, infrastructure management and cloud management are actually quite different. You can refer to this blog post by my colleague Wayne Greene for an overview and some key distinctions.  But, like with peanut butter and jelly, when you put the two together – it’s a great combination.  That’s the vision we have for Cloupia and Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud: better together.  Spread it on some UCS, and it’s PBJ time.

As with many software acquisitions in this space, we recognize that there are some areas of similar functionality across our management products – and our product engineering teams will be addressing that in our roadmaps going forward.  Now that the acquisition has closed, our teams can focus on this collaboration and integration.  The graphic below illustrates how Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud will use Cloupia’s northbound API to consume physical and virtual resources in a Vblock, FlexPod, VSPEX, ExpressPod, or other Cisco converged infrastructure solution.

Converged infrastructure management from Cloupia is the foundation for dynamically provisioning compute, storage, and network resources.  Process orchestration is required to manage the end-to-end workflow, bringing infrastructure automation together with business policies and your existing IT operations environment. And as James Staten of Forrester pointed out in a recent blog post, it requires a portal interface and service catalog to “unify enterprise-cloud consumption” across application and infrastructure services, and across private and public clouds.

One way to look at this synergy is to think about the “supply chain” for your IT services: spanning converged infrastructure management, process orchestration, and the end-user service catalog.  At one end, you have the factory – it’s where you put together the raw materials (VMs, LUNs, blades, switches), configure the resources, and control the infrastructure. Then you have logistics for transportation and warehouse management, including third party intermediaries – that’s the process orchestration and integration with other operational systems.  And finally, every cloud needs a storefront – that’s the service catalog and self-service provisioning experience for IT consumers.

To push the analogy a bit further, let’s start with some raw ingredients. Take coffee* as an example – sounds simple and straightforward, like infrastructure.  But is it?

Starbucks claims to have 87,000 combinations on their menu. It can get pretty complicated (like a grande decaf no-whip skinny peppermint white chocolate mocha with an extra shot).

In much the same way, infrastructure-as-a-service may sound simple.  Isn’t it just a few basic ingredients with compute, storage, and network?  But think about all the variations and service options (like backup or 24x7 support) required for enterprise application hosting.  Even if you’re using the same infrastructure components, it’s much more than provisioning VMs, LUNs, and VLANs.

When you do it right, you can hide all this complexity from the end user.  The power of the apparent simplicity in the Amazon.com catalog interface, combined with their logistics and supply chain operations behind the scenes, is what fueled the company’s success in e-commerce.  And while your IT service catalog may not have the millions of SKUs that Amazon.com sells on their website (or the 87,000 options on the Starbucks menu), customer satisfaction and operational efficiency is just as important to managing your infrastructure and IT services.

That’s the value of converged infrastructure management when combined with cloud management: providing a simple and easy-to-use experience with on-demand provisioning, along with governance and process orchestration, to deliver the right services at the right time at the right cost to your IT consumers.

And that’s our vision for the addition of Cloupia to Unified Management.  Better together.  Please join me in welcoming Cloupia to the Cisco team.

*Thanks to Kevin Kelling (@BlueShiftBlog) for the analogy.

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The We’re Listening Blog Series: Simplifying the Entitlement Experience through Streamlined Access Management

The “We’re Listening” blog continues to look at actions taking place across Cisco to improve your experience working with us. In this post, Jim Fuller, Senior Director of Technical Services focused on entitlement, joins us to talk about improvements to services accessibility.  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By Guest Contributor Jim Fuller
 
 

Imagine you’re in the back seat of a taxi—the driver is in complete control.  You have little to no control on speed or route, limited visibility, and no power.  Now, imagine you’re the driver—you control speed and course, have full visibility, and it’s your hands on the wheel—you are empowered.  That’s what I’m going to talk about—improvements we’re making to simplify customers and partners’ ability to take the driver’s seat.  Read More »

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Closing Windows on the PC Era

December 11, 2012 at 6:21 am PST

If this is the post-PC era, I first encountered computers in the pre-PC era. I remember a field trip to a room of giant kitchen appliances that turned out to be full of information instead of groceries. Despite the lack of snacks, I was enamored with the punch cards they gave us as souvenirs. My dad was amused enough to bring home a whole stack of punch cards from his work — Hewlett-Packard’s Santa Clara manufacturing facility. (Another day he brought home a cat.)

Not long after, I met my first desktop computer when I started learning very basic BASIC programming on a Commodore PET with an external cassette tape drive. Ah, the nostalgia of summer school and CRT displays.

In a recent internet trends presentation to BASE, the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students, Mary Meeker, general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, went through the charts and graphs showing the state of the union in the world of operating systems. In the late-1970s and early-1980s, the operating system world was a colorful place (especially when graphed). Then came Intel-based PCs. Microsoft started to take over, quickly flooding the universe with MS-DOS, then Windows.

Apple managed to maintain a Macintosh beachhead, but it was definitely a sea of PC.

For the most part, it was much like Henry Ford’s infamous “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” At most companies it was the same story, you can select any of 14 options, but they’re all PCs. Want a Macintosh? Provide business justification and get VP approval. Today at Cisco, the PC vs. Mac choice comes down to personal preference.

In 1998, Oracle introduced “the concept of hosted applications to the Oracle market, allowing customers to rent access to software hosted on Oracle computers and access those systems via a Web browser.” As eager as Larry Ellison might have been to displace the dreaded Microsoft and PCs with lightweight terminals, the rest of the planet wasn’t quite there yet. Hosted software? Internet storage? Thin clients? Web access? Huh, sounds a lot like cloud.

Fast forward and today we’re in the post-PC era.
Android and Apple iOS have made even quicker, more vigorous operating system inroads than DOS did, thanks in large part to devices and applications.

Devices
Smartphones and tablets have outplaced desktop and notebook PCs in global unit shipments since the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Morgan Stanley Research data.

PC manufacturers need to adjust more quickly than most seem to be doing to survive. Says ZDNet’s Jason Perlow, “To put it bluntly, the Post-PC world represents a displacement of computing from the traditional, 30 year-old Intel architecture used on desktop to the Datacenter and the Cloud.” We no longer need the same processing power and storage for the things we do on a daily basis. We have web applications, we have clouds, we have mobile devices.

Today is about mobility, smartphones, tablets, and clouds — ideas impossible to picture on my first field trip to HP. Operating systems, bits, bytes, and cumulus accumulations of data aside, the biggest difference is in how we use our devices of choice today. Emphasis on choice.

“Within ten years, the majority of business professionals will be using extremely inexpensive thin notebooks, tablets and thin clients (sub $500) which will utilize any number of software technologies that run within the browser or will use next-generation Web-based APIs and Web Services … to provide line-of-business application functionality.”--Jason Perlow

Read More »

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New Strategies in Retail Banking: Giving Customers Control of How They Bank

The trends and challenges with the ever-increasing tech-savvy society we live in today are carrying over into the retail banking industry. Retail banking customers are more connected now than ever, with most of our customers’ homes having more technology in them than our branches. Couple these technology trends with major shifts in the way customers want and choose to bank, and it is clear why many in the financial services industry are re-evaluating the way their institutions operate and deliver products and services.

When we take a deeper look at the retail banking industry today, we can see that many of the changes necessary are being driven by consumer needs and expectations. The multichannel approach, while an improvement from disconnected delivery channels of the past, is no longer sufficient to address these new consumer demands.

Multichannel versus Omnichannel: What’s the difference?

An omnichannel strategy can be considered an evolution from multichannel. In essence, the omnichannel approach combines the physical channel that is the bank branch with virtual channels such as online and mobile. With omnichannel banking, customers choose how they want to bank, be that at their local branch; contact center; any other bank branch; from home; or from their mobile device. The challenge facing retail banks is how to ensure a seamless, consistent experience for the customer that results in unprecedented levels of customer satisfaction and growth and profitability for the bank.

At this stage, however, we must understand what the exact needs of the customer are and how we can help retail banks meet their customers’ needs. Read More »

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Ending the Global Hunger Crisis on Huffington Post

December 10, 2012 at 9:00 pm PST

Today on the Huffington Post, Tae Yoo, Cisco Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, writes about how technology is being used to help people who don’t have enough food to eat.

She writes: “In a world that currently produces enough food for the entire population, I continue to be astonished that every year 870 million people go hungry and 5 million children die from malnutrition. In today’s world of abundance, hunger is still the number 1 health risk, killing more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Although most of the world’s hungry are in developing countries, even here in the United States, one of the largest food producing countries, approximately 1 out of 6 people are “food insecure”; including 16.7 million children. Progress to reduce hunger is being made by tackling both the cause and the consequences of extreme poverty and famine.”

Read the full post on the Huffington Post.