The New Year 2013 has well and truly arrived -- Happy New Year to all -- and it’s time for me to continue on the Cisco journey of data center and cloud transformation. Last month I introduced the Cisco Domain TenSM framework, the approach we in Cisco Services take to help customers enhance and transform their data centers. As a summary introduction, our latest video which shows how the Cisco Domain Ten framework helps guide you on such a data center transformation.
I then discussed the first few domains individually: (1) Domain One -- Facilities and Infrastructure, (2) Domain Two -- Virtualization and Abstraction, and (3) Domain Three -- Automation and Orchestration. Now let’s examine Domain 4 -- the User Portal, which I’ve highlighted in the diagram below:
First, some clarifications. From the diagram above, you can see that we encapsulate both Service Catalog and Management (Domain 5) and Service Financial Management (Domain 6) within the User Portal. This is because from an end user perspective, we expect the User Portal to host both. However from our Cisco Domain Ten model here, and my blogs, I’ll deal with them separately.
Now onto the User Portal. Why is it important, and what challenges could you face in designing such a portal?
Let’s consider the definition of cloud computing. For today’s discussion I will refer to the NIST definition of cloud computing …. “cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” NSIT expands further and lists “on-demand self-service” as one of the key 5 characteristics of cloud. The User Portal therefore is how the end user accesses this shared pool of resources, and is the interface that actually delivers the “on-demand self-service” of your cloud environment.
From an end user perspective, then, the User Portal is the enabler of their cloud services. It’s their view of the IT services you provide. It’s the “store front” for your IT shop. Can it be more important?! Without a well specified and designed service catalog (which I’ll cover in my next blog) and User Portal, your cloud infrastructure build out and complex orchestration routines will more than likely remain unused. Not the kind of status report you want to be providing to your CFO or IT director who funded your cloud project!
What are some of the challenges you may face when designing this Cloud User Portal? First and foremost you must identify your various user types and align your design to their needs and knowledge of IT. There is no point in designing a portal that requires the end user to know about NICs and LUNs if that user category is not a technical user who would not understand these terms. Is your target end user a customer service agent -- who may ask for virtual desktop and phone services -- or a software developer who needs to build appropriate test environments for his/her
There are also design challenges to align the User Portal features with your business goals, procedures and policies. What kind of features should you specify in your User Portal design? Which features do you need customized to your organizational-specific policies? For example, do you have specific conventions you employ in-house for naming your virtual machines? Do you require specific management approval policies to be executed when your end users make certain types of requests? Do you require integration with specific third party systems -- for example IP address management -- that are already part of your data center infrastructure? What level of automation and abstraction do you require to “hide” complexities of these systems from your target end users?
There are many more requirements on your User Portal that our Cisco Services Data Center consultants can help you anticipate and define in detail. When it comes to User Portals, starting with our newScale acquisition, we’ve grown quite a team of experts in this area over the past few years. I’ve seen them in action with our customers and I never fail to be impressed by their experience in this arena. As part of our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud solution, we’ve developed a services strategy to help you take an evolutionary and pragmatic approach to ensure a successful User Portal design that is appropriately customized to ensure it plays the pivotal enablement role in your data center and cloud transformation that you need it to.
Finally -- watch out for my next blog, where I will discuss some of the challenges of “Service Catalog and Management” -- which forms Domain 5 in our framework. And do let me know (via the Comments field below) what you think of our Cisco Domain Ten model.