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I’ve mentioned our diverse management partner ecosystem more than a few times. This naturally leads to a couple of different questions for a lot of people:

1.       Why does Cisco rely on 3rd party software providers for monitoring, provisioning/configuration, and service orchestration? And

2.       Which tool does Cisco recommend?

The answers:

1a.  There are two parts to this.

For one thing, we’re not driven by our history or business model to lock you into an unwieldy and incompletely integrated “whole stack” solution so that we can sell you a lot of services to make it all work properly.

For another, we heard loud and clear from early prospects that they wanted UCS Manager to be lightweight, open and not duplicative to existing management investments. The fact is that most IT organizations already have a management tool or two in their shops with which they’re already familiar; with UCS, we’ve introduced a lot of newness (not the least, for many, being a Cisco bezel on a server), and we’ve therefore tried to keep boat-rocking to a minimum at the management layer.

2a.  It depends. Mostly on you, your environment, and your goals. Cisco does not recommend any one tool or partner as a general rule.

First order, if you’re happy with your existing tools, great. Keep using them. Chances are there’s already some degree of integration with UCS Manager. If not, we’ve published the UCS Manager API, and either your own developers or a partner can write to it.

Flexpod and Vblock customers and others with VMware-heavy environments will want to look at VMware’s management tools for at least portions of their management operations. These can also be combined with other tools to consolidate management of virtual and bare-metal workloads.

In fact, making best-of-breed choices even from among suite vendor products (eg HP Operations Manager with BMC BladeLogic) is not uncommon and works just fine from a UCS perspective, although there will clearly be more manual coordination for the admin.  This combination approach may occur because of existing investments and skillsets relating to the various tools, specific functionality (and price points) of the respective tools, and/or desired degree of integration with UCS in particular.

With regard to functionality, many established tools are focused on a particular IT domain, such as network management.  Remembering that UCS Manager exists only to manage UCS systems, these tools are valuable in supporting decision-making about UCS within the larger data center environment. The slide below, while specific to the BMC portfolio, can be abstracted from a functional standpoint to understand where UCS sits within the physical infrastructure as well as the management of the service delivery process. Other suites and best-of-breed management tools may be substituted in various parts of the left side of the diagram (eg. Tidal Enterprise Orchestrator in place of BAO or HP NA in place of BBNA), albeit with somewhat different functionality and less logic and process consistency between the management functions.

If you’re looking to consolidate, change management tools or start afresh with your UCS environment, it will be important to decide (honestly) how aggressive you want to be about service automation and how that aligns with considerations such as cost, staff bandwidth and skillsets, and matching features and feature richness to your environment.  Tools with native UCS Manager functionality will most readily support UCS-based automation initiatives, but may not be the best choices for a given organization due to other factors.

We’re working on developing a decision support matrix to help customers decide how to balance these considerations in their UCS environments. If you’ve already worked through this process for your own organization and would be willing to share what you learned, I’d love to hear from you. Just drop me a line via the comments function--I won’t publish the comment if you’d prefer to keep the conversation offline.

P.S. Zenoss will be hosting a webinar discussing their support for UCS on Tuesday, January 11th, at 2pm ET . Click here to register.

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