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Data Center and Cloud

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through IT, not a creature was stirring, not even a sysadmin?

Well, not quite. To support the global operations for a Fortune 100 company, the IT staff are always stirring things up at Cisco. But they may be just a little less busy this holiday season. Why? Because Cisco IT deployed a private cloud earlier this year, with a self-service portal and automated provisioning for infrastructure-as-a-service.

This means that employees throughout Cisco can provision and manage the infrastructure resources they need on their own, anytime and anywhere – so our sysadmins can take a break this holiday season (or more likely, they can focus on other IT priorities).

You may have already heard about Cisco IT’s internal private cloud solution, called CITEIS: Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services. It’s what we call a “Cisco on Cisco” example, using Cisco’s own Unified Data Center solutions – including Unified Computing, Unified Fabric, and Unified Management with our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud software.

For a quick overview, here’s a short video about the Cisco IT private cloud:

And if you want more detail, watch this on-demand webinar here.

Fireballs, the Back-Story.

All Cisco employees now have access to a service called “CITIES Express” for quick and ready access to virtual compute resources – it’s our internal commodity cloud, giving every user access to two virtual machines for 30 days each, with on-demand provisioning from a shared pool of resources.

It’s no coincidence that Cisco IT designed a burning globe for the CITEIS Express icon. By cutting weeks off the end-to-end provisioning time, CITEIS deserves the reputation for fiery speed to value – and the success is spreading like wildfire among Cisco developers, IT architects, project managers, and even business users who need access to infrastructure resources.

What once took 6 to 8 weeks, now takes less than 15 minutes – in fact, the average is about 7 to 8 minutes. Like magic? Well, as the scientist Arthur C. Clarke pointed out, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The Cisco IT team also released an advanced service called “CITEIS VDC” (Virtual Data Center), and it’s a real powerhouse for on-demand infrastructure. If the Express version is the low-fare airline, the VDC is like a private jet.  Cisco employees, business units, or project teams can now set up their own virtual data center with a reserved pool of compute, storage, and network capacity.

Like a private jet, it costs the user more – and Cisco IT has different pricing options based on resource allocation and service tier choices.  But once it’s approved, the user has a wealth of infrastructure resources to order and manage within minutes – whether they want to add storage and network capacity or request load balancing.

Three Things You Need to Know For Your Cloud Portal

Here are a few key learnings from the Cisco IT deployment that may be useful as you plan your own private cloud:

1. Automate and hide the complexity on the back-end.

The Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud solution includes a powerful orchestration engine to automatically provision various compute, network, and storage resources – whether physical or virtual. An adapter framework connects other IT functions, including the user directory information, service desk, and billing. And you can put policy-based controls and governance in place to keep your users out of trouble.

But the user doesn’t need to know any of this, because all that complexity is hidden from them behind a simple, easy-to-use portal interface. They just know that they get what they need in less than 15 minutes.

2. Wow your users – make it simple, make it easy.

The pièce de résistance is the self-service portal interface. It’s here, in the interactive pages of the portal, that a user sees the menu of options and resources that he or she can order.

The user is informed about service options, pricing, and benefits. They can look up frequently asked questions. Panels drop down to reveal simple or advanced choices to register a new virtual data center or manage existing resources, such as extending a lease or reconfiguring a VM.

When they order a service, each resource is tracked as belonging to the user. On the user’s portal home page, they see a list of what they ordered. Clicking on each item gives the configuration details, and options like restarting or suspending a VM. It’s simple and straightforward, an easy button for IT.

3. More advanced functions for more advanced users.

The self-service portal transforms into a self-management dashboard as the user evolves from ordering their first virtual machine, to spinning up, turning off, reconfiguring, and generally managing their own virtual data center. This chameleonic subtlety cloaks the complex lifecycle and orchestration management behind the scenes. All the user knows is that IT made it work and they had a positive experience.

Bottom line, self-service and automation means that your users are empowered and happy. And your IT staff spends less time on the day-to-day repetitive manual activities of provisioning.

So if you’re looking for that perfect gift for your sysadmins and employees this holiday season… tell them you’re going to follow the Cisco IT model and deploy your own private cloud in 2012.

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