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Serious Simplification Advancement

Recently I spent time at Cisco Live Orlando where I caught up with Trey Layton, CTO, VCE. We had an opportunity to talk about automation and orchestration of Vblock with Cisco UCS Director (formerly Cloupia). Over recent months, we have been doing even more work for our customers, collectively between our companies, to do deeper integration and to simplify the management, administration, provisioning and automation of our converged infrastructures.

As we see the continued trend to move to a services model in IT and adopt a private cloud infrastructure, Cisco UCS Director is the only solution to provide single pane of glass automation and provisioning of all virtual and physical assets and can provide end-to-end orchestration across server, network and storage resources.  With Vblock, it provides our mutual customers an elastic pool of resources to be able to consume and adapt to various applications and use cases that customers are deploying in the virtualized or bare metal environments.

We are excited about the developments around both what UCS Director and Vblock are delivering, and there is a lot more in the works moving forward to continue to support simplification and agility for our customers’ data center architecture.

  • The next release of UCS Director will add VMAX and VNXE storage support to the product by September.  This will allow UCS Director to support all Vblock models with complete server, network and storage provisioning automation.
  • The UCS Director task library will include over 50 Vblock specific tasks to allow users to easily build model-based automation workflows to dynamically provision the system.

Cisco continues to innovate, delivering technology and solutions that provide real value to our customers. Tomorrow starts here.

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Unleash your Automation for Cloud (Easier than you Think)

In about 2 weeks there will be a great webinar panel discussion on the business and technology architecture concerns in automating your cloud and how to measure the value.   Unleashing automation solutions to do what they do best may make or break a company’s IT strategy over the next few quarters as those cloud journeys begin.

The webinar, IT Automation Unplugged, a panel discussion moderated by Glenn O’Donnell of Forrester will indeed be a cool event to listen in to.  Not only has Glenn followed this space for many years but he also has some really insightful perspectives on the Journey to Cloud.  This webinar has the potential to highlight some really pointed dialog between myself and Brad Adams of rPath, Nand Mulchandani of ScaleXtreme, and Luke Kanies of Puppetlabs.  I bet the sparks might fly as we trade our perspectives on the huge demand for private and public clouds and need for enterprises to show value quickly.

This brings me to a great phrase I heard this week from one of our customers.  It was used in the context of their employees using their company’s private cloud.   It was “High Governance”.  It was seriously lacking in their current solution which highly leveraged their virtualization vendor’s software.  I probed them on what they meant by “High Governance”.  It was mostly around ensuring that individuals that provision services would get  access to only the services, cloud data center locations, and specific providers that they are entitled to.   While this is not a new concept, the element that grabbed my attention was that IT shops have a strong need for different sourcing strategies based upon end user role, organization,  location, and any number of policy settings in their Active Directory or LDAP.

“High Governance” means ensuring that your cloud users get ONLY what they are entitled to in your IT policy.   No more generic UIs for generic users or uber UIs for unknown hypothetical users.  The cloud is now a strongly governed personal experience, what a novel concept.

I wonder what the panel will think about this.  Please attend if you get a chance.

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Cisco Live Update on Intelligent Automation for Cloud – The Journey and How Cisco Partners Help IT Shops Get to Cloud

Being at Cisco Live was a very different experience for me this year.  Previous years I spent most of my time in the Intelligent Automation booth discussing functionality in the areas of service catalogs, portals, and orchestration workflows.  It was mostly a technical conversation of how to build private cloud catalogs and how to provision infrastructure.  This year my Cisco Live experience started off in talking to about 80 partners at the Cisco Connected Architecture Forum Summit; a very interesting crowd.   It was here that I talked about what Cisco IT and our Intelligent Automation Solutions Business Unit experience was in deploying private clouds for end users.  I discussed Cisco’s private cloud CITEIS, and our new product release Intelligent Automation for Cloud Starter Edition.   I discussed Physical and Virtual Clouds and there was much interest in the concept of a services portal and automation construct for both Physical and Virtual clouds, something that is enabled very elegantly with the UCS Manager API.  Partners asked great questions:  How quickly can they deploy this starter cloud?  How do customers chart out their journey to the cloud?  Where do they start and what do they do first?  Great conversations ensued…

Service Delivery Partners are a key strategy for the deployment of Cisco Cloud software stack.   Watch the following interview with Sydney Morgan of Cisco IT and Dave Kinsman from World Wide Technologies, a partner of ours in this area as we talk about the Journey to Cloud and our experiences on the deployment side.

I  spent the rest of Cisco Live talking to some great IT organizations about their cloud plans and journey that they are on.  Some interesting examples are:

Financial Services:  This customer of ours was focused on the deployment of cloud and the changes to the organization as they were coming off of Mainframe centric workloads, deploying them to x86 architectures on UCS.  How the application developers would use the newly minted cloud was top of mind.

Service Provider:  Many Cloud Service Providers are right at the intersection of business and technology:  what service offers can I offer out of the chute to differentiate my company?  Discussions around how our IA for Cloud technology stack and pre-built services and automation can make that easier.  We also discussed the need and desire to train up their staff to become service designers and workflow authors.

Manufacturer:  This customer is focused on operational efficiency and how automation software can reduce the mundane and routine tasks in operations.   Replication of system configuration in a standardized way allows their deep application support teams to focus on differentiating their business.

We are now in the thick of that Journey.

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Can it be Self Service without Automation?

Leading IT shops like to have a single pane of glass that is the IT storefront to all employees.  This is a very noble goal.  Having worked at a few large companies this is indeed a moving target as supporting the end user employee can mean a lot of different entry points, contexts and presentation technologies.  When it comes to have a central location for ordering services it is very important to on board all of the employee based and data center services in a consistent fashion.   Some of the key use cases include employee on boarding (and off boarding), virtual desktops, virtual machines and physical servers in the datacenter and access to applications.  Typical IT departments may have several hundred orderable services, many of which are bundled (think of employee on boarding).

Interestingly some organizations first drive towards a common catalog and then automate what they can afterwards.  At first you can take orders through the service catalog and then work the tasks to fulfill the request through manual process tracking.  Alternatively I have seen some shops say that they will only put services in the catalog that can be automated.  Then there are all the intermediate cases.  Organizations deploying automated request management have many issues to consider and standards to be set.

Can we declare victory when a process is mostly manual but yet orderable from a catalog in four clicks?  Perhaps…

Your end users are happy.  They can see where their request is in the process flow.  Kind of like going to fedex.com and seeing where that DVD is on its journey to your house.   But that package took 3 days to traverse its journey.

Considered an automated fulfillment or provisioning process.  In my above analogy, you are no longer dealing with DVDs shipping to your house but on demand video streaming.  A simple click sets into motion many automated processes that deliver the movie to your device.  For end user services this means your remote access is provisioned with a simple click, your Linux server and application stack is delivered in less than 15 minutes for use.  Key to making that happen is a full automated process.  Is that achievable in all cases?  Perhaps….

In most cases what we are provisioning requires a northbound API (an programming interface above the fulfillment system) to accomplish the instantiation of the service.  Oftentimes, in legacy environments the target system is so dated or under invested-in that an API does not exist.   It is pretty hard to automate a process that can only occur through a human interfacing with the system.

People ask me the question:  So What? We have found that by automating processes we can save on average 30% of the process cost.   Multiply that by tens of thousands of requests and it will really add up.

Investing in Self Service requires investing in automation and in some cases, wrapping an API around a legacy environment in order to get the desire result:  IT as a Service, delivered at the speeds needed by  our end users.

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What makes Cisco’s Intelligent Automation so Intelligent?

This is a must read for those who want to deeply understand the philosophy behind Cisco’s automation product portfolio

It should not be news to you that Cisco has invested in software products to drive the management and automation of clouds, datacenters, and applications.  Intelligent Automation is the name that we have for the management and orchestration solutions in the Intelligent Automation Solutions Business Unit in Cisco’s Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group.

What is so intelligent about Cisco’s automation products?  Besides the official marketing and product management answers, I polled our Business Unit and Advanced Services teams and got the following responses (which I distilled a bit).  Oh and by the way, one constraint was that we cannot use Intelligent in the definition of Intelligent Automation (harder than you might think).

The top winners for the best contributions are:  Oleg Danilov (Solution Architect), Mynul Hoda (Technical Leader), Peter Charpentier (Solution Architect), Frank Contrepois (Network Consulting Engineer) and Devendran Rethinavelu (QA Engineer).

Read More »

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