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Workplace Services. A Brief Personal History of the Service Catalog and Its Evolution

When Cisco acquired netwScale (my company), in addition to our cloud portal, it also brought in the Cisco Workplace Portal (formerly RequestCenter).

There was a lot of curiosity as to what Cisco would do with an ITIL style service catalog and what the future of such product would be within Cisco.   Well, it’s 18 months later and it is doing quite well, with an exciting roadmap and some new things already shipped and some in the wing.

In this post, I want to discuss what are workplace services, how they have evolved, how they are evolving and what it means to the service catalog.

Workplace services are those services that employees need in order to do their jobs. They include computers, phones, offices, new employee set up, terminations, access to applications and anything else you can imagine.  I have seen tens of thousands of service definitions both common and unusual.

Common ones are the desktop computer variety, but even these sometimes have an unusual bent. For example, banks have different workstations for tellers than admin staff.  Other have engineering workstations that are  different salespeople. Role definition becomes a pretty important aspect of a service catalog implementation.

Unusual ones were “Report chemical fire”, “Order Executive Sedan”, “Inter-factory mail”, and “File patent idea”. Patent as a service, if you will

If it was something that could be requested, it went in the catalog. Today some customers have 1,500+ service definitions in their catalogs with user bases in the 350,000 employees.

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Meet Intelligent Automation at VMworld this Week!

Welcome to San Francisco for one the most exciting events of the year!

Here’s a short blog post that will help you connect with the Intelligent Automation team at VMworld and learn about new solution developments and releases. In particular, you will be interested to see a brand new demo featuring Virtual Network Management Center 2.0. VNMC is a centralized device and security policy management software, which works together with Cisco Virtual Security Gateway (VSG) and the Cisco ASA 1000V firewall to manage security on Nexus 1000V virtual switch series.

Other Intelligent Automation and Unified Management demos offered in booth #1213 include:

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud
Network Services Manager

And make sure you mark your calendar to attend one of these theater presentations to learn more about what Cisco can offer your organization:
• My First Cloud Get Started with Cisco Cloud Management from Cisco Data Center
This session will discuss how Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud enables IT to move from manual to flexible automated provisioning of physical and virtual resources, while maintaining existing processes and governance, increasing IT efficiency.  Monday, August 27 10:30am Cisco booth

• Virtual Network Management Center 2.0 from Cisco Data Center
Join us to learn about Cisco’s latest VNMC release.  Tuesday, August 28 11:00am Cisco Booth #1213

• Private Cloud Case Study with Cisco Management and Orchestration from Cisco Data Center
Join this session to learn about the challenges Cisco IT has solved by implementing cloud management and orchestration technology to provide internal private cloud services. Tuesday, August 28 11:30am Cisco Booth #1213

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Good post on cloud journeys: crawl, walk, run

Cloud is a journey. This post discusses our approach to crawl, walk and run.

A cloud architecture has multiple facets and requirements, a key part of which is the need for cloud orchestration and provisioning, coupled with a self-service end user portal.  Let’s call this “Cloud Automation” for now.  If you are designing and/or building a cloud, then, part of your work will be to deliver a cloud automation solution to deliver on that promise.  How do you plan to go about that?  One approach is to define your extensive list of requirements, based upon your business needs and current capabilities, and go about building out that solution.

Another approach is what I’ll call “Crawl Walk Run”.  The incremental approach.

Post is here.

Cloud is a change to the operational model: a change in behavior, accounting, process and people. You can’t do it overnight. Trying to deliver every service doesn’t work.

It’s very important to set a roadmap of where you want go with your cloud services so you don’t get stuck in the VM Azores — this is where all the focus is on VM provisioning and then you deploy technology that does that. And only that.

You need that roadmap of services and a technology platform that supports your vision. Even if all you first is crawl.

 

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The Road to PaaS. What’s Post-IaaS – Network thoughts

Recently, I wrote an article on PaaS for IT BusinessEdge entitled the road PaaS, understanding your post IaaS options.  Here’s an excerpt.

The Road to PaaS

PaaS is an enticing proposition that has generated a lot of market buzz.

But PaaS forces tradeoffs and it shouldn’t be seen as a one-size-fits-all proposition.

To understand, I like to draw the distinction between what I call “Silicon Valley PaaS” and “Enterprise PaaS.” The majority of the discussion in the market today revolves around the Silicon Valley PaaS pattern, which is a truly abstracted “black box” approach to software platforms.

This form of PaaS exposes a set of standardized services to which you write your applications, completely sheltering developers from the underlying complexity below the PaaS abstraction.

It makes a lot of sense for brand-apps built with modern frameworks like Python and Ruby in greenfield development environments that are highly standardized.

The basic premise of the post is that PaaS for an enterprise is VERY different from PaaS for a Silicon Valley start up. And nowhere is it more  different than in the network requirements.

The PaaS customer is a developer who will code an application, use the underlying services offered by the PaaS stack, such a database, storage, queueing, etc.  The developer deploys the code, selects a few options and code is live.

So what’s going on with the network? Well, the PaaS layer will need to auto-scale, fail-over and deliver performance at some level. It may need it’s own domain as well. That PaaS layer will need to talk to underlying network services such as firewalls, switches, etc.  That PaaS really needs access to infrastructure models that deliver network containers to whatever PaaS abstraction the PaaS layer has.

Hard enough to do when all the containers are the same, as it would be in a Silicon Valley PaaS offering.

It doesn’t work with the existing enterprise platforms.  This is a big opportunity for innovation

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Part 5: A service catalog will help Vmware admins get ready for cloud computing, public or private.

Part 5 of the series “10 Things VMware Server Admins Should Know About Self-Service Catalogs and Lifecycle Management” that I’ll be publishing over the next couple of weeks.

5. A service catalog will help VMware admins get ready for cloud computing, public or private.

When I first came up with the concept of a service catalog to drive fulfillment process back in 1999 (Yep. 10 years ago. Time flies when you are having fun.) it was obvious that internal shared services like IT needed to emulate the likes of Amazon.

Well, here we are in 2009 and the wheel of time has brought us back to the same place.  Now it’s the data center that is being disrupted rather than end user services.   Customers are beginning to ask:  Why can’t you be more like Amazon EC2? Why can’t you provision fast, at guaranteed cost?

Let’s look at how Amazon EC2 uses the concept of a service catalog and lifecycle management to deliver cloud computing in consumer-like experience.

There’s a lot of talk about the technical aspects of cloud computing, and little the customer side:  Amazon communicates with its customers through a service catalog and lifecycle system.  The brochure part of the catalog is found here.  (I wrote this in more detail in my post: Amazon has written your technical services catalog).

To see the full functionality of this service catalog in action, I broke it down into Structure, Benefits, Pricing and Actionable for simplicity.

Structure

The whole structure looks like this:

It covers what it does, what benefits (hightlights), details, major options and pricing! Then what I call the fine print (aka SLA’s).

Benefits

It doesn’t skimp on benefits.  In fact, benefits and outcomes are front and center. We can do the same with with our virtualization offerings.

They tout their unique differentiators are variable (elastic) cost, while re-assuring that you have complete control, flexibility and of course, it’s inexpensive. In fact, if you read that section, it draws a comparison against an internal data center!  And it gets to heart of what customers don’t like about IT costs; highly fixed, over-bought, hard to plan for, etc.

It also covers the OS, database software and middleware choices. This is an example of going beyond the server.

What are your benefits? What are your unique differentiators?

Pricing

Next, the catalog outlines the main packages: Standard and High CPU.  Two choices, and then some three sub-choicess.

There’s a lot more description, links to explanation, FAQs, etc.  It’s the way they standardize these formerly complicated configurations that is a useful take away.

Pricing follows and there three aspects to highlight.  First, it’s completely and easily understandable as a unit of measure. They use per hour.

Standard Instances Linux/UNIX Windows
Small (Default) $0.10 per hour $0.125 per hour
Large $0.40 per hour $0.50 per hour
Extra Large $0.80 per hour $1.00 per hour

Think of all the complexity of running a datacenter: people, machines and facilities, etc. Amazon gets it down to controllable unit of of measure, hours. As a customer, I can choose to consume and hour or not.  That’s a level of control that’s appealing to me.  Is this the right unit of measure for every customer? No. It will depends on your customer and the benefit they want to buy. (More in future postings).

Second, they include all the pricing units for network, storage and servers.  Your complete datacenter (almost) configuration.

Third, some charges like data transfer charges are harder to map to controllable costs, so Amazon provides a pricing calculator to help translate these costs into the potential bill. And they provide sample configurations and estimates.

Except for chargeback, which you are doing or not, every leson is directly applicable to how we present virtual environments.

How does the catalog play a role? In two ways, it establishes the standards which enable self-service and then uses those to meter and report to your account what your consumed.

Actionable!

Finally, this catalog is NOT STATIC. It’s completely actionable.   If you have an account and log in, Amazon provides:

  • Self-service ordering, configuration and deployment. This request management against known, vetted standards is core to making cloud computing work. Think if Amazon had to go back and forth for weeks with a user about their configurations?
  • Account management functions. The customer can perform a variety of actions on their own to manage the lifecycle of virtual instance.
  • Consumption management and billing.  The customer gets clear, hourly consumption metrics.

In other words, Amazon delivers a very complete service catalog tool set to enable cloud computing. I like that they have brought the ease of their regular catalog to a more complex environment. And ease wins.

Amazon has redefined the expectations and pricing for data center services. Make no mistake, they are your competitors. Now the challenge is to respond with your own service catalog and differentiated service definitions.

So if your plans are to provide private cloud computing to your users, or at least behave as one, you need to consider a service catalog very early on to help you establish standards, service levels, and provisioning processes.

This time, we ought to know one thing: No Catalog, No Cloud.

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