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Collaborating with Cisco WebEx Cloud

Over the last six months, I’ve talked with numerous customers and partners. One thing is clear: People get it. Connecting employees, vendors, partners, and customers — so they can work together with no barriers — makes sense. It saves money and time, and builds relationships.

It seems like overnight we landed in a post-PC world — a place where working from anywhere, anytime is how it is every day. Two technology trends are driving this new work-style while embracing the existing IT landscape: cloud-based applications and smart mobile devices.

Cloud-based services are already familiar in the consumer world — with music, storage, and social media — and in the business world with customer relationship management (CRM) and other transactional applications. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model offers well-known benefits to IT — such as rapid deployment, flexibility to meet changes in demand, and the ability to shift costs from capital to a predictable operating expenses — all while providing an “always on” service that is available anytime, anywhere.

I keep coming back to that: anytime, anywhere. It is the touchstone for this new work model. Smart mobile devices are the perfect complements to cloud-based services. We can have consistent access to information from different devices and locations throughout the working day. Check email, join a conference call, or participate in a video conference — all from your smartphone, notebook, tablet, or desktop. Whether you are on the road, in the office, or at home — place doesn’t matter. The Cisco WebEx cloud collaboration applications are hosted on the Cisco WebEx Cloud, a platform that supports nearly two billion Read More »

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Cisco Domain Ten: Domain 6: Service Financial Management (with yet another free whitepaper!)

February 15, 2013 at 9:53 am PST

Service Financial Management is the focus of Domain 6 in Cisco ServicesDomainTenSM Model for Data Center and Cloud Transformation. Closely related to the User Portal (Domain 4) and Service Catalog and Management (Domain 5), service financial management is one of those organizationally challenging topics for the data center management team -- although with the advent of cloud services, is becoming more widely appreciated and in many cases (e.g. a service provider offering cloud services to businesses, a public sector organization offering services to other regional public service organizations), a mandatory part of your offer.  So let’s discuss this area and I’ll point you to a technical white paper from Cisco Services experts on this topic.

Cisco Domain Ten - Domain 6 - Service Financial Management

Cisco Domain Ten -- Domain 6 -- Service Financial Management

 

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InterCloud Plus Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud

Cisco continues to roll out innovations that will enable the next generations of multi-cloud computing.  I’m a product manager working on Cisco’s Cloud Management software, and we’re all about the high-level, self-service, automatic provisioning of services that the end-user cares about.  The network just moves ones and zeros, and all protocols of interest (HTTP, SSH, RDP, SQL, etc.) work fine over TCP/IP.  The hypervisor takes care of putting that pesky motherboard chipset and storage bus into a black box, right?  The end-user doesn’t care about that stuff, or at least doesn’t want to have to care about it.

A common perspective, except among the engineers who manage the network, is that network infrastructure is a bunch of mysterious plumbing that “just works” and how it does what it does doesn’t matter.  Indeed, many vendors in the “cloud” arena would like to perpetuate this perspective on the network.  They would like you to believe a bunch of dumb pipes can carry traffic and that determination of the traffic (content, flow, etc.) is determined at higher levels in the stack.

In some cases, this is true, but operating this way doesn’t unlock anything new.  The model they describe would be brilliant if all of your network requirements were defined in 1998.  Few companies can afford to operate technology today like they did in 1998 and remain competitive.

Cisco is announcing a new Nexus 1000V (N1KV), and this one changes the game.  In brief, the Nexus 1000V is the foundation of the networking services that Cisco brings to virtual computing.  The N1KV can be managed using the same NX-OS commands and practices used to manage the Nexus 5K and 7K switches, and extends network control down to the VM and virtual port into which a VM is “plugged in”, even across different vendors’ hypervisors.

The N1KV is also the platform for additional L2 and L3 network services such as those provided by the vASA Firewall, vNAM, and VSG.  The new Nexus 1000V InterCloud extends this ability to cloud service providers, such as Amazon, but is “cross-provider” (in fact, it doesn’t even depend on the Cloud Service Provider).  For me, in my role as a Cloud Product Manager, this is an important new addition to basic networking capabilities, and is exactly the kind of thing that Cisco can and should do in its role as “Networking Giant” to open up the promise of hybrid or multi-cloud.

I have a mental image of what this can do, and I tried to put this into images to the right. Animation would have been better, I just don’t have the Flash skills to put it together for a quick blog post. I envision a virtual machine as a ghostly “physical” server tower with network cables plugged into it. These network connections can come from end-users in a client-server model, or any of our web-and-mobile constructs. After all, we still are end-users connecting to machines. Of course, the “client” for a compute function could be another compute function, so there is a network cable coming from another nearby ghost server. These ghost servers can today float from blade to blade thanks to most mainstream virtual machine managers (VMM) and a virtual switch like the N1KV, and the cords stay connected throughout. With the new N1KV, that VM can float right out of that VMM and into another VMM (such as across VMware datacenters, or even from VMware to Hyper-V), or out to a public or hosted provider. The cord just magically uncoils to remain connected wherever that machine goes! I love magic.

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The N1KV provides that cable that can float after its ethereal virtual machine.  It also provides the platform to maintain monitoring by the vNAM, even as the machine moves.  You simply can’t economically achieve this using basic dumb pipes. Add to this the new Virtual Network Management Console (VNMC) InterCloud management capabilities.  In order for that cord to stay connected, there do have to be network switches or routers along the way that understand how to make that network cable follow the machine.  VNMC InterCloud manages these devices, but adds another particularly important capability: actually moving the workload.

VNMC InterCloud adds the ability to discover virtual machines, and convert them to a cloud-provider’s instance format, move what could possibly be a fairly large set of files, and get that machine started back up in a far-away environment, with seamless network consistency. VNMC InterCloud is like a puff of wind that pushes the ghostly VM from my corporate VMWare-based cloud to float over to my hosted private cloud. Remember, ghosts can float through walls.

This is groundbreaking.  Workload mobility is one of those hard-to-do core capabilities required for all of us to realize the promise of multi-cloud, and it requires a network that is both dynamic and very high performing.  I’ve been looking forward to this from Cisco for some time now.

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The Future of TV: Coming Soon to a Wall Near You

The future of television may well include holographic, multisensory experiences worthy of science fiction. But many other visionary predictions are closer to the horizon, if not already upon us. These are creating exciting opportunities, while forcing all players in the television value chain to adapt quickly.

Recently, I met via Cisco® TelePresence® with more than 50 journalists from 11 countries—all in Central and Eastern Europe—to discuss the future of television and its impact on these mostly emerging markets. I participated with two of my colleagues: Kate Griffin, from the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) service provider practice; and Guillaume de Saint Marc, from Cisco’s service provider video technology group (SPVTG). The roundtable took place over two days and used a Cisco IBSG study, “The Future of Television: Sweeping Change at Breakneck Speed,” as a springboard for discussions that were lively and free-spirited. Read More »

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Virtualization Everywhere, but not a Cloud in Sight!

Customers have often said to me, “Joann, we have virtualization all over the place. That’s cloud isn’t it?”   My response is, “Well not really, that is not a cloud, but you can get to cloud!”  Then there is a brief uncomfortable silence, which I resolve with an action provoking explanation that I will now share with you.

Here’s why that isn’t truly a cloud. What these customers often have is server provisioning that automates the process of standing up new virtual servers while the storage, network, and application layers continue to be provisioned manually. The result is higher management costs that strain IT budgets, which are decreasing or flat to begin with. With this approach, businesses aren’t seeing the agility and flexibility they expected from cloud. So, they become frustrated when they see their costs rising and continue struggling to align with new business innovation.

If your IT department adopted widespread virtualization and thought it was cloud, my guess is you are probably nodding your head in agreement.  Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

So then, what are the key elements an organization needs to achieve the speed, flexibility and agility promised by cloud?

1)      Self-service portal and service catalog
The self-service portal is the starting point that customers use to order cloud services. Think of a self-service portal as a menu at a restaurant.  The end user is presented with a standardized menu of services that have been defined to IT’s policies and standards and customers simply order what they need.  Self-service portals greatly streamline resource deployment which reduces the manual effort by IT to provision resources.

2)      Service delivery automation
After the user selects services from the portal service menu, then what? Well, under the hood should be automated service delivery—which is a defining characteristic of a real cloud environment.  Behind each of the standardized menu items in the self-service portal is a blueprint or instructions that prescribe how the service order is delivered across the data center resources.  This has been proven to appreciably simplify IT operations, reduce costs and drive business flexibility.

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