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Automating Configuration in a Multi-Sourced Environment

The landscape of IT has changed. The single-source provider era is quickly coming to an end as more companies embrace the world of multi-sourcing. In a 2014 report by IAOP & Information Services Group (ISG) Annual State of the Industry1, it stated that the number of enterprise IT organizations using multi-sourcing as a strategy increased by 75% in that year and predictions for 2015 shows continued growth.

Companies are moving more rapidly to a multi-sourcing strategy to achieve greater agility and improved customer satisfaction, and it’s paying off. Effective multi-sourcing companies are experiencing improved performance, reduced IT costs, acquiring best-in-class expertise while freeing up time and resources so personnel can focus on the company’s core business.

Automation Is at the Forefront of IT Change

Girl and guy in high-tech areaThe speed of change in IT is getting faster and innovation via automation is at the forefront of this change. FAST IT is helping enterprises keep up with this accelerated pace.

Fast IT simplifies operations at a time when complexity is mounting — and IT budgets are flat. By offering automated, programmable, and agile infrastructure, Fast IT frees IT organizations from manual configuration, changes, and maintenance.2

In my January blog post, Building Innovation: Achieve Fast IT with Customers, I shared with you that if companies are going to deliver new solutions at a more rapid pace, IT needs to be able to integrate and automate all support interactions that it is responsible for delivering.

There Are Challenges

Just as there are benefits with multi-sourcing, there are some challenges. Multi-sourcing creates new complexities that can stand in the way of business progress. Forward-thinking, proactive companies can address these challenges head-on by answering crucial questions such as:

  • How do we implement end-to-end delivery methods in a multi-vendor environment?
  • How do we manage the configuration of our devices when changes are being made by multiple outsource providers?
  • How do we onboard new providers with minimal effort and impact on the ecosystem?

Changes made within the ecosystem can easily disrupt and fragment service delivery causing your company and other service providers to be out of policy, SLA or regulatory compliance.

Case in Point

We recently saw a situation at a large financial institution where the customer was facing a security audit that they were most likely going to fail. They called us for help. In just two-and-a-half weeks following service activation we had updated nearly 2,000 configurations and the company passed their security audit. They were so pleased with our performance they gave us 23,000 devices to manage for policy, configuration, and change.

Two men in tech area

But, that’s not the end of the story. The bank wanted to benchmark the effectiveness of their service providers against their established service level agreements (SLAs). Immediately we knew an automated closed loop process was needed. Our Compliance Management and Configuration Service (CMCS) coupled with ServiceGrid fit the bill.

When this project goes live, ServiceGrid, a tool that gets the right data to the right place and person, will be used to connect the customer and their service providers ticketing systems to one another as well as to CMCS. In turn, CMCS will perform a baseline analysis of all connected network devices and elements and automatically stabilize and upgrade them to Corporate Standards. This improves communication among all connected parties. It also gives the bank greater transparency into their vendor management activities and provides real-time compliance monitoring.

Combining ServiceGrid and CMCS enables us to automate multi-vendor network configuration and compliance while giving the customer higher value and a better outcome than if we offered either one of the services alone. The bank’s desire to build a robust, elegant, secure, and seamless multi-party network became an opportunity to let two of our premier services shine, making the future brighter for our customer and Cisco Services.

What about you? How is your organization addressing configuration management in a multi-sourced environment?

Resources:

CMCS At-A-Glance
ServiceGrid Overview Brochure
CMCS Integration with ServiceGrid (technical white paper)

Sources:

  1. Annual State of the Industry Jagdish R. Dalal, IAOP
  2. Fast IT: Accelerating Innovation in the Internet of Everything Era

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Revamping the MSE User Interface

As part of the WLC 8.0 release, we addressed customer comments and revamped the user interface (UI) for the MSE. We wanted to make it easier for customers using both MSE and PI to adjust to larger deployments. We also wanted to quicken the pace at which we could deliver features to the customers. Today I want to walk you through the landing page and configuration of the new MSE UI.

Landing Page

The landing page is the first thing one sees when logging into  the MSE UI. This page provides the user with a basic snapshot of system health, an easy way to launch the apps, and a quick status of the various services on MSE.

System Health

The new UI highlights important parameters like CPU and Memory usage in order to give the user an indication of the stress being handled by the MSE.

 mseui1 Read More »

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White Paper: RX-SOP 101

Just released yesterday: Cisco Wireless Release 8.0 includes a feature called Receiver Start of Packet (RX-SOP), which you can think of as putting earmuffs on the access point.  It’s not a new feature, as it has been used in stadiums and other high density deployments to great success for several years.  WLC 8.0 adds GUI configuration support with a low, medium, and high setting.

RX-SOP is meant for dense deployments, where channel reuse is a concern.  It’s a way to shrink cell sizes, but be careful: too much SOP and you can shrink your cells to the point where clients are no long able to connect.

Check out this whitepaper from the guys at the No Strings Attached Show.  It provides detailed configuration guidance as well real-world data–even the actual config.

For those of you interested in the nitty-gritty of how RX-SOP works, we had one of our RF Technical Leaders, John Blosco, go in-depth at Wireless Field Day 7.  If you missed it, here’s the video:


For more on WLC 8.0, read the product bulletin here.

 

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3 Steps for Best-in-Class Wi-Fi

If you are a professional photographer or even an amateur like me, you want to have ready access to various control dials on your camera to capture the moment perfectly. Professional cameras provide high level of control to get the best outcome. But there are times when you want to put the camera and the lens in Auto mode or wish that the camera could automate some decisions that make your workflow easier.

Likewise, Cisco Wireless LAN products provides the level of quality, functionality and control that is unmatched and hands-down the best enterprise wireless networking portfolio in the industry. But there are scenarios where it is preferable to expedite wireless configuration with best practices automatically enabled and easy access to data to simplify monitoring and troubleshooting workflow. For example, a small business owner manages his own network or in a K-12 a librarian acting like a part-time IT administrator. This not only provides operational efficiencies for the IT organization but also improves end-user and partner experience.

Cisco WLAN Express Setup is an attempt in this direction. It is now available on 2500 Series Controller (CT2504) starting with software release 7.6.120.0.

It includes three components

  • Easy-to-use setup wizard: This eliminates the need for console cable and command line setup. Instead, 3-step web-wizard is used to quickly boot strap a Controller and configure employee and Guest WLAN out of the box.
    Day0 Read More »

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Enhancing the MSE User Experience: Backup & Restore, Menu-based Device Setup

Following the last MSE blog on CleanAir, today I wish to explain how we prioritize the Mobility Service Engine’s user experience.

Listening to customers and implementing changes/features based on customer feedback has been a great strength of Cisco products. We from the Mobility Services Engine team strongly believe in this principle and make sure that we reach out to each and every customer who has provided a feedback on Cisco MSE and take their experience with MSE into consideration when designing future features and enhancements.

After analyzing the feedback we received during the MSE 7.4 release, I am pleased to announce that we have decided to implement the following two features as part of series of enhancements that we believe will improve the customer’s user experience with MSE.

Convenient Backup and Restore

Until the 7.4 release, MSE users had limited options in backing up their MSE data. The only supported option was to use the NCS FTP server as the destination for MSE data backups. Due to the limited disk capacity on NCS, as well as sharing of the disk space with other network elements, disk space limitations prevented MSE users from regularly backing up their data. If you are one of those users who always wished you could regularly backup MSE data without running into NCS disk space limitation, or if you wish you could back up your MSE data to non-NCS devices, we have some good news for you.

In the latest MSE 7.5 release, we have added the option to backup and restore your MSE data on remote FTP servers, provided there is connectivity between the MSE and the FTP server.  Similar to NCS Backups, MSE data can be backed up to configured repositories (internal or external FTP servers).  Love the command shell? We will also be coming up with CLI to backup MSE data. You can now start MSE backup using just a single command.

msecsat1 Read More »

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