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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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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).

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Begin your Journey to the Cloud with Cisco’s Cloud Starter Edition

Please be aware that this product is no longer sold.

As Jason Schroedl  announced, http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/announcing-the-new-cisco-intelligent-automation-for-cloud-starter-edition Cisco’s Intelligent Automation Solutions Business Unit, in conjunction with the Unified Computing System has just announced a solution for customers of UCS and vCenter that want a Cloud Automation system that can perform both Physical and Virtual server provisioning.  It is called the starter edition for a reason.  We find that many customers are not sure what they want from their cloud and are looking for a great place to start.   This is not what I call the “starship enterprise” of clouds.  It is the first step that a company will take on their cloud journey.

See my previous blog for some key concepts of success cloud deployments:  http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/five-things-that-successful-cloud-deployments-have-in-common/ and on my cloud owner manifesto for successful cloud builders: http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/cloud-owner-manifesto-12-habits-of-successful-cloud-builders/ .

Let’s look at typical cloud deployments.

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Prediction for 2nd half of 2012: Infrastructure as a Service deployments expand to include IT as a Service

IT shops deploying clouds over the past year have been focused on Infrastructure as a Service ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrastructure_as_a_service#Infrastructure ) as a way to drive speed in virtual and physical server provisioning, cost savings in operations, proactive service level agreements, and increased control and governance.   In one of my blogs I introduced our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/the-secret-is-now-out-you-can-simplify-cloud-deployments-with-cisco-unified-management/ and how that addresses both private, hybrid and public clouds IaaS.   Key to this is the service catalog and self service portal.  Moving to cloud is NOT about taking hundreds of server configuration templates and moving to them immediate self service.  All you are doing in that model is automating VM sprawl.  They key is defining a limited set of services and options that your end users such as application owners and technical folks can order through a self service portal and manage their life-cycle.

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Reflections on the Cloud Expo in Silicon Valley and How Do I Know My Apps are Working in the Cloud?

Cloud Expo was indeed a very interesting juxtaposition of people espousing the value of cloud and how their stuff is really cloudy.  You have a group of presenters and expo floor booths talking about their open API and how that is the future of cloud.  Then you have the other camp that tells us how their special mix of functions is so much better than that.   All of this is a very interesting dialog.  APIs are indeed very important.  If your technology is indeed a cloud operating model then you must have an API.   Solutions like Cisco’s Intelligent Automation for Cloud rely on those APIs to orchestrate cloud services.   But APIs are not the end all.   The reality is that while the cloud discussions tend to center on the API and the model behind that API, the real change enabling the move towards cloud is the operating model of the users who are leveraging the cloud for a completely fresh game plan for their businesses.

James Urquhart’s recent blog:   http://gigaom.com/cloud/what-cloud-boils-down-to-for-the-enterprise-2/ highlights that the real change for users of the cloud is modifying how they do development, test, capacity management, production operations and disaster recovery.  My last blog talked about the world before cloud management and automation and the move from the old world model to the new models of dev/test or dev/ops that force the application architects, developers, and QA folks to radically alter  their model.   Those that adopt the cloud without changing their “software factory” model from one that Henry Ford would recognize to the new models may not get the value they are looking for out of the cloud.

At Cloud Expo I saw a lot of very interesting software packages.   Some of them went really deep into a specific use case area, while others accomplished a lot of functional use cases that were only about a inch deep.   As product teams build out software packages for commercial use, they have a very interesting and critical decision point that will drive the value proposition of the software product.  It seems to me that within 2 years, just about all entrants in the cloud management and automation marathon will begin to converge on a simple focused yet broad set of use cases.   Each competitor will be either directly driving their product to that point, or they will be forced to that spot by the practical aspects of customers voting with the wallets.  Interestingly enough, this whole process it drives competition and will yield great value for the VP of Operations and VP of Applications of companies moving their applications to the cloud.

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