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Introducing Cisco Prime Service Catalog version 10.0

I’m excited to announce the recent release of our next-generation service catalog software, Cisco Prime Service Catalog version 10.0.

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As previously introduced in my colleague Song’s blog post, Cisco Prime Service Catalog is an industry-leading IT service catalog solution for any managing any type of service request – from desktop to mobility to data center. If you aren’t familiar with our product already, make sure to watch this video:

In most organizations, there is no single system or “app store” that end-users can use to request all the IT tools and services they need to do their job.  There are typically different siloed processes for ordering, fulfilling and tracking each of those IT resources (e.g. mobile devices, laptops, applications, infrastructure, access to systems). And with the continued proliferation of new technologies and applications, this has become increasingly frustrating for end-users – and more challenging for IT service delivery teams. Cisco Prime Service Catalog provides a modern and unified approach to solve these problems, with a simple and user-friendly service catalog that eliminates the complexity of ordering services across these different IT silos.

The results? Increased productivity for end-users.  Faster and more efficient IT service delivery. Higher IT customer satisfaction scores and greater IT-business alignment.

So what’s new in the latest version of Cisco Prime Service Catalog? Version 10 is packed with several new features and enhancements, including:

  •  A next-generation HTML5 user interface with new capabilities. The user experience for our IT service catalog was inspired by consumer internet sites and app store concepts, and developed in collaboration with Cisco’s own IT organization.  In this modern new user interface, end-users can easily search and filter for different apps and tools to find specific services, select and configure the options they want, and place them in their shopping cart.

Depending on who they are in the organization, end-users will have a different view of the catalog – based on role-based access controls.  So your employees can search and browse through the catalog to find and download different mobile and desktop apps:

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And your developers can sort and filter for standard application stacks that they need for testing and development:

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  • Flexible policy frameworks to enable greater control of available IT services. For example, we’ve added new quota functionality for managing IT resource requests.  Quotas are especially useful when automating the delivery of finite resources like storage or compute capacity, or managing against departmental budgets or grants.  Another examples is our new policy alerts and enforcement for lease expirations, to notify users before auto-expiring their access to particular resources. Providing your users with the option to automatically extend or cancel their lease can improve resource utilization and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Finance and demand management enhancements for showback and a “bill of IT”. All IT service providers charge for their services, but the concept of pricing and costing is still new for many enterprise IT organizations.  Showback is a typically starting point, and we’ve added new capabilities to differentiate pricing for different classes of service (e.g. gold, silver, bronze) for different departments or tenants. Chargeback is often challenging for many IT departments to implement organizationally, but showback can provide a “bill of IT” with the details of who is using how much of what – without actually implementing cross-department charging. In other words, it shines a light on actual IT consumption and costs. In this new release, we’ve also made it easier to integrate with 3rd party billing systems and tools (e.g. Cloud Cruiser) to help automate financial cross-charges between departments

You may have heard the buzz about the internal Cisco IT deployment of Cisco Prime Service Catalog, dubbed the “eStore”.  It’s been featured in a number of articles in the media as the internal enterprise app store that powers Cisco’s BYOD and mobile apps program – and provides Cisco employees with a one-stop shop for all IT services (from desktop to data center).  If you’re attending Cisco Live in Milan later this month, you can learn more about the case study in this “Inside Cisco IT” session here.

Another service catalog case study that we’re featuring at Cisco Live Milan is Steria.  Steria is a great example of one of our service provider customers in Europe; they’ve used Cisco Prime Service Catalog to enable on-demand, self-service delivery for a broad range of IT workplace services, including desktop and mobile applications. You can read more in my earlier blog post – or if you’ll be in Milan, check out the session here.

During the week of Cisco Live Milan, you will also hear more about Cisco Prime Service Catalog version 10.0 in the context of our soon-to-be-announced new release of Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC). Cisco Prime Service Catalog is one of the bundled components within this cloud management software solution, so the enhancements in version 10 are also reflected in the upcoming new release of Cisco IAC.  You can join one or more of the Cisco Live Milan sessions listed here to learn more about Cisco IAC.

In the meantime, check out http://cisco.com/go/service-catalog to learn more about Cisco Prime Service Catalog.

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Enterprise Platform as a Service

Deploying Multi-Tier Application Stacks with Puppet and Chef

In a previous Cisco Data Center blog, we announced our configuration management accelerator for cloud to enable organizations to move beyond monolithic golden templates into a dynamic TOSCA-modeled application design canvas. Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) has been working for months with PuppetLabs and OpsCode (Chef) and has had multiple successful customer proof-of-concept deployments.

The Cisco configuration management accelerator provides customers with a substantial improvement over the manual process of building and implementing multiple golden templates to build multi-tier application stacks. The application stack is now described, and the description drives implementation.  Changes to the description apply to all future instances, and can even update running instances in continuous delivery scenarios. The benefit is that the description becomes the master plan and machines are consistently and automatically constructed from that master plan without intervention by IT. Software defines the application configuration.

Cisco’s cloud accelerator approach is true to an open philosophy that provides customers with a choice of solutions – not locking them into a single hypervisor, configuration tool, solution path, or even hardware selection. The configuration management accelerators follow directly in the footsteps of our multi-cloud accelerator released last year.  That accelerator enabled Cisco IAC to provision, orchestrate and manage VMware vCloud Director, Amazon EC2, and OpenStack. It has also been extended by customers to include Hyper-V, Azure and Rackspace through the preplanned extensibility built into it.

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Cisco Management to Make Your Data Center More Efficient

There is a lot of buzz in the market about Cisco Cloupia and how it is
positioned relative to other Cisco solutions such as Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud.   The term cloud is often used interchangeably for automated infrastructure provisioning as well as for true clouds, as mentioned in my previous blog.  To better understand where these solutions should play in your data center’s cloud journey, I offer the following explanation.

Historically, to keep pace with the growth of business applications and the data they generate, IT infrastructure resources were deployed in a silo-like configuration.   One set of resources was devoted to one particular computer technology, business application or line of business.    These resources were not always optimized and could not be reconfigured or shared to support varying workloads. Read More »

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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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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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