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Improve the Ways and Means of Application Delivery

Organizations are rethinking their data centers and nothing is off limits for discussion – everything from infrastructure to software to processes, and even more fundamentally, the very ways in which a data center serves the business. One element that is empowering this phenomenal shift is IT automation. It is vital. No automation, no effective IT. The more sluggish IT is, the more costly it is to the business. Organizations know that, and they want to automate IT processes at all levels to increase effectiveness, time-to-market, and innovation so that they can perform well and compete effectively.  IT automation has proven itself, and now it is ready for its closeup.

This week at CiscoLive in San Francisco, you will see just how far automation is reaching into organizations. No longer content to provision virtual machines through a VM dispenser, companies are looking for ways to automate the entire solution stack: applications down through the infrastructure that supports them. Read More »

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Move Past Survival and Thrive

Every area of your business has a stake in the way IT delivers services. Each one needs speed, agility, efficiency, and a clear definition of its relationship with all of the other areas and the business as a whole. In order to get there and create an agile and efficient organization that flows, you need to unify IT with all areas of the business. There is no way around it.

If your company is one of the four out of ten companies moving to a private cloud by the end of 2014, then you know you need a solution that does more than dispense virtual machines in minutes. You need a solution to deliver diverse services across an entire solution stack. You need a cloud partner that can align with the demands of your business today, tomorrow, and well into the future. Always keep in mind that your cloud technology choices are major decisions with business-critical impact.

Selecting a cloud management solution is a strategic decision for your organization. In a previous blog, I wrote about Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) receiving the highest score in the Forrester Private Cloud Wave Report for cloud vision and strategy. What we presented to Forrester, and even more, is now available for your organization through the latest release of Cisco IAC.

How does vision and strategy translate into IT better aligning with your business? Sit back and watch this informative, short video to find out.

Every day customers tell me what keeps them up at night is not how to reduce costs but how to survive. Just as in nature, survival for business depends on intelligence and fast and agile execution of processes. To make these capabilities part of your organization’s genetic composition, so that they are intrinsic, almost intuitive, you need a cloud management solution that sees, understands, and manages your whole environment: physical and virtual, networks, applications, and more – whatever comprises your stacks.

Plus, you need cloud efficiencies to extend beyond your data center securely and encompass business functions such as delivery of development environments within minutes, the ordering of a new laptop or virtual desktop, onboarding of a new employee, or even the ordering of office supplies. And you want to be able to do all of these things from a unified user interface.

That’s exactly what the latest release of Cisco IAC brings to the table:

• The integration of Cisco IAC and Cisco UCS Director delivers a comprehensive private cloud, which frees you to focus on creating differentiated services instead of building your cloud.
• A unified self-service portal and catalog covers your enterprise, providing a modern online shopping experience across all data center and workplace functions.
• Advanced cloud governance offers the ability to manage demand, suppliers, and service consumption tracked to specific budgetary or resource thresholds.

But wait, there’s more. There’s the network. Any NOC expert will tell you that delivering network services in the cloud is a manual, trouble-ticket-based grind. At a time when your business needs speed and agility, manual network service delivery slows down IT and your business.

Unchain your business with Cisco IAC’s out-of-box templates that automate the delivery of VPNs, firewalls, and load balancers. We’re not talking about a single configuration applied to every organization, but the ability for each tenant to define its own unique network service configuration.

Cisco understands that cloud management is more than dispensing virtual machines. The latest release of Cisco IAC allows IT to align with your business, so that you’re free to not just survive, but to thrive.

Take the next step and watch this technical video overview of Cisco IAC.

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Automated Provisioning of Application Stacks

Whether working with bare-metal servers or virtual machines; provisioning applications and infrastructure traditionally are independent tasks that are completed by different data center teams. Infrastructure is usually provisioned manually. Applications are customarily provisioned via golden templates. As customers look to move automation beyond infrastructure to include applications, the maintenance complexity and manual “last mile” configuration associated with application golden templates is no longer a sustainable solution.

The situation has made Puppet and Chef popular. Both assist with automating the infrastructure life cycle as well as rapid application deployment. But some system admins prefer to use Puppet. Some prefer Chef. Cloud admins want to use Amazon, vCloud Director or OpenStack. What to do?

Cisco lets you use either or both and makes it easier to automate application delivery thanks to the Cisco Application Stack Accelerator for Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC). With this cloud accelerator, those “last mile” deficiencies are practically eliminated.

Bringing together the knowledge of infrastructure and application specialists, this solution automates the design and configuration of application stack components. The result is an application blueprint that consistently delivers applications within minutes, across multiple cloud platforms, to the exact design and specification of the application architect.

Watch these two videos to better understand application blueprints as well as how they can be consumed by Cisco IAC.

Video #1 clarifies what an application blueprint does and how to design and configure them

Video #2 walks you through how to deliver fully configured multi-tier cloud applications with Cisco IAC

Why is this important? Customers tell us that they struggle with multiple requests for virtually the same application. One particular customer, discovered that they had 250 requests for the same application in a two month period. Each one of these requests took IT four to six weeks to deliver before the project could begin. This not only shows down IT but your business as well.

Using Cisco IAC and the Application Stack Accelerator, you can automate the design, configuration and consumption of applications via the Cisco IAC portal. The result? Customers get their application within 30-40 minutes instead of four to six weeks resulting in projects starting sooner. IT spends less time spinning up multiple versions of virtually the same application allowing them to focus on new innovative services. Bottom line: your business experiences agility, speed, and efficiency.

Industry analysts forecast that four out of every 10 companies will be utilizing a private cloud by the end of 2014. With cloud automation becoming this prevalent, you owe it to yourself to learn how Cisco IAC and the Application Stack Accelerator can speed up the design, configuration and consumption of applications within your organization.

Together, this solution can help you deploy applications efficiently; reduce complexity and ensure that applications are deployed to the architect’s exact design and specification.

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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.

prime-service-catalog-demo-home-partial

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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:

application-category-view

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

Service Catalog | Cisco Prime Service Catalog

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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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The Golden Key to Any Cloud

As cloud technology and organizations mature, customers are shifting their focus from the provisioning of individual servers to richer cloud-based application platform stacks. Why? Servers usually do not exist as standalone entities but are designed to run something tangible for the business. For example, multi-tier application platform stacks have in their design multi-server elements such as database, application and web servers.

In this era of the cloud, creating golden templates for each of the elements required to configure these multi-tier stacks and the servers they reside on, is not only unwieldy for IT to maintain and manage but they are monolithic. This means if one single element changes, the whole golden image needs to be revised. Golden images are not configurable and frequently require additional manual configuration to complete installation.

What’s the solution? It begins with the concept of DevOps.

DevOps is a software development method that permits better collaboration between software development and IT operations in a way that these multi-tier application servers can be consumed in the cloud without human intervention. There are a number of disciplines included under the DevOps category, but this blog will be focusing on configuration management.

Puppet and Chef are two of the leading configuration management vendors in the DevOps segment delivering the following benefits:

• Elastic and continuous configurations
• Increased productivity to handle hundreds to thousands of nodes
• Improve IT responsiveness by reducing time to deploy changes
• Eliminate configuration drift and reduce outages

There is a lot of buzz about this capability. How much buzz? Watch this video from CiscoLive Orlando.

Within the next month, Cisco will be releasing a cloud accelerator that delivers configuration management of multi-tier application stacks. Based on the TOSCA-modeled graphical user interface, customers utilize a canvas that simplifies the design of these stacks into templates. Each element: server, network device and storage; is represented on the canvas with a graphical icon. Behind each icon are configuration details for each component. For example, network device configuration may include firewall rules and load balancing algorithms. For servers, Cisco is leveraging Puppet and Chef or home-grown scripts. The result is a blueprint that allows for consumption of the complete application stack by end users, on demand, delivered by the cloud.

So now we have blueprints. Where’s the real advantage?

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) is the golden key that gives you the advantage because it unlocks this new approach to cloud efficiency. Providing blueprints for multi-tier application stacks on their own do nothing if they cannot be ordered by customers from a standardized menu of services and acted upon by an orchestrator to automatically deploy the entire configuration. Extending functionality for DevOps is just another example of Cisco IAC’s ability to go beyond IaaS without requiring a solution rip and replace or major push-ups by customers.

Why just provision servers and continue to increase IT costs with manual “last mile” provisioning?
Cisco IAC and the configuration management accelerator simplify the delivery of multi-tier application stacks through self-service ordering and repeatable delivery. Cloud accelerators are designed to follow the vision and strategy of Cisco IAC eliminating code islands that become problematic when you upgrade to the next generation Cisco IAC edition.

To browse through the current cloud accelerators, go here. First time visitors will need to sign the register.

If you would like to learn more or comment, tweet us at: http://twitter.com/ciscoum

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