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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 UCS BLADES DEPLOY 77% FASTER THAN HP BLADES

Deploying new servers is a routine task in data centers. Whether it is tied to server refreshes, net new compute initiatives or to an expansion of existing compute capacity, adding new servers can be a time consuming activity for IT personnel.  This server deployment process has historically been very manual, with many solutions requiring:

  • Multiple tools or scripts
  • Repeated human interaction by the server team throughout the deployment process
  • Coordination of activities across server, networking and storage administrators for every server deployed.

All of these add to complexity, increase time to production, increase costs, and unavoidably increase the potential of human error.

What is needed is a dependable, repeatable process that automates and streamlines server deployment activities. This lets IT staff to devote their time to more value added activities which improves operations and productivity, yielding a much better TCO picture. Automated, fast, efficient, scalable management and infrastructure -- this is where Cisco UCS and UCS Manager excel.

The efficiency of Cisco UCS server deployment is tied to UCS Manager. Cisco took a unique approach to computing and focused on the common  point of interaction, the fabric. Servers don’t operate in isolation. They are part of a total environment that at the minimum encompasses servers, networking, management and storage – a Fabric Based Infrastructure .  Cisco’s comprehensive and efficient architecture is the key to why customers worldwide are rapidly adopting UCS.

This detailed paper (below) does a side by side “time to deploy” evaluation of the Cisco UCS B200 M3 and the HP BL460c Gen8. The strength of UCS and UCS Manager for automation is clear in the ease of use and lack of complexity.UCS Deploys 77 Percent Faster
Below is a new time lapse side-by-side video --  B200 M3 is 77% Faster Blade Deployment vs. HP BL460c Gen8.This new video (July 2013) illustrates the Business Advantage of the Cisco UCS Unified Compute, Unified Fabric and Unified Management -- Cisco’s Unified Data Center. Comparing this video to the one we did for the B200 M2 is 47% Faster Blade Deployment vs. HP BL460c G7 (May 2011), Cisco UCS Manager has shaved a full minute off the deployment time for two blade servers and still only takes 14 steps to set up the automated process. HP’s time to deploy increased dramatically and is still very serial nature with lots of manual inputs.

For information on how UCS and UCS Manager integrates with other major systems management tools follow this link UCS Manager Ecosystem Partners and for interoperability see the UCS Interoperability page.

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Why Cloud Financial Management is a Requirement for Cloud Computing Success

photo-David-Linthicum-cropped-481x198Guest Blog: David Linthicum, Cloud Computing Visionary, Author, Speaker

Cloud Cruiser and Cisco have partnered to provide an out-of-the-box cloud financial management system for Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud. Through this partnership, Cloud Cruiser provides visibility into the costs of physical, virtualized, and cloud resources, as well as storage, network, application, and non-compute IT resources. We can track both the costs and the revenue realized from services being deployed, which enables service providers and enterprise IT departments to manage the profitability of their cloud services and align their business goals with IT spending.

I’m proud to be participating in a Webinar co-sponsored by Cloud Cruiser and Cisco, which will discuss the topic of cloud financial management.  Why?  Well, cloud financial management is one of the more important concepts in the world of cloud computing.  Yet, it’s also the most misunderstood.

While many cloud providers think of cloud financial management systems as mere billing systems, they are much more.  The core notion is to approach cloud financial management as a set of business processes and automated services that need to coexist with the existing cloud computing services.  These services leverage an on-demand, pay-as-you-go cloud model.  They offer a complete cloud financial management solution designed to lower IT costs, and profitably scale the cloud services business.

The objective of a cloud financial management system is to provide cost transparency, which will allow the service providers to see all costs.  Moreover, it will show how they map to resources consumed, as well as provide this information to the consumer of those resources.  Moreover, the concepts and technology should give the cloud provider cost accountability features, which allow charges to be assigned to the appropriate consumer of the cloud services, and in the appropriate amounts.  This includes either internal or external cloud service consumers.

The use of cloud financial management, as an approach and underlying technology, should offer the cloud provider cost empowerment, which allows the cloud financial management system to place fine-grained data in the hands of the customer (service consumer) so they can manage costs directly.  Finally, there is a need for cost management.  This will allow those charged with monitoring cost to understand the use of the resources, and make sure that costs are in line with the budgetary constraints of the service consumer.

So, just billing systems?  Hardly.  As more service providers come on-line, offering up everything from pre-built business processes that are on-demand, or centralized security and management services, to more traditional IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, the need for cloud financial management technology grows.

The use of a cloud financial management system is a requirement for cloud service providers to manage and control costs, as well as provide the proper cost and usage accounting for their customers or cloud service consumers. Cloud financial management systems, such as the Cloud Cruiser Platform, provide most of the features and functions that service providers will require, including:

•  Heterogeneous data collection

•  Data analysis and structuring

•  Data aggregation and filtering

•  Hierarchical data mapping

•  Cost and price modeling

•  Budget alert processing

As cloud providers grow in numbers, the use of these systems will no longer be something that’s desirable.  It will be an absolute necessity, given the growth of cloud computing services, and the number of consumers who leverage these services.  Costs have to be monitored, analyzed, and controlled in order for cloud computing to be a business success.

This webinar is not to be missed!

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Behind the Scenes at the Ciscolive! Network Operations Center

July 10, 2013 at 4:45 am PST

I have been privileged to be part of a very dedicated team of networking subject matter experts for the past 5 years in prepping and running the Ciscolive! event  network.  Before 2008 the network was installed and monitored by a commercial events networking company.  However, it became clear with the number of Technical Marketing Engineers, Services Engineers and product developers on-site for Ciscolive! that we were well equipped to take on the responsibility in addition to our speaking responsibilities.

Planning

The preparation for Ciscolive! starts many months before the event with weekly, collaborative Webex sessions to discuss design criteria, venue particulars and product/feature configurations.  Generally the teams align into core Route/Switch, Data Center, Security, Wireless, and Network Management/Operations, however we work collaboratively to design and implement the best show network possible.  We have individuals that are part of our Cisco Remote Management Services (RMS) team, Video Surveillance and partner support from our CenturyLink Internet Service Provider and NetApp storage vendor.

A small part of the NOC staff will travel to the venue to survey the wireless, power and Internet service capabilities several months beforehand.

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Introducing Cisco Prime Service Catalog – Focusing on User Experience

When was the last time you turned on your new gadget, opened an app, or logged onto a website and found that you needed to attend a training course before you could use it effectively?

At times, we in the IT industry fall into the trap that we need the most advanced technical capabilities.  After all, this is the great force that has produced numerous inventions and has made our lives better.  However, when we focus too much on technical details rather than meeting our users’ needs, we fail to deliver not only for our customers but also for our business.

The IT team at a major global manufacturer recently told me about their company’s major investment in user experience design, because it is important for their brand image and business success.  They are applying user-centered design not only to the products they make, but also to the IT systems they implement in-house.  Even the U.S. government has a usability and user-centered design practice under http://www.usability.gov/basics/ucd/.

This year, our software development team embarked on a user experience update for our IT service catalog software by applying the user-centered design principle.  We are showcasing this new user interface and introducing a new product name for the software – Cisco Prime Service Catalog – at Cisco Live Orlando this week.

Here is a preview of the next-generation user interface for Cisco Prime Service Catalog:

Cisco Prime Service Catalog

This new user experience highlights the services that end users may be interested in, with lists like “Most Popular Services”.  If a user has a certain model of IP Phone, the service catalog may feature associated items such as a compatible headset.   This familiar ecommerce experience is still governed by the service catalog’s entitlement and approval process, so the service owner has full control over service consumption.   User experiences like this will help transform employees’ impression of their IT department.  Service providers will also find that they can configure this new user interface to portray the brand image and customer experience they want to project.

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