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More on Management and Orchestration – Part 1 – Desktop Virtualization Automation

May 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm PST

Over the past year or so, from time to time, I’ve blogged about what we in Cisco Services have been doing with our Management and Orchestration solutions – for example Cisco Intelligent Automation for cloud – which I discussed in the Automation domain in my Cisco Domain Ten series, and also here, when we introduced a new release.   Cisco’s Automation and Orchestration technology has applications beyond cloud Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS), so let me tell you over a few blogs what else our Cisco Services team can help you achieve with this flexible automation technology, where customer needs for simplicity, automation and end user productivity are in the driving seat.

I’ll start with Desktop Virtualization Automation – specifically in the provisioning process.  And while I’m at this, let me highlight our upcoming Bright Talk Webinar, scheduled for May 29th at 8am PST (5pm CET), where you can see a demonstration of our Desktop Virtualization Automation solution in action- you can register for this seminar here.

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Financial Management for the Enterprise Cloud

One of the most exciting things about Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (Cisco IAC) is its ability to deliver the self-service agility and flexibility that a business requires to drive its success.  Capacity is instantly available when needed, enabling creative innovation to bear fruit much faster (think research institutions executing millions of computations, software engineers developing new applications, or retailers launching holiday marketing campaigns.)

The benefits of cloud computing are obvious but what about the costs? For example, how do you know which resources a particular project is tied to and whether it makes good business sense?  How do you make sure your users shut down services when they’re no longer needed?  And how do you implement a cost model to charge back IT costs to the proper business unit or project?

These are questions that are bubbling to the surface of many enterprise cloud discussions, which is why I’m particularly excited to announce our new partner, Cloud Cruiser.  Cloud Cruiser has integrated their financial management system with Intelligent Automation for Cloud, enabling enterprises to take control of their IT spending and use the granular cost information it gathers to drive better business decisions.

By implementing a financial management solution designed for the cloud, enterprise IT becomes a partner to the lines of business, providing valuable insight into the IT costs associated with the projects and applications they deploy.  Chargeback gives business units the advantage of only paying for the resources that they use, resulting in both a reduction of waste (who wants to pay for those VMs that are no longer being used?) and more educated IT spending decisions, such as whether to use internal or external IT resources for a particular project. Self-service budgets and reports make users more fiscally responsible for the resources they deploy, driving costs down and productivity up.

In short, Cloud Cruiser and Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud work together to help enterprises make the most of their enterprise private cloud by delivering better service at lower cost.

To see how Cloud Cruiser for Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud works, view this short video:

Read the joint solution brief and web page to learn more about Cloud Cruiser for Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud.

 

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Fabric-Based Infrastructure and Cisco UCS Servers

February 15, 2013 at 4:30 am PST

Fabric-Based Infrastructure and Cisco UCS

A good segue to Fabric-Based Infrastructure is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers (March 2012), by Andrew Butler and George Weiss.  To fully understand the tie in with Fabric-Based Infrastructure I suggest reading the section on Cisco UCS.  Their observations are important because they tie directly to the subject of this blog.   You will also get a better feel for why Cisco UCS is having such rapid customer adoption worldwide.

The emphasis for Fabric-Based Infrastructure is delivering value-add functionality that enables data centers to operate more efficiently and cost effectively.  A good place to start is by looking at this Gartner report by George Weiss and Donna Scott -- Fabric-Based Infrastructure Enablers and Inhibitors Through the Lens of User Experiences (April 2012).  In this short research note, George and Donna go into the key drivers and reasons for the FBI architecture and the benefits that their clients have seen.  My take away for the key benefits of Fabric-Based Infrastructure are:

  1. OpEx and CapEx savings
  2. Increased VM density
  3. Time-To-Deploy reduced from months to hours via automation and standards implementation;
  4. Reduce cost and complexity and improve agility;
  5. Improved resiliency by recreating servers and connectivity in minutes using profiles and templates

While reading about a technology innovation is helpful, actually listening to experts discuss the architecture and give their individual perspectives can be more so.

I suggest that you make time to listen to this 34 minute video with featured guest Donna Scott (a VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner) and Paul Perez (VP and CTO for the Data Center Business Group at Cisco Systems) -- Fabric-Based Infrastructure (FBI) in Today’s Data Center.  Donna looks at the motivations and impact of customers moving to a Fabric Based Infrastructure with an eye toward what is important to adopters.  Then Paul discusses Cisco UCS innovations and how they let FBI adopters achieve their goals.  If you would like, you can download a podcast of the video from theCisco Analyst Reports page.

From my perspective the truly compelling part of this story is the extent to which Cisco UCS makes the promise of Fabric-Based Infrastructure a reality, while emphasizing safety, security and the risk reduction.  These are critical considerations in today’s IT environment.  Cisco continues to be a key innovator in data center technology and is continuing to grow from strength to strength, delivering value and benefit for your long term application solution needs.

Below is how I think a Fabric-Based Infrastructure should look.  Of course I am predisposed.  Cisco UCS architecture provides the ability to define and manage over 120 different server identity parameters via service profile templates, using a native tool with Roles Based Access Controls and across geographies.  UCS enables you to have a distributed environment that is centrally managed.  Your admins can also use CLI, custom designed tools / scripts, or third party tools as they choose to meet the needs of their current management structure. Cloyd

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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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A Cloud Management Solution You Can Believe In, Or Better Yet, Bank On

February 1, 2013 at 9:45 am PST

Guest Blogger: Yair Dolev (@CiscoCloudY) brings extensive experience in enterprise application development and management of advanced data center virtualization technology products to Cisco’s Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group. Prior to Cisco, Yair was Director of Product Management at data center automation authority Tidal Software, and managed the groundbreaking Azul Virtual Machine products at Azul Systems, which enabled data centers to run large Java workloads on highly scalable, optimized hardware. 

In my last blog entry, I told you about some of the most fundamental new concepts in Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) v3.1 and how they help address top-of-mind issues for our customers. This time I’d like to address a matter no less significant.

At the core of every cloud initiative there always lurks a concern about the sustained viability of such a comprehensive transformation – and this applies to adoption of a new cloud operating model as well as to the deployment of the new technology required. It boils down to two things: trust and cost. Can I trust that this solution will still fit me in the future, and how much will I really have to pay for this fit?

One of the things I really like about Cisco IAC is that it’s built around a core software platform that allows for an amazing level of flexibility and extensibility. Our software can be configured and adapted to closely fit what your IT organization wants to offer to meet your unique business needs. The user portal can be made to look different and behave differently for a variety of users, and it can enforce your organization’s policies and controls. The orchestration engine is adaptable to model a wide range of customer processes, and it’s extensible to communicate with other IT operations management software, OSS/BSS tools or infrastructure systems. Our solution can be extended beyond infrastructure services, to encompass a broad range of IT and business services at the platform and application layer (more on this later). The best news is: you can protect the investment you made so that the changes persist through future product updates. Let’s review some of these key capabilities:

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