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Journey to “Self-Healing” Enterprise Networks

Within IT & Network Process Operations community, automation started with the big hype and promise for “self-healing” solutions for systems, network, and process automation.  Remember the promise of “Robotics”!? Wouldn’t it be great to have our servers, systems, and networks solve their own problems? Leading to more stable systems and networks in which system administrators and network administrators would be free to work on higher priority activities and be more productive, improving the quality of Enterprise solutions. Though it is a noble goal, IT and network process automation did not deliver its full promise but instead started us in the journey towards the goal.

There are many reasons why IT process automation solutions for network domain has not fulfilled its promise. Many people have done in-depth analysis, which can be summarized as two big inhibitors for wide-spread adoption of automation in network operations:

  1. Need for out-of-the-box workflow templates for rapid development of network operation process automation for quick-wins
  2. In-depth understanding of complex network implementations with domain knowledge of the Enterprise processes and industry best-practices for support

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Cloupia + Cisco Unified Management = Better Together

Yesterday, Cisco announced that we closed on the acquisition of Cloupia.  Cloupia is now officially part of Cisco and a very exciting new addition to our Unified Management software portfolio.

Ever since the news broke about Cisco’s intent to acquire Cloupia, I’ve been asked how this fits with our other data center and cloud management software products.  In short, Cloupia’s strength is in converged infrastructure management and it’s a powerful complement to Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) Manager as well as our cloud management software.

The Cloupia Unified Infrastructure Controller extends the value of UCS Manager and provides deeper compute, storage, and network provisioning for converged infrastructure solutions including FlexPod, ExpressPod, Vblock, and VSPEX.  It delivers a unified control point for this infrastructure, with physical and virtual resource management that can be combined with our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud solution.  There are also potential synergies with other management software products in our portfolio including Cisco Network Services Manager and Cisco Virtual Network Management Center for the automation and provisioning of network resources.

Last week, I was at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas where I spoke with several analysts, customers, and partners about this new addition to our software portfolio. I’ve used the graphic below to illustrate our perspective on the management requirements for cloud computing – showing how infrastructure management provides an essential foundation for cloud management and orchestration.

One of the key take-aways from the feedback I heard at the conference was that Cisco has a highly differentiated position in the data center and cloud management market. Many of our competitors have resource management for virtual compute, but their functionality to manage physical resources is limited; few have the ability to manage storage and network infrastructure.

With Cloupia, we’ve strengthened Cisco’s ability to manage both physical and virtual resources across compute, storage, and network infrastructure.  Now IT administrators can quickly setup and configure Unified Data Center solutions built around our best-in-class Cisco UCS and Nexus products, from within a single management console – improving both IT speed and agility.

And how does this fit with Cisco’s existing cloud management products?  Like peanut butter and jelly, infrastructure management and cloud management are actually quite different. You can refer to this blog post by my colleague Wayne Greene for an overview and some key distinctions.  But, like with peanut butter and jelly, when you put the two together – it’s a great combination.  That’s the vision we have for Cloupia and Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud: better together.  Spread it on some UCS, and it’s PBJ time.

As with many software acquisitions in this space, we recognize that there are some areas of similar functionality across our management products – and our product engineering teams will be addressing that in our roadmaps going forward.  Now that the acquisition has closed, our teams can focus on this collaboration and integration.  The graphic below illustrates how Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud will use Cloupia’s northbound API to consume physical and virtual resources in a Vblock, FlexPod, VSPEX, ExpressPod, or other Cisco converged infrastructure solution.

Converged infrastructure management from Cloupia is the foundation for dynamically provisioning compute, storage, and network resources.  Process orchestration is required to manage the end-to-end workflow, bringing infrastructure automation together with business policies and your existing IT operations environment. And as James Staten of Forrester pointed out in a recent blog post, it requires a portal interface and service catalog to “unify enterprise-cloud consumption” across application and infrastructure services, and across private and public clouds.

One way to look at this synergy is to think about the “supply chain” for your IT services: spanning converged infrastructure management, process orchestration, and the end-user service catalog.  At one end, you have the factory – it’s where you put together the raw materials (VMs, LUNs, blades, switches), configure the resources, and control the infrastructure. Then you have logistics for transportation and warehouse management, including third party intermediaries – that’s the process orchestration and integration with other operational systems.  And finally, every cloud needs a storefront – that’s the service catalog and self-service provisioning experience for IT consumers.

To push the analogy a bit further, let’s start with some raw ingredients. Take coffee* as an example – sounds simple and straightforward, like infrastructure.  But is it?

Starbucks claims to have 87,000 combinations on their menu. It can get pretty complicated (like a grande decaf no-whip skinny peppermint white chocolate mocha with an extra shot).

In much the same way, infrastructure-as-a-service may sound simple.  Isn’t it just a few basic ingredients with compute, storage, and network?  But think about all the variations and service options (like backup or 24x7 support) required for enterprise application hosting.  Even if you’re using the same infrastructure components, it’s much more than provisioning VMs, LUNs, and VLANs.

When you do it right, you can hide all this complexity from the end user.  The power of the apparent simplicity in the Amazon.com catalog interface, combined with their logistics and supply chain operations behind the scenes, is what fueled the company’s success in e-commerce.  And while your IT service catalog may not have the millions of SKUs that Amazon.com sells on their website (or the 87,000 options on the Starbucks menu), customer satisfaction and operational efficiency is just as important to managing your infrastructure and IT services.

That’s the value of converged infrastructure management when combined with cloud management: providing a simple and easy-to-use experience with on-demand provisioning, along with governance and process orchestration, to deliver the right services at the right time at the right cost to your IT consumers.

And that’s our vision for the addition of Cloupia to Unified Management.  Better together.  Please join me in welcoming Cloupia to the Cisco team.

*Thanks to Kevin Kelling (@BlueShiftBlog) for the analogy.

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Introducing Cisco Domain Ten(SM) – Cisco Services’ Blueprint for Simplifying Data Center and Cloud Transformation

December 5, 2012 at 10:07 am PST

This week at the Gartner Data  Center Conference in Las Vegas, Cisco Services is unveiling Cisco Domain Ten(SM) – Cisco’s Framework for Simplifying Data Center and Cloud Transformation.

Cisco Domain Ten can be applied to a diverse range of data center projects -- from cloud and desktop virtualization to application migration and is equally applicable whether your data center is in enterprise businesses, public sector organizations or service providers.  The video here describes how we apply the Cisco Domain Ten to the private cloud use case, as one example.  We’ll discuss additional use cases in future blogs and associated collateral that I’ll point you to.

Born from our extensive experience over the past years in helping customers transform their data centers, based upon the many cloud deployments -- private and public, enterprise, public sector and service provider -- that we’ve enabled over the past few years, we’ve formulated this comprehensive framework to help you transform your data center and guide new initiatives including cloud, virtual desktop, application migration, and data center consolidation.  The Cisco Domain Ten framework covers ten key areas -- domains -- that -- based upon our experience -- are critical to consider, plan for and address as part of your data center and cloud transformational journey, and is illustrated in the diagram below.  Relating this framework to other key components of Cisco’s data center strategy, you can  think of the Cisco Unified Data Center as the what of the data center, whereas Cisco Domain Ten complements this by guiding you on the how (to transform).

Cisco Domain Ten - Simplifying Data Center Transformation

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Are You at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Vegas? Don’t Miss These Sessions

You’re probably double-checking your agenda to make sure you’ve booked the most interesting sessions at the Gartner Data Center Conference this week.  Let me help you by sharing a few sessions that you don’t want to miss.  And if you attend one of these sessions and fill out the questionnaire, you’ll be entered in a raffle for a $500 American Express gift card.

The Evolving Data Center: Past, Present, and Future
Innovation is crucial for IT infrastructure to take advantage of new technology trends, including cloud computing and “big data,” while supporting current and emerging applications. Customers will derive the greatest value from the tight integration of emerging software approaches with the underlying hardware infrastructure. This session explores the newest developments in the Cisco Unified Data Center platform, which unifies computing, networking, security, and management to deliver business agility, IT simplicity, and financial efficiency.

This is a must-see presentation from one of the Cisco’s top senior executives in engineering – mark your calendar now and add it to your agenda.

Speaker: David Yen
Location: Venetian Ballroom F
Session Type: Solution Provider Session
Monday, December 3.
2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
ADD to your agenda

 

The Programmable Cloud
Trends such as social apps, cloud, and BYOD offer the opportunity to significantly improve customer experiences and increase worker productivity. Making the most of these trends, however, is going to require some new thinking about infrastructure. This session will explore how to build on your existing investments and create a programmable data center that will give you the agility and flexibility to keep up with today’s on-demand world.

In this session, you’ll hear from Cisco IT’s senior vice president of infrastructure – featuring “Cisco on Cisco” initiatives using our Unified Data Center solutions.  See a demo of Cisco IT’s internal private cloud and learn about our ‘enterprise store’ service catalog initiative for BYOD – powered by Cisco Intelligent Automation software.

Speaker: John Manville
Location: Titian Ballroom 2301A
Tuesday, December 4.
1:45 to 2:45 PM
ADD to your agenda

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Cisco IAC Availability, Scalability, and Geographic Distribution

When building a cloud, scale it out.

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud architecture and topology options enable scalability, availability, and geographic distribution. This white paper discusses several options, their strengths and uses, and the technical details underlying these options.”

Cisco IAC Availability, Scalability, and Geographic Distribution White Paper is available in the Cisco support community (log in needed)

Here’s an excerpt:

 

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) is a software-based solution for managing hardware infrastructure tasked with delivering various IT services as-a-service (XaaS). Cisco IAC provides configuration “content” to help customers rapidly deploy service-delivered, self-service enabled IT services on certain hardware architectures. Consulting services from Cisco Advanced Services or Cisco delivery partners can use the IAC infrastructure to create custom services for customers. This white paper discusses the software underpinnings of these services and options for deployment that provide scalability and resilience for large enterprises or service providers.
The major platform products which make up IAC relevant to a scaling and resiliency discussion are:

  • The Cisco Cloud Portal – The dynamic, tailored end-user web site where customers and administrators can browse available services and options, and order new services or changes to existing services. This element consists of a web tier which interacts with the browser to expose the Portal UI and an application tier which includes the Portal and Service Catalog. The Service Catalog provides the menu of available services, including new-service and update-service requests, as well as definitions and configurations for roles, business rules, dynamic form rules, and entitlement.
  • Cisco Process Orchestrator  – The delivery engine that makes the Move/Add/Change/Delete (MACD) changes to the steady-state configuration of the computing, network, storage, and application infrastructure (“Infrastructure”) needed to deliver the requested new service or service change. Orchestrator processes automate workflows which interact with applications, systems, and devices in the environment.
  • A database stores configuration, state, and runtime information from the above systems.
  • Cisco Network Services Manager (NSM) Server – a specialized engine for network provisioning. Cisco Network Services Manager’s policy-driven approach allows clouds to be created within single or multiple network Points of Delivery (PoDs), each with potentially different and unique offerings and operational behaviors.
  • Cisco NSM Controller – a local element near network devices within a network PoD which performs direct device interactions to achieve network provisioning at the direction of the NSM Server.
  • Cisco Server Provisioner – provides bare metal provisioning (remote installation) of an OS or hypervisor on a physical or virtual server, as well as bare metal imaging for system cloning and backup.

 

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