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Workplace Services. A Brief Personal History of the Service Catalog and Its Evolution

When Cisco acquired netwScale (my company), in addition to our cloud portal, it also brought in the Cisco Workplace Portal (formerly RequestCenter).

There was a lot of curiosity as to what Cisco would do with an ITIL style service catalog and what the future of such product would be within Cisco.   Well, it’s 18 months later and it is doing quite well, with an exciting roadmap and some new things already shipped and some in the wing.

In this post, I want to discuss what are workplace services, how they have evolved, how they are evolving and what it means to the service catalog.

Workplace services are those services that employees need in order to do their jobs. They include computers, phones, offices, new employee set up, terminations, access to applications and anything else you can imagine.  I have seen tens of thousands of service definitions both common and unusual.

Common ones are the desktop computer variety, but even these sometimes have an unusual bent. For example, banks have different workstations for tellers than admin staff.  Other have engineering workstations that are  different salespeople. Role definition becomes a pretty important aspect of a service catalog implementation.

Unusual ones were “Report chemical fire”, “Order Executive Sedan”, “Inter-factory mail”, and “File patent idea”. Patent as a service, if you will

If it was something that could be requested, it went in the catalog. Today some customers have 1,500+ service definitions in their catalogs with user bases in the 350,000 employees.

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Top Five Differences between an Infrastructure Manager and a Cloud Management Solution

I get asked this question a lot.  Cisco has multiple exciting Converged Infrastructure solutions with partners.   There are actually two different software product “categories” covering the Infrastructure (or POD) Manager and the Cloud Management Solution.  Let dig a bit deeper in what the differences are.

OR

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So you want a real private cloud?

I had a customer ask me last week what differentiated our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud solution.  He had reviewed many of the vendors in the space of private cloud software stacks including some of the virtualization vendors and was somewhat impressed to see that overall the industry was making progress in building out these solutions.  He did have a nagging thought in the back of his head that going with many vendors meant he was getting a “prefabricated” cloud experience much in the way prefab homes are offered.

His management wanted a private cloud, wanted it fast, but was not sure exact what a private cloud would look like or how it would operate.  His enterprise had specific needs, whether they be naming conventions for VMs or physical servers, or any number of integration points into 3rd partner products.  What his company really wanted was a home built to their specific needs for their private cloud.  This did not mean a fully custom house, but something that could use standard components  (think of all the standard construction components we use now a days) to build a designed to spec home.

This did not mean they needed high end digs right away but the ability to start in a pragmatic way and to enhance, extend, and build upon that first home.  This requires an underlying framework that can be used to build a company’s first pragmatic cloud and to grow up, much like my 63 year old house in its fourth remodel over the years.  The basic platform is present, we are just making much needed changes to support the needs of 2012.

After we got on the same page about clouds and why he would want to build his companies 5-10 year strategy of cloud on an extensible framework, we moved on to the composition of the solution:  product license, Cisco TAC support, and Cisco Advanced Services.  Given a clear business driver for the private cloud (such as in-sourcing of rogue VMs in the cloud, or driving infrastructure support of elastic business needs, or leverage Cisco network functionality for multi-tenancy) the financial conversation resulted in a positive outcome for both sides.  Of note was that building this individual’s Enterprise Private Cloud means that he was going to consume a good amount of Cisco Advanced Services.  To him this was a good thing as he was leveraging the knowledge and experience of the Cisco team to build and configure his cloud to start out and to scale out.  Just like when I am building a new great room in my house, I want the best people figuring out structural loads, making construction recommendations for extensions and to build out those special design features.

That is the thing about REAL private clouds, they need effort to configure it the way your company wants to operate it.

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Good post on cloud journeys: crawl, walk, run

Cloud is a journey. This post discusses our approach to crawl, walk and run.

A cloud architecture has multiple facets and requirements, a key part of which is the need for cloud orchestration and provisioning, coupled with a self-service end user portal.  Let’s call this “Cloud Automation” for now.  If you are designing and/or building a cloud, then, part of your work will be to deliver a cloud automation solution to deliver on that promise.  How do you plan to go about that?  One approach is to define your extensive list of requirements, based upon your business needs and current capabilities, and go about building out that solution.

Another approach is what I’ll call “Crawl Walk Run”.  The incremental approach.

Post is here.

Cloud is a change to the operational model: a change in behavior, accounting, process and people. You can’t do it overnight. Trying to deliver every service doesn’t work.

It’s very important to set a roadmap of where you want go with your cloud services so you don’t get stuck in the VM Azores — this is where all the focus is on VM provisioning and then you deploy technology that does that. And only that.

You need that roadmap of services and a technology platform that supports your vision. Even if all you first is crawl.

 

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The Road to PaaS. What’s Post-IaaS – Network thoughts

Recently, I wrote an article on PaaS for IT BusinessEdge entitled the road PaaS, understanding your post IaaS options.  Here’s an excerpt.

The Road to PaaS

PaaS is an enticing proposition that has generated a lot of market buzz.

But PaaS forces tradeoffs and it shouldn’t be seen as a one-size-fits-all proposition.

To understand, I like to draw the distinction between what I call “Silicon Valley PaaS” and “Enterprise PaaS.” The majority of the discussion in the market today revolves around the Silicon Valley PaaS pattern, which is a truly abstracted “black box” approach to software platforms.

This form of PaaS exposes a set of standardized services to which you write your applications, completely sheltering developers from the underlying complexity below the PaaS abstraction.

It makes a lot of sense for brand-apps built with modern frameworks like Python and Ruby in greenfield development environments that are highly standardized.

The basic premise of the post is that PaaS for an enterprise is VERY different from PaaS for a Silicon Valley start up. And nowhere is it more  different than in the network requirements.

The PaaS customer is a developer who will code an application, use the underlying services offered by the PaaS stack, such a database, storage, queueing, etc.  The developer deploys the code, selects a few options and code is live.

So what’s going on with the network? Well, the PaaS layer will need to auto-scale, fail-over and deliver performance at some level. It may need it’s own domain as well. That PaaS layer will need to talk to underlying network services such as firewalls, switches, etc.  That PaaS really needs access to infrastructure models that deliver network containers to whatever PaaS abstraction the PaaS layer has.

Hard enough to do when all the containers are the same, as it would be in a Silicon Valley PaaS offering.

It doesn’t work with the existing enterprise platforms.  This is a big opportunity for innovation

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