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Duct Tape for Cloud: Integration Features of Cisco Process Orchestrator and IA for Cloud

The Cisco Process Orchestrator has very rich integration capabilities, yet we often hear the question, “Does it integrate with…” or “Does it work with” [insert product]. The Cisco Process Orchestrator is a primary component in the Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud management solution.

The fact is that in modern environments with modern orchestrators the answer is always yes. The reality is that cloud automation requires a Process Orchestrator tie into a variety of different systems in order to start offering cloud services. Remember, Cloud is an operating model, not a product. This means that to deliver self-service, on-demand services requires all the elements of the service be orchestrated.

Cisco’s internal private cloud is one such example.

The graphic below shows the components in the deployments. You see integration with Cisco UCS, VMware and storage, as you would expect. It also orchestrates IP address management (that IP won’t provision itself), Remedy incident, CMDB, ActiveDirectory (so tenants can log in), image management and a few other things such as Service Assurance.

By the way, the architecture below is Cisco Process Orchestrator provision across multiple Cisco data centers.

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Cisco Domain Ten: Domain 3: Automation and Orchestration

December 21, 2012 at 8:15 am PST

Continuing my tour of the Cisco Domain Ten (SM)  framework for simplifying data center transformation, with this blog, I’ll build upon my previous blogs and introduce Domain 3, which is concerned with “Automation and Orchestration“.

Domain 3 pic

 

 

I’ve asserted previously that having an automated, virtualized data center is a necessary -- but insufficient -- basis for cloud -- and Cisco Domain Ten portrays this very well.  That said, automation and orchestration in my view is one of the 2 or 3 most important domains to focus on when transforming a data center, and when planning a cloud  architecture.  Automation is quite simply fundamental to delivering benefits such as cost reduction, elasticity, rapid service delivery and agility to your end users/ stakeholders/customers.    So what are the key problems we in Cisco Services can help you with in this domain?

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Cloupia + Cisco Unified Management = Better Together

December 11, 2012 at 7:17 am PST

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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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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Introducing the Solution Accelerator Community for Intelligent Automation for Cloud

We are excited by the demand for Cisco’s Intelligent Automation for Cloud Starter Edition designed for pilot cloud deployments.   Just Recently we announced the new version of our stack, Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) 3.1.  The release of Cisco IAC 3.1 continues to demonstrate Cisco’s commitment to enterprise customers and service providers to successfully deploy and manage their private, public or hybrid cloud environments.

There are so many opportunities to build private, public, and hybrid clouds with our Cloud Portal, Process Orchestrator, Server Provisioner and Network Services Manager.  Over a year ago we embarked on a journey to build cloud behaviors  into our product through  a concept we call Accelerator Packs which are XML  files containing the service catalog, data model and orchestration workflows that snap into Cisco IAC Starter Edition or Cisco IAC 3.1.  Accelerator packs extend Cisco IAC’s ability to manage multiple cloud environments such as Openstack, Amazon EC2 and VMware vCloud Director.   Accelerator packs were designed to meet the needs of our differing customers:  large service providers, or enterprises acting as a service provider, that desire completely custom behaviors, and other customers that are looking for pre-built and Cisco supported cloud-in-a-box solution.

Our platform is like the iPOD.  When installed and turned on you have a blank slate, no music ships with that iPOD.  Our automation packs are like the music and video files that upload and then your iPOD comes alive.  With our 3.0 Starter Edition and the 3.1 release, we have productized many playlists for a starter and enterprise grade cloud.  This means more than 70 pre-built portal services and over 150 orchestration workflows.  But wait, there is one more thing:   Cisco Advanced Services, Cisco partners and customers can build their specific content to extend the productized behaviors and content.  It can be transportable from one instance of Intelligent Automation for Cloud to another for leverage and integration.

How do we encourage sharing between all the 100’s of folks building content for this platform?

We are introducing the Solution Accelerator Community Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud.  Anyone with a Cisco.com registration can access this site.

This will be the place for Cisco, Partners and Customers to post, download, improve, upload content for sharing within the community.  This content can only run on the Intelligent Automation for Cloud software, so if you would like purchase a version of the platform for non-production test and development use, please go here.  While the solution accelerators are NOT open source, the use of this site is governed by these terms of use.

We have placed our Multi-Cloud  solution accelerator on this site and we are extremely proud of our integration with Openstack (and Amazon AWS and VMware vCloud Director).

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