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In Between the Numbers: Self-Service That Works

April 5, 2012 at 7:32 am PST

  I happened to pause last week at a pile of newspapers in my father’s house in Atlanta.

 The reason: A feature article about Cisco on the front page of the March 25th business section of the Journal-Constitution.

 The article was interesting. But best of all, it jumped from the front page to the inside pages of the section… which is why, on page D2, I stumbled across one of the best, common sense advisory articles on retail technology I’ve read in a long time.

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Prediction for 2nd half of 2012: Infrastructure as a Service deployments expand to include IT as a Service

IT shops deploying clouds over the past year have been focused on Infrastructure as a Service ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrastructure_as_a_service#Infrastructure ) as a way to drive speed in virtual and physical server provisioning, cost savings in operations, proactive service level agreements, and increased control and governance.   In one of my blogs I introduced our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/the-secret-is-now-out-you-can-simplify-cloud-deployments-with-cisco-unified-management/ and how that addresses both private, hybrid and public clouds IaaS.   Key to this is the service catalog and self service portal.  Moving to cloud is NOT about taking hundreds of server configuration templates and moving to them immediate self service.  All you are doing in that model is automating VM sprawl.  They key is defining a limited set of services and options that your end users such as application owners and technical folks can order through a self service portal and manage their life-cycle.

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They want a cloud real fast, just not sure what exactly it should look like or how it should function…..

I have talked to many enterprises that want a private cloud; also service providers that want to build a public cloud based upon Cisco UCS / Nexus.  They all would like to get to their first generation of cloud very quickly.   We have many conversations on infrastructure to use, the right choice of hypervisor, and what use cases to start with.  Today I talked to a customer of our Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud that wants a differentiating end user portal.  Everyone can spin up a VM, but how to do it in a way that will drive adoption and new business, whether it is for the enterprise or service provider?  How do we do this at a cost and a timeline that meets the needs of the business and the CIO.

These are not lightweight concerns.   I have seen many data center automation projects that focused too much on the provisioning and not enough on the end user experience.    The Intelligent Automation Solutions Business Unit at Cisco has been involved with many customers building private and public clouds with our software stack.  This includes Cisco IT’s very large private cloud deployment based upon our software.  The two services they deployed:  CITEIS (Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services) Express and CITEIS VDC (Virtual Data Center) has received broad acclaim.  Watch the following videos by Jamie MacQuarrie of the Intelligent Automation team on these two CITEIS Services.

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Retail Lessons from Las Vegas Vacation Part 2 of 3 – Omni Channel

In My  Part 1 of the retail blog series about Las Vegas I wrote about the use of video in Las Vegas to enhance visitor experience in Las Vegas.  In this second blog I’d like to look at the some of the ways Las Vegas using omni channel to reach out across customers across multiple channels to drive loyalty and sales.

Use of Self Service machines

With the high traffic real estate in the casinos, I saw more vending machines than the usual cigarette and soda vending machines.  This one by u*tique at the Cosmopolitan hotel Las Vegas and features a lot of higher end gift items.  Unfortunately my photo did not do it justice but I found the following video

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What provisioning the Cloud infrastructure and cooking have in common…

What provisioning the Cloud infrastructure and cooking have in common…

 

I like to cook. Sometimes, I’ll grab whatever ingredients I have on hand, put them in a Dutch oven, throw in a few spices, and make a delicious casserole that can never be repeated. At other times, I’ll follow a recipe to the letter, measure and weigh everything that goes in, and produce a great meal that I can repeat consistently each time.

When provisioning servers and blades for a Cloud infrastructure, the same 2 choices exist: follow your instinct and build a working (but not repeatable) system, or follow a recipe that will ensure that systems are built in an exacting fashion, every time. Without a doubt, the latter method is the only way to proceed.

Enter the Cisco Tidal Server Provisioner (an OEM from www.linmin.com) , an integral component of Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud and Cisco Intelligent Automation for Compute. TSP lets you easily create “recipes” that can be easily deployed onto physical systems and virtual machines with repeatability and quality, every time. These recipes can range from simple, e.g., install a hypervisor or an operating system, to very complex: install an operating system, then install applications, run startup scripts, configure the system, access remote data, register services, etc.

Once you have a recipe (we call it a Provisioning Template), you can apply it to any number of physical systems or virtual machines without having to change the recipe. Some data centers use virtualization for sand box development and prototyping, and use physical servers and blades for production. Some data centers do the opposite: prototype on physical systems, then run the production environment in a virtualized environment. And of course, some shops are “all physical” or “all virtual”. Being able to deploy a recipe-based payload consistently on both physical and virtual systems provides the ultimate flexibility. Yes, once you’ve created a virtual machine, you’ll likely use VMware vSphere services to deploy, clone and move VMs, but as long as you’re using TSP to create that “first VM”, you have the assurance that you have a known-good, repeatable way of generating the golden image. When time comes to update the golden image, don’t touch the VM: instead, change the recipe, provision a new VM, and proceed from there.

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