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Improve the Ways and Means of Application Delivery

Organizations are rethinking their data centers and nothing is off limits for discussion – everything from infrastructure to software to processes, and even more fundamentally, the very ways in which a data center serves the business. One element that is empowering this phenomenal shift is IT automation. It is vital. No automation, no effective IT. The more sluggish IT is, the more costly it is to the business. Organizations know that, and they want to automate IT processes at all levels to increase effectiveness, time-to-market, and innovation so that they can perform well and compete effectively.  IT automation has proven itself, and now it is ready for its closeup.

This week at CiscoLive in San Francisco, you will see just how far automation is reaching into organizations. No longer content to provision virtual machines through a VM dispenser, companies are looking for ways to automate the entire solution stack: applications down through the infrastructure that supports them. Read More »

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Enterprise Platform as a Service

Deploying Multi-Tier Application Stacks with Puppet and Chef

In a previous Cisco Data Center blog, we announced our configuration management accelerator for cloud to enable organizations to move beyond monolithic golden templates into a dynamic TOSCA-modeled application design canvas. Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) has been working for months with PuppetLabs and OpsCode (Chef) and has had multiple successful customer proof-of-concept deployments.

The Cisco configuration management accelerator provides customers with a substantial improvement over the manual process of building and implementing multiple golden templates to build multi-tier application stacks. The application stack is now described, and the description drives implementation.  Changes to the description apply to all future instances, and can even update running instances in continuous delivery scenarios. The benefit is that the description becomes the master plan and machines are consistently and automatically constructed from that master plan without intervention by IT. Software defines the application configuration.

Cisco’s cloud accelerator approach is true to an open philosophy that provides customers with a choice of solutions – not locking them into a single hypervisor, configuration tool, solution path, or even hardware selection. The configuration management accelerators follow directly in the footsteps of our multi-cloud accelerator released last year.  That accelerator enabled Cisco IAC to provision, orchestrate and manage VMware vCloud Director, Amazon EC2, and OpenStack. It has also been extended by customers to include Hyper-V, Azure and Rackspace through the preplanned extensibility built into it.

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The Golden Key to Any Cloud

As cloud technology and organizations mature, customers are shifting their focus from the provisioning of individual servers to richer cloud-based application platform stacks. Why? Servers usually do not exist as standalone entities but are designed to run something tangible for the business. For example, multi-tier application platform stacks have in their design multi-server elements such as database, application and web servers.

In this era of the cloud, creating golden templates for each of the elements required to configure these multi-tier stacks and the servers they reside on, is not only unwieldy for IT to maintain and manage but they are monolithic. This means if one single element changes, the whole golden image needs to be revised. Golden images are not configurable and frequently require additional manual configuration to complete installation.

What’s the solution? It begins with the concept of DevOps.

DevOps is a software development method that permits better collaboration between software development and IT operations in a way that these multi-tier application servers can be consumed in the cloud without human intervention. There are a number of disciplines included under the DevOps category, but this blog will be focusing on configuration management.

Puppet and Chef are two of the leading configuration management vendors in the DevOps segment delivering the following benefits:

• Elastic and continuous configurations
• Increased productivity to handle hundreds to thousands of nodes
• Improve IT responsiveness by reducing time to deploy changes
• Eliminate configuration drift and reduce outages

There is a lot of buzz about this capability. How much buzz? Watch this video from CiscoLive Orlando.

Within the next month, Cisco will be releasing a cloud accelerator that delivers configuration management of multi-tier application stacks. Based on the TOSCA-modeled graphical user interface, customers utilize a canvas that simplifies the design of these stacks into templates. Each element: server, network device and storage; is represented on the canvas with a graphical icon. Behind each icon are configuration details for each component. For example, network device configuration may include firewall rules and load balancing algorithms. For servers, Cisco is leveraging Puppet and Chef or home-grown scripts. The result is a blueprint that allows for consumption of the complete application stack by end users, on demand, delivered by the cloud.

So now we have blueprints. Where’s the real advantage?

Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) is the golden key that gives you the advantage because it unlocks this new approach to cloud efficiency. Providing blueprints for multi-tier application stacks on their own do nothing if they cannot be ordered by customers from a standardized menu of services and acted upon by an orchestrator to automatically deploy the entire configuration. Extending functionality for DevOps is just another example of Cisco IAC’s ability to go beyond IaaS without requiring a solution rip and replace or major push-ups by customers.

Why just provision servers and continue to increase IT costs with manual “last mile” provisioning?
Cisco IAC and the configuration management accelerator simplify the delivery of multi-tier application stacks through self-service ordering and repeatable delivery. Cloud accelerators are designed to follow the vision and strategy of Cisco IAC eliminating code islands that become problematic when you upgrade to the next generation Cisco IAC edition.

To browse through the current cloud accelerators, go here. First time visitors will need to sign the register.

If you would like to learn more or comment, tweet us at: http://twitter.com/ciscoum

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Bookends That Prevent Your Cloud from Getting Away From You

Cloud platforms are an increasingly viable option for a growing set of enterprise and service provider workloads. A recent IDC report estimated that private cloud software, including hosted private cloud, represented 62% of IT spending in 2012.

Cisco is a unique cloud provider because it delivers solutions for the two critical management bookends for your journey to the cloud. The first bookend, Cisco UCS Director, automates converged and multi-vendor infrastructure, and I’ve written a lot about that. Today I’m focusing on the second bookend that completes the journey, Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC).

Cisco IAC delivers all the critical elements required to deliver speed, flexibility and the competitive innovation promised by cloud-based deployments. These include:
• A self-service portal and standardized menu of services
• Service delivery automation
• Operational process automation
• Resource management automation
• Service life cycle automation

There are a lot of value statements about cloud but they all center on these basic propositions:

1) Cloud delivers simple, abstracted environments that are presented to end users for consumption on-demand. The business experiences faster and easier development and deployment of new applications or services.
2) Cloud allows organizations to focus on what makes them different and effective rather than on mundane tasks that do not add value to the business.

So, does cloud do this? Here are two customer stories that answer this question with real evidence.

ASE-IT is a service provider that was founded in 2001 and has used cloud automation to gain a competitive advantage and grow to one of the top 10 service providers in Australia.

Aurecon provides engineering, management and specialist technical services for both the private and public sector. Faced with a rapidly expanding business and a data center that had reached the end of its life, Aurecon utilized cloud automation to get closer to their stakeholders and develop new innovative services.

By deploying Cisco IAC, both companies reported the ability to:
• Accommodate rapid business growth without adding additional IT staff
• Standardize their IT environments providing the ability to grow the size, scope and
scale of services delivered to their customers
• Increase their customer base and global presence as a result of the nimbleness and agility of their IT environments
• Increase collaboration among development and IT teams resulting in new automation use cases to drive even greater innovation

In order to have visibility into your cloud and manage it properly to achieve your business goals, you need a bookend solution like Cisco IAC. Otherwise, cloud control can and will drift, and your organization will feel the impact as goals become harder to reach.

To learn more about Cisco IAC, you can watch this video or visit the Cisco IAC website.

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