Last year, we announced our successful certification of Cisco ACI Inventory Management App with ServiceNow. The application can be found in ServiceNow store. Since then we have advanced our ACI integration use-cases and building newer solutions such as Tetration-ServiceNow.

In this blog, I want to provide a refresher on the existing ACI use-cases and as well a quick walkthrough of newer ones and how customers can leverage these advancements as they turn to cloud to accelerate innovation, expand market reach and reduce IT costs.

Challenges Facing IT Operations: ITSM Stakeholders are increasingly contemplating over how to create a unified operation model for next generation ITSM. Traditional IT spending is shifting over to the Cloud to accelerate innovation and reduce IT costs. Challenges the IT department faces to meet the increasing demands of providing quick and flexible business services include:

  • Manual service mapping
  • Lack of correlation between infrastructure changes and the business services
  • Disconnected infrastructure tools and portals for change management and troubleshooting
  • Inefficient root-cause analysis for service outages

Cisco ACI and ServiceNow joint solution provides a fully-automated policy based enterprise service management solution to address these challenges.

ServiceNow is a leader in ITSM/ITOM business services and Cisco in DC/Cloud infrastructure fabric. Our ACI customers at Customer Advisory Board (CAB) meetings have been telling us that the ITOM/ITSM layers have been trickling down to DC/Cloud infrastructure for quite some time. In fact, these customers have been using ServiceNow to extract business critical information from the network and in some cases they have been actually provisioning and managing the underlying infrastructure. This blog presents the ACI-ServiceNow solution use-cases and their key benefits in this context.

The diagram above shows the conceptual integration architetcure of ACI-ServiceNow joint solution. The key integration use-cases fall under :

Populate and enrich CMDBBroadly, physical inventory tracking, configuration and endpoint tracking, configuration rollback, delta tracking and intgeration fall under this use-case.

The Cisco ACI Inventory Management application initiates a discovery of Cisco ACI infrastructure using scheduled jobs and scripts. The application uses Cisco API REST APIs to import the object model information from ACI and map them to different CMDB tables resident in ServiceNow. The Cisco ACI Inventory Management Application uses MID server interfaces to communicate with Cisco ACI Fabric controller (APIC).

There are two broad discoveries, one the Cisco ACI Physical topology discovery (switches, APIC controller, node links, chassis information, etc) and the other Application topology discovery (logical information such as tenants, EPGs, Contracts, configurations, Policies etc) both initiated through the scheduled jobs by the user.

Change Management – Using the ServiceNow app available on ACI App Center, all the changes made to the infrastructure can be tracked automatically and ServiceNow ‘s CMDB will be updated with the most recent changes.

Service Mapping: The service mapping is automated, which gives a graphical view of all the services that a component relies on and the relationships between business services. This gives a more real time visibility to the infrastructure thus helping the IT Operations team to respond to the issues quickly and be more proactive. This unique approach eliminates irrelevant data points and creates accurate service maps in minutes.

Configuration and workflow management:

Component Configuration – ACI components can also be configured from ServiceNow instance using the ‘Cisco ACI Application’ plugin available on ServiceNow Store.

Custom Activity Packs – Workflows can be built using the available custom activity packs to automate the component configuration process using the application on ServiceNow instance. ServiceNow core packs can be used in the workflows to customize the workflows according to requirements (e.g. Approval Workflow process)

Benefits of ACI-ServiceNow solution

Automation: With the ServiceNow and Cisco ACI solution, IT organizations can drastically reduce the time required to map new services and detect changes for existing ones. The solution not only enables fast and accurate service mapping process, but also enables you to reclaim or retire applications, servers, and storage and networking resources when they are no longer needed, resulting in operational agility and efficient use of resources.

Visibility: Cisco ACI enables ServiceNow to provide real-time visibility across scale-out cloud, virtual, and physical infrastructure. When service and infrastructure changes occur, including actions related to change requests, infrastructure events, and service outages, IT teams can quickly identify the root cause and determine the best way to remediate the issue, leading to drastically reduced mean time to recovery (MTTR).

Operational efficiency: IT operations teams respond more quickly and become more proactive with Cisco ACI keeping an up-to-date view of service-aware infrastructure and informing ServiceNow about the services that are available and the ways that they are connected. Improved automation, visibility, and compliance, coupled with dynamic and accurate service mapping, enable IT organizations to create realistic SLAs that can be met and to easily share them with stakeholders across the organization.

Conclusion: As customer adoption of ACI-ServiceNow become widespread, we will continue to cover newer use-cases to address IT operational pain-points in DC/Cloud. Cisco is actively engaging ServiceNow across a broad spectrum of products in networking (ACI, ACI App Center) and emerging analytics (Tetration analytics) to track baseline business service flows in compliance with policies and detect where deviations from baseline occur for automated policy enforcement.

If you happen to be in Las Vegas during Cisco Live (June 25-29), please visit us at the Data center world of solution demo pods to get a close view of how we work with ServiceNow. We have a great line up of technical presentations highlighting ServiceNow and Cisco integrations and also hands-on demo session showcasing how these integrations work in real life pragmatic use cases.

Related Links:

DC ecosystem: www.cisco.com/go/dcecosystem

ACI homepage: www.cisco.com/go/aci

Servicenow home page: www.servicenow.com

ACI Inventory Management App at ServiceNow Store

DC Blog: http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/cisco-cloudcenter-achieves-certified-integration-with-servicenow


Ravi Balakrishnan

Senior Product Marketing Manager

Datacenter Solutions