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Cisco roadmap plots course through clouds to DevOps future

From a Google Cloud partnership to API-based network data integration, Cisco showcased application hosting flexibility and DevOps process flows in its product plans at its annual conference.

Cisco's updated roadmap points to an intersection of developer freedom in public cloud with IT operations control over application hosting.

Developers like to start projects and experiments on public cloud resources, where they can quickly try new things, build demo environments and prove concepts. At Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando, Fla., the vendor shared upgrades to its product portfolio that support application operations across traditional Cisco server and network infrastructure, as well as the public cloud.

"On-prem is part of a multi-cloud approach," said Kip Compton, SVP of the cloud platform and solutions group at Cisco. The Cisco roadmap formalizes a push to preserve developer freedom and also provides operators with a simple way to pull these application and data sets back under corporate governance and control.

Cisco and Google drop a pin on multi-cloud map

In a partnership revealed at the conference, Google receives access to Cisco's vast portfolio of server and networking customers, while Cisco benefits from Google's market position in public cloud services. The alliance fits with the Cisco roadmap for multi-cloud, where users can "develop once, deploy anywhere," according to the company's mantra.

"Workload placement should be a business decision, not a result of technology limitations," said Ishmael Limkakeng, SVP for data center networking at Cisco. The collaboration means that DevOps teams using these vendors do not need to accommodate the differences between data center and cloud infrastructure. The disparities between various hosting environments often require custom deployment instructions and scripts, as well as many hours of support.

Cisco and Google cloud roadmap
Figure 1. The Cisco/Google product collaboration covers public and private cloud, as well as monitoring and management tools.

Cisco included its private cloud and container tooling in the partnership with Google Cloud Platform and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) for public cloud, as well as Istio for hybrid cloud management and other monitoring and management technologies (see Figure 1). The product mix gives users the velocity of Kubernetes on Google paired with Cisco's enterprise-grade support for launch time, Compton said.

Our joint platform gives enterprises a nondisruptive way [of] developing their applications once and then deploying them to their data center or to the Google cloud.
Diane GreeneCEO, Google Cloud

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene shared the keynote spotlight on stage at Cisco Live, which demonstrated Google's resolve to use the Cisco partnership to accelerate its ability to absorb enterprise workloads. This collaboration positions Google and Cisco against the VMware-AWS partnership for hybrid cloud.

"Our joint platform gives enterprises a nondisruptive way [of] developing their applications once and then deploying them to their data center or to the Google cloud," she said.

The joint platform is slated to debut in Q3 2018, with lab environments available immediately for partners and beta customers.

SAP Data Hub containerized on HyperFlex

SAP now delivers its SAP Data Hub big data platform as Docker containers running on Cisco Container Platform and on GKE.

"It's hard to operate Kubernetes on-premise[s]," said Lars Dannecker, SAP's architect behind SAP Data Hub. This is even more true when the user plans to stretch Kubernetes applications to the public cloud. The containerized Data Hub model on Cisco and Google resources is designed to provide consistent deployment and unified infrastructure support for Kubernetes applications across data center and public cloud environments.

Cisco HyperFlex and Kubernetes
Figure 2. Cisco's HyperFlex supports the vendor's container platform with a hyper-converged IT infrastructure package.

On the Cisco roadmap, the HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure appliance becomes a DevOps infrastructure box (see Figure 2), where Kubernetes building blocks can natively catch Kubernetes applications from Google Cloud. Corporate IT can easily and quickly bring formerly noncompliant Kubernetes applications under corporate governance, without slowing down the DevOps process.

Cisco Intersight integrates with Pure Storage

Cisco will integrate its cloud-based Intersight IT operations management tool with partner Pure Storage, which makes flash-based storage platforms. The integration is now in tech preview, and at the conference, Cisco promised more hardware adapters in the same vein.

Pure Storage admins can now monitor and manage storage metrics from within the Intersight performance and health dashboard. The tie-in enables users to provision Pure Storage flash resources within an automated DevOps process, such as for test automation or to create development, staging and production environments.

Cisco Intersight and Pure Storage
Figure 3. Intersight's integration with Pure Storage shares inventory data and activates orchestration capabilities.

Pure Storage is the proof of concept for the Cisco Intersight ecosystem, and there will be more hardware adapters soon based on Cisco's open API strategy. The approach simplifies operations management for Cisco customers and also makes Intersight the central control hub for data center infrastructure and, ultimately, for public cloud resources and services. As more operations data flows through Intersight, it will have the basis for machine learning- and AI-driven automated problem remediation and resolution. Intersight could become the central infrastructure automation, orchestration and compliance platform on the Cisco roadmap and, ultimately, eliminate the many siloed element managers in typical IT setups. From a DevOps perspective, managing data centers and clouds through one management plane would be highly desirable, as developers and operators would no longer have to worry about inconsistencies between environments.

Cisco's push for developer access

Another key tenet of the Cisco roadmap is to give developers API-based access to all network functionality and operations data.

Cisco provides a unified policy layer across the data center and public clouds, with developers able to programmatically control networking in both. The network team can centrally enforce policies and not rely on developers to follow best practices for code creation. Cisco plans to offer multi-cloud support for Application Centric Infrastructure policies, the vendor's software-defined networking product, in coming months.

Two hubs joined Cisco's offerings to encourage developer involvement as well. Code Exchange enables developers to access a curated and documented list of community-written software that extends network capabilities to application developers. Business Ecosystem, formerly Ecosystem Exchange, is a partner portal for independent software vendors and systems integrators to share open source contributions.

Cisco adapters, APIs and SDKs
Figure 4. Cisco highlighted its extensibility at the conference, as shown here in a slide covering adapters, APIs and software development kits for partners.

Developer workshops and labs also occupied a large share of the Cisco Live show floor, concentrated on the comprehensive set of network APIs that Cisco released. Infrastructure operators can use the APIs to solve basic, repetitive problems or to create highly sophisticated applications that are driven by metrics and configuration data extracted from the network in real time. For example, IT consultants at Accenture created a ticket resolution system for service delivery tool ServiceNow that automatically opens up trouble tickets based on network events retrieved from the Cisco DNA Center network control and management dashboard. Another partner created an app that monitors network performance data specific to a certain type of medical device, aiming to prevent network-related operational disruptions of this device.

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