As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. And there probably isn’t a better phrase to sum up our experience since Cisco acquired CliQr and we became the Cisco CloudCenter team just one short year ago.
A Quick Look Back
Time has moved quickly—and so have we. While many acquisitions kick-off with a slow-pace transition period, we were aggressive and were added to the Cisco Price List in just four short weeks—what we’re told was in record time. We also launched two important new product releases, CloudCenter 4.7, with a deeper Cisco ACI integration and simplified networking; and earlier this month, CloudCenter 4.8, delivering support for brownfield workloads ingested into CloudCenter management – a really important add. Together, these releases deliver on our promise of being able to put the right workload in the right place at the right time.
It’s Not Just About Product
The former CliQr team and Cisco worked hard to enable the field force and global partners to be able to sell, deploy and support CloudCenter. Cisco CloudCenter has experienced more customer wins from around the globe and across every industry, from government and manufacturing to healthcare and insurance, demonstrating impressive business growth along with the satisfaction of seeing customers capitalizing on the real power of cloud computing.
While it hasn’t always been easy—especially in the early days of the cloud—we always held to our convictions of how the cloud delivers value and what is needed to manage what we knew would ultimately be hybrid cloud environments.
We couldn’t have done this without an amazing team and we’re proud that the industry has taken notice as well. Over the years, CliQr and its CloudCenter solution has been recognized by Gartner as Cool Vendor of the Year for Cloud Management, received Best of Show in the Cloud Platform category at Interop Tokyo, and won the Software and Information Industry Association CODiE Awards in the Best Cloud Management category.
Recognition like this means more to us than a trophy in our case. Rather, it is an indicator of our passion for making the cloud, in all of its forms, the new way for businesses to exploit and optimize the use of information technology to run their operations and compete.
It’s Only Going to Get Better
As you can see, it’s been an amazing 365 days and we can’t thank our customers, partners, and employees enough for making this a tremendous first year at Cisco. We’re proud of where we’ve been—and the fun is just getting started. The cloud is at an exciting inflection point where it is both relatively new and being broadly adopted by businesses—all at the same time. This combination proves that the pace will increase, while still incurring a lot of change. It’s in this environment that we can help businesses the most.
The big news in March for cloud was the AWS S3 outage that brought down some large pieces of the Internet with it. While the world didn’t end, it definitely caused issues and illustrated the need for a cloud strategy that accounts for vendor failure. But managing multiple clouds, accounts, and capabilities–that sounds too complex, doesn’t it?
Traditionally, you had only a couple of choices on how to manage hybrid cloud or multi-cloud service delivery, usually causing you to use multiple sets of orchestration and management tools that are technology or cloud-specific. The better approach, though, is to choose a cloud management platform like Cisco CloudCenter to manage your hybrid estate. If you choose a “One Platform” approach, you get more value by using your CMP to manage as many workload types and technologies as possible.
That brings us to the Cisco CloudCenter 4.8 release, which will release at the end of April.
This release showcases some great work, building upon previous release themes. Before this release, admins had the ability to view existing VMs via the inventory report, but weren’t able to do anything with them. Additionally, we had a list of “Day 2” operations, but no way to extend that list in a meaningful way.
4.8 presents the second of our three-phase plan around brownfield and operations by offering new features that broaden the scope of workloads that can be managed by CloudCenter, and extend what users can do via self-service. These changes deliver on the promise of “Any Cloud, One Platform”, and offer an elegant solution for reigning in shadow IT while improving both user self-service capabilities and central IT control. New features include:
Brownfield Import VMs– Import and manage previously deployed workloads along with new CloudCenter deployed workloads, in both data center and cloud.
VM or Application View– Flip between VM view and application view, for those that prefer to manage workloads at the VM level.
Action Library– Define and execute self-service post-deployment management actions further enable self-service within guardrails and that reduce the need for IT help tickets.
New Cloud Type – Alibaba Cloud support, across all regions.
Native Language Support – Chinese, Japanese, and French.
Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) – Offer to fit with the “fee for service” service providers.
Cisco Ecosystem Benefits – The combination of VM import and action library offers improved interaction with Cisco Tetration, UCS Director, and AppDynamics.
Brownfield Import VMs – Users can now import and manage previously deployed workloads alongside new CloudCenter deployments. When admins connect CloudCenter to a cloud or datacenter, they can discover and import pre-existing virtual machines and assign those discovered VMs to the appropriate owner, enabling further action and cost reporting.
This feature increases the ROI on your decision to use a one platform approach to hybrid IT management. It allows both IT and users to work together to clean up after shadow IT. Application owners can still access and manage their workloads but can now also use a wide range self-service post-deployment actions that previously needed separate tools, direct cloud access, or IT ticket requests.
VM or application view – Users can toggle between application list or VM view and now manage at the VM level through CloudCenter. Admins are able to see all imported VMs including unassigned or already assigned to a specific user. Users will get simplified management of managed applications and VMs all from a single interface. This feature offers a fine-grained view of virtual infrastructure for users that prefer to manage at the VM level.
Action Library– CloudCenter’s full lifecycle management includes definable post-deployment operations via an extensible library of actions. Users can apply these actions to either imported VMs or previously deployed applications, without logging an IT ticket, and without having to learn yet another tool. Actions are contextually aware so that they only display to the end user if they are appropriate for that cloud and state, simplifying IT management and making application owners more efficient without having to know cloud-specific tools and API calls.
Users can scale up by adding or removing CPU, memory, and disk volumes. Or they can perform other tasks like back-up a database or install an agent. Or even vMotion or “lift and shift” via linked tools—all without the hassle of an IT help request. And users don’t need deep knowledge of cloud-specific APIs or multiple environment-specific management tools.
Admins easily define or modify actions in a central library. Post-deployment actions can include common management tasks that leverage scripts, commands, environment specific API calls, or even API calls to other tools. Role based access control and context-driven policy rules guide who can use various types of actions in different deployment environments. So, Admins can provide automation guardrails by controlling access and context on who, how, when, and where actions can be used.
New Cloud Type – CloudCenter has added support for Alibaba Cloud. Now users can deploy applications to 13 regions including China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, as well as Germany and three in the United States. Alibaba cloud is making inroads as a low-cost development environment. Cloud price wars are far from over. Which gives you more reason to maintain portability and leave your cloud options open.
Native Language support – CloudCenter has expanded local language support with language packs for Chinese, Japanese, and French. Language is automatically selected based on the user’s browser language. And language is applied to all features and walkthroughs.
Service Provider License Agreement– CloudCenter now has a service provider licensing option that is a better fit for “fee for service” environments. This option is limited to Cisco qualified service providers.
Cisco Ecosystem Benefits– CloudCenter can now easily extend the value of other Cisco solutions. The combination of Brownfield import and action library delivers additional value to other IT operations tools. CloudCenter can now import VMs and deploy Tetration sensors and AppDynamics agents in both data center and cloud environments. Users can easily initiate Cisco UCS Director workflows to execute common infrastructure management tasks.
It wasn’t too long ago that companies used on-premises solutions for all of their IT and data storage needs. Now, with the growing popularity of Cloud services, the world of IT is rapidly changing. How did we get here? And more importantly, what is the future of IT and data storage?
It All Starts with Server Utilization
In the mid-1990s, when HTTP found its way outside of Tim Berners-Lee’s CERN lab and client-server computing emerged as the de facto standard for application architectures, it launched an Internet Boom in which every enterprise application had its own hardware. When you ordered that hardware, you had to think about ordering enough capacity to handle your spikes in demand as well as any high availability needs you might have.
That resulted in a lot more hardware than you really needed for some random Tuesday in March, but it also ensured that you wouldn’t get fired when the servers crashed under heavy load. Because the Internet was this new and exciting thing, nobody cared that you might be spending too much on capital expense.
But then the Internet Bubble burst and CFO types suddenly cared a whole lot. Why have two applications sit side by side and use 30 percent of their hardware most days when you could have them both run on the same physical server and utilize more of it on the average day? While that reasoning looks great on a capitalization spreadsheet, what it failed to take into account was that if one application introduced a memory leak, it brought down the other application with it, giving rise to the noisy neighbor problem.
What if there was another way to separate physical resources in some sort of isolation technique so that you could reduce the chances that applications could bring each other down?
The Birth of Virtualization and Pets vs. Cattle
The answer turned out to be the hypervisor, which could isolate resources from one another on a physical machine to create a virtual machine. This technique didn’t completely eliminate the noisy neighbor problem, but it reduced it significantly. Early uses of virtualization enabled IT administrators to better utilize hardware across multiple applications and pool resources in a way that wasn’t possible before.
But in the early 2000s, developers started to think about their architectures differently. In a physical server-only world, resources are scarce and take months to expand upon. Because of that scarcity, production deployments had to be treated carefully and change control was tight. This era of thinking has come to be known as treating machines as pets, meaning, you give them great care and feeding, oftentimes you give them names, and you go to great lengths to protect them. In a pets-centric world, you were lucky if you released new features quarterly because a change to the system increased the chances that something would fail.
What if you thought about that differently, though, given that you can create a new virtual machine in minutes as opposed to waiting months for a physical one? Not only does that cause you to think about scaling differently and not plan for peak hardware if the pooled resources are large enough (remember that, it’ll be important later), but you think about deployments differently too.
Consider the operating system patch upgrade. With pets thinking, you patch the virtual or physical machine that already exists. With this new thinking, treating virtual machines like cattle, you create the new virtual machine with the new patch and shut down the old one. This line of thinking led to more rapid releases and agile software development methodologies. Instead of quarterly releases, you could release hourly if you wanted to, since you now had the ability to introduce change or roll them back more easily. That led to a line of business teams turning to software developers as change agents for increased revenues.
Cloud: Virtualization Over HTTP and the Emergence of Hybrid Approaches
If you take the virtualization model to its next logical step, the larger the shared resource pool, the better. Make it large enough and you could share resources with people outside your organization. And since you can create virtual machines in minutes, you could rent them out by the hour. Welcome to the public cloud.
While there is a ton of innovative work going on in public cloud that takes cattle-based thinking to its extremes, larger companies in particular are noticing that a private cloud is appropriate for some of its applications. Specifically, applications with sensitive data and steady state demand are attractive for private cloud, which still offers the ability to create virtual machines in minutes even though, at the end of the day, you own the capital asset.
Given this idea that some applications run best on a public cloud while others run best on a private cloud, the concept of a cloud management platform has become popular to help navigate this hybrid cloud world. Typically these tools offer governance, benchmarking, and metering/billing so that a central IT department can put some controls around cloud usage while still giving their constituents in the line of business teams the self-service, on-demand provisioning they demand with cattle-style thinking.
What’s Next: Chickens and Feathers (Containers and FaaS)
Virtualization gave us better hardware utilization and helped developers come up with new application architectures that treated application components as disposable entities that can be created and destroyed on a whim, but it doesn’t end there. Containers, which use a lighter weight resource isolation technique than hypervisors do, can be created in seconds—a huge improvement over the minutes it takes to create a virtual machine. This is encouraging developers to think about smaller, more portable components. Some would extend the analogy to call this chickens-style thinking, in the form of microservices.
What’s better than creating a unit of compute in seconds? To do so in milliseconds, which is what Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) is all about. Sometimes this technology is known as Serverless, which is a bit of a misnomer since there is indeed a server providing the compute services, but what differentiates it from containers is that developers have to know nothing about the hot standby container within which their code runs. That means that a unit of compute can sit on disk when not in use instead of taking up memory cycles waiting for a transaction to come in. While the ramifications of this technology aren’t quite yet understood, a nanoservice approach like this extends the pets vs. cattle vs. chickens analogy to include feathers.
Just in the last 25 years or so, our industry has come a remarkably long way. Financial pressures forced applications to run coincident with siblings they might not have anything to do with, but which they could bring crumbling to their knees. Virtualization allowed us to separate resources and enabled developers to think about their application architectures very differently, leading to unprecedented innovation speed. Lighter weight resource isolation techniques make even more rapid innovations possible through containers and microservices. On the horizon, FaaS technologies show potential to push the envelope even further.
Speed and the ability to adapt to this ever-changing landscape rule the day, and that will be true for a long time to come.
If you make your living by selling computer hardware, you’ve probably noticed that the world has changed. It used to be that the people who managed IT hardware in a big company—your buyer—had all the purchasing power, and their constituents in the line-of-business teams had no place else to get IT services. You’d fill up your quota showing up with a newer version of the same hardware you sold the same people three to five years ago and everybody was happy.
Then AWS happened in 2006. Salesforce.com already happened in 1999. Lots of other IaaS and SaaS vendors started springing up all over the place, and all of a sudden, those constituents your IT buyer had a monopoly on had another place to go for IT services—places that enabled them to move faster—and the three to five-year hardware refresh cycle started to suffer.
But selling is still selling, and there are a lot of myths out there about why someone like you can’t sell cloud. Let’s debunk a few of them now.
Myth #1: My customers aren’t moving to cloud.
If your IT buyer customers haven’t seen decreased budgets for on-premises hardware, consider yourself lucky. In their cloud research survey issued last November, IDG Enterprise reported, “Cloud technology is becoming a stable to organization’s infrastructure as 70% have at least one application in the cloud. This is not the end, as 56% of organizations are still identifying IT operations that are candidates for cloud hosting.” If your IT buyer isn’t at least considering spending on cloud, it’s almost guaranteed that there is Shadow IT going on in their line-of-business teams.
Myth #2: I don’t see any Shadow IT.
Hence, the “Shadow” part. As far back as May of 2015, a Brocade survey of 200 CIOs found that over 80 percent had seen some unauthorized provisioning of cloud services. This doesn’t happen because line-of-business teams are evil. It happens because they have a need for speed and IT is great at efficiency and security but typically lousy at doing things quickly.
Myth #3: My customer workloads have steady demand.
While it is true that the cloud consumption model works best with varying demand, when you zoom in on almost any workload and examine utilization on nights and weekends, there is almost always a case to be made that any particular workload is variable.
Myth #4: Only new workloads run in cloud.
Any new technology takes on a familiar pattern where organizations try less risky, new projects that don’t necessarily impact the bottom line so they have a safe way to experiment. Cloud computing has been no different, but the tide has started to shift to legacy workloads. This past November, ZK Research compared cloud adoption to virtualization adoption by pointing out, “The initial wave of adoption then was about companies trying new things, not mission-critical workloads. Once organizations trusted the technology, major apps migrated. Today, virtualization is a no brainer because it’s a known technology with well-defined best practices. Cloud computing is going through the same trend today. ”
Myth #5: Cloud is too hard to learn.
Granted, cloud computing is different than hardware refresh, but as a sales executive it’s still about building relationships. The biggest changes relate to whom you build those relationships with (which now includes line-of-business teams instead of just IT, but that’s who has the money anyway) and utilizing the subscription-based financial model of cloud consumption. (Gartner has a great article explaining the basics.)
Myth #6: I don’t have relationships with business teams.
Certainly, there is some overhead involved in building new relationships as opposed to leveraging your existing ones, but increasingly the line-of-business teams are retaining more of their IT budgets so investing that time will pay off. Even CIO Magazine admits that CMOs will spend more than CIOs on technology in 2017. Go to where the money is—it’ll be worth your time.
Myth #7: I don’t get paid on cloud.
This one is, admittedly, the trickiest in this list because some of the solution is in the hands of your company as opposed to within your power directly. If you work for a value-added reseller, public cloud vendors have plenty of programs that indeed pay you on cloud. Even if that isn’t the case, though, educating yourself on public/private cloud differences and building those relationships with business teams can help preserve sales for the hardware a customer public cloud ultimately runs on.
Another step would be to get acquainted with a Cloud Management Platform, which is software that helps an Enterprise manage workloads across both public and private clouds from a single pane of glass. Moving up the stack to this control point can help you stay involved in key decisions your customer makes and put you in the position of a trusted advisor.
Selling is fundamentally about building relationships, understanding problems and providing solutions. Regardless of the technology encased in the solution, that will always be true. There is a learning curve involved with cloud adoption, meeting new people you haven’t worked with before and potentially adapting to a subscription-based model, but the fundamentals remain the same of providing value to someone who has some roadblock they need help getting around.
Cloud computing is all the rage today, to the point that it feels like you can’t fill out your “buzzword bingo” card at any meeting without using the phrase. There are all kinds of technical reasons why cloud has the market momentum it does, but what if you aren’t swayed by such things? If you’ve seen technology trends come and go, you need non-technical justification for moving your business in any direction, and cloud computing is no different for you.
So, what is the main justification for business owners to use cloud that doesn’t involve a lot of technical jargon? Let’s get to the bottom line and talk ROI and payback instead.
Asset Procurement Financials Before Cloud
If you go back to a simpler time, before virtualization was even a thing — let alone cloud computing — the financial justification process for IT or any other kind of capital asset was pretty much the same:
Spend a lot of money up front on equipment
Wait for that equipment to be installed and configured correctly
Reap gains to your own business based on this new equipment for years to come.
In this model, it is common to estimate what the expected annual gains were and to calculate a payback period. In other words, how long will it take you to recoup your investment made in Year 0 before the equipment is even installed? When weighing options against one another, those with shorter payback are more attractive than those with longer payback.
Another way to judge different choices against one another is with an ROI calculation. Take the total anticipated returns, subtract the total investment, divide at difference by the total investment and multiply by 100.
The difficulty with either payback or ROI approaches is that you are left to estimate the total returns. In other words, you don’t really know what benefits you’ll receive with your large, up-front purchase — you have to estimate it. And since typically this kind of analysis is made over a three-to-five-year period, it can be awhile before you figure out whether or not you’re wrong. And if you are, it can be a very expensive proposition to correct it.
Enter Cloud: Getting More At-Bats More Quickly
Instead of having to wait two years to figure out if your estimated returns are correct, wouldn’t it be better to find out sooner? And instead of estimating the returns in the first place, wouldn’t it be better if you could find out the actual benefits sooner? Also, I bet you’d rather pay as you go instead of investing all that money up front and hoping the return comes at all, right?
These are the real business benefits of cloud. In baseball terminology, it’s about getting more at-bats, or put another way, more cycles with your technology investment by trying options that don’t require the long installation lead times. That allows you to quickly evaluate the benefits of the investment with a smaller up-front investment and either celebrate the genius of your choice or admit defeat and move on to an alternative.
Think about what that means for the ROI calculation. The lone value in the denominator of that equation is the total investment. Lower that, and whatever number is in the numerator will look better.
For the payback, this cloud model enables a business not to estimate returns based on a lot of spreadsheet mechanics that are influenced by the sales team trying to get your investment, but instead can be based on your actual use of the technology as soon as possible with an option to stop without financial penalties. That lets you gather more detailed data on your financial returns sooner.
Cloud Is Not About Tech, It’s About Speedy Investments
This is the real takeaway here: Speed. In the modern economy, it is more efficient to try technology investments, quickly determine if they deliver the benefits they promise, and move on than it is to go through some long sales cycle that is followed by an even longer installation process to find out whether or not the equipment you purchased was a huge waste of resources or not. It is OK to fail, just do so quickly so you can cross that wrong answer off your list and move closer to whatever the right solution is. Doing that over and over again with solutions that you pay for as you go is a far better use of your budget.