I Have the Best Job in Cisco: John Manville

You are part of Cisco's infrastructure team. How involved are you in Cisco's sales or marketing processes with external customers?

That's a big part of my job. Maybe I think I should start by saying that I have, I believe, the best job in Cisco and in any infrastructure team because Cisco is generally seen as an infrastructure company, rather than just a networking company. So yes, we do use a lot of Cisco products not just in the cloud space, but also in a lot of different areas as beta tests. We deploy them in our labs, try them out, and give feedback to the business units which actually go on to develop the products. We give them pretty robust feedback about what enterprises need and they give us ideas on how we can best use the products, and then we install them in our environment. However, we don't really put these solutions into production until they are ready for the enterprise and start creating business value. After this stage, we talk to customers in detail about how we use the products and what real value to the business these products give.

Is there any interesting implementation of Cisco's solutions that you are trying to showcase to your external customers? Something that other customers should be doing as well?

Cisco IT has made a concerted effort, and we are 98 percent through in moving towards x86-based compute platforms based off Cisco's very own Unified Computing System (UCS) platform. This migration of applications from their previous platforms to Linux mostly and a little bit of Windows and UCS has been an 18 month-long journey. I think one of the biggest moves we made--that turned out perfectly well not only because of the benefits of the products, but also because of the testing we did--was moving out all the management systems onto the UCS.

Cisco was a $46 billion company in FY12, which means $46 billion worth of orders had to go through the order management system residing on the UCS. We had to make sure that was rock-solid, and luckily, UCS and all its related testing came through with flying colors. We did that probably 14 months ago. This was one of the biggest things we did with the UCS.

Right now, we are speaking about UCS to a very large U.S.-based company. We have moved a lot of Oracle applications and databases onto UCS because those are what are widely used in an ERP environment. This particular company wants to do exactly that move from an existing compute platform to UCS.Could you elaborate on your private cloud CITEIS? Cloud has been and is a major transition. While there are different types of clouds, the one I specifically am responsible for is an internal cloud, which we have developed within the infrastructure team, called the Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS).

This is an IaaS cloud and it originally provided just a self-provisioning mechanism for virtual machines, but we were quick to realize that this capability alone wasn't sufficient for the application teams. They needed an application environment. So, we are now aggressively working on building out higher up the stack to what is normally called the PaaS layer. We are putting a lot of new functionality in there so that it's much easier for the app teams to provision database schemas, Web servers and various other things which make it much easier for them to put their applications straight on top.

This cloud is purely for Cisco's internal purposes. Although all the technologies we use are products that Cisco sells, we believe this can be reproduced for customers as well.

How will enterprises gain from using this solution?

There are two main advantages. One is reducing the provisioning time. There are different definitions for what a cloud is, but cloud, in general, has some aspects of real-time self-service provisioning, and we are trying to go further up the stack to do more.

For instance, I was giving a demo on storage provisioning just the other day. Storage doesn't sound interesting. What's new about provisioning storage? The difference we can show is a drastic increase in the productivity of the storage provisioning team because we now have the self-service interface using Cisco technology where they can assign storage to individual VMs or a collection of VMs, within a very short span of time. We currently have a whole team of people doing this provision work manually, and this is going to help us move those people on to doing things of greater value for us. That boils down to agility.

The second benefit is reduction of TCO. UCS itself brings about a fair amount of TCO reduction. That, along with the cloud itself, and automation on top of that, can reduce TCO to a greater extent. And that TCO includes all the aspects we can think of: DC space, operational staff, implementation staff, and the technology integration team.

Eric Ernest is a correspondent for CIO India and ComputerWorld India. Send your feedback to eric_ernest@idgindia.com.

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