Cisco Future Cloud: one event, a world of opportunities

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Since early 2020, businesses have driven a program of digital transformation, at a scale and speed never previously experienced. For many organisations, cloud – and hybrid cloud in particular – has been key as they adapt to a rapidly evolving business environment. With cloud, they’ve been able to break down silos, help distributed teams cooperate, and benefitted from the flexibility and versatility that only multi-platform architecture and applications can deliver.

Simultaneously, said Cisco chief strategy officer, Liz Centoni, infrastructure and operations teams are working to enable developers to build and release code to production safely while addressing distributed data requirements and infrastructures. “They want to be able to offer choice across on-premises, edge, SaaS and public cloud environments… and make the infrastructure dynamic by offering everything as a service where possible.”

In a drive to satisfy these needs, Cisco debuted new products and services for cloud-focused developers and enterprises, which will enable their continued transition to a cloud-centric operation ready to meet the requirements of an increasingly hybrid workforce.

Hardware for the future

The first of these was Cisco’s UCS X-Series Modular System, built specifically to serve the requirements of private cloud and edge computing. With improved power distribution, physical layout and cooling airflow, it sports more than 600 cores and blurs the line between rack and blade infrastructure.

Kaustubh Das, vice president of Cisco’s Computing Systems Product Group, described X-Series as “the world’s first system designed for use across all cloud environments” and “a home for your private cloud, running whichever software suits your business.” The hardware has been designed to make maximum use of today’s PCI fabric, and to support CSL and optical interconnects, as well as specialised nodes for storage, accelerators like FGPAs, and GPUs.

“But,” explained Das, “if you want to be truly cloud smart you need to unbox your operating model to adopt a platform built for hybrid cloud operations”. To this end, Cisco has made X-Series not only the device on which organisations will land their private cloud, but a cornerstone of its Intersight Platform, to give access to compute environments, APM tools, public cloud platforms, AWS, Azure, Kubernetes, networking infrastructure and storage arrays.

Configuration from the desktop

With Intersight Cloud Orchestrator and Intersight Workload Engine, announced at the same time, IT Ops can use workflows to orchestrate infrastructure and workloads more quickly, and accelerate delivery of services in containerised environments using Infrastructure as Code (IaC), in which setting up and maintaining resources is click-and-keyboard task rather than one that requires physical hardware configuration. Once operating, admins will use visual workflows to monitor which applications are running – and where – how healthy they are, where performance could be improved, and where savings can be made.

Speaking at the event, HashiCorp field CTO Ray Ploski pointed to the multiple practical benefits of IaC, including the ability to action on-demand deployments. “Infrastructure as Code lets managers define what infrastructure looks like in a declarative format so it can be torn down quickly and reconfigured as required,” he said, and they can “reduce risk by having best of breed solutions and stacks for telemetry, security, storage, networking or deep databases.”

IaC has also been applied to other components within the portfolio, including the upgraded Identity Services Engine 3.1 which, when rolled out, will allow for automated deployments, and for workloads to be hosted and managed remotely in AWS, Azure and Google Cloud environments, not solely on virtual machines or appliances on premises.

Network monitoring and diagnosis

Cisco executive vice president, Todd Nightingale, described automation and observability as “the two pillars of a cloud neutral, cloud smart operation… which is why we’re focused on full stack serviceability, not just within the workflow itself, but the full reachability of the application to the end user.” Cisco is therefore accelerating its work on AppDynamics and ThousandEyes, the latter of which has been integrated into SD-WAN so that admins can monitor every hop in the SDN underlay to quickly diagnose pinch points.

Cisco Service Mesh Manager, available as an extension of the Intersight Kubernetes Service, allows for more complete monitoring of infrastructure and operating environments so as to minimise latency and maintain application responsiveness. It controls how services share data and helps IT Ops teams to better understand how various operations connect using visual topology. In this way, they can see that every link between application components is secure – and required. If underlying statistics indicate that any are no longer needed, they can be taken out of the loop.

Ready for the workplace of the future

The announced products and services are rolling out over the coming months, but they already have broad industry interest and support, with the event’s guest speakers including Jeff Reed, VP for Google Cloud, and Navin Shenoy of Intel.

They were joined by Accenture senior managing director Vishal Talwar, who saw cloud as a catalyst for organisations to completely rethink how they drive their digital transformation. “Most organisations need to rethink and adapt to what the workplace of the future is going to look like,” he said. “Networking, and cloud, is going to play a big, big role in that.”

For further information on the products and services announced, as well as insight into how hybrid cloud will contribute to organisations’ continued evolution over the coming years, the Cisco Future Cloud event is available to watch on demand here. 

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