Cisco Cloudifies Datacenter Management With Intersight

By Matt Kimball - September 27, 2017
Anybody who followed Cisco Live probably heard CEO Chuck Robbins deliver Cisco Systems ’ vision of the cloud datacenter. Robbins focused on enabling intent-based networking, a concept that allows network managers to translate business requirements into networking requirements through automated policies. The need for intuitive and contextual networking is driven in part by the proliferation of IoT and edge computing. As you would expect, this vision will be achieved by extending the Meraki architecture. Cisco’s vision of systems and cloud management was also presented in greater detail at Cisco Live. Project Starship is a multi-year endeavor that aims to automate datacenter management. Where Meraki achieves intent-based networking, Starship will ultimately deliver intent-based computing—think datacenter automation by way of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The Autonomic Datacenter Starship appears to be delivering on the vision of the self-managing datacenter. Imagine telemetry data being collected across thousands of servers and analyzed in real time. This, in turn, allows for the most efficient use of resources to deliver services to users across an organization. In other words, machines learning from machines, which then use this intelligence to deliver the best performing services at the lowest cost. Or in other cases, machines learning from machines to predict failures days in advance, in order to avoid disruptions in service.
Revolution Meets Evolution
Cisco Systems took its first step in achieving this vision by launching Intersight, a cloud-based management and automation platform for its Unified Computing System (UCS) and Hyperflex Systems. Cisco is positioning Intersight as systems management as a service, delivering lifecycle management of server and hyperconverged platforms across multiple cloud environments. Cisco’s approach of incrementally driving along the path to datacenter automation is smart. IT organizations have traditionally achieved success by being conservative in the adoption of new technologies. Allowing customers to develop familiarity throughout the evolution of Intersight should lead to its full potential eventually being realized. Additionally, this model should allow Cisco to build and maintain a leadership position in datacenter management. Deployment and Licensing Available in Q4, Intersight will initially have two editions. Intersight Base is what you would expect: basic hardware inventory and monitoring of UCS and HyperFlex systems. Base also acts as the launch point for management platforms such as Cisco UCS Manager. Intersight Base is free to customers who have Intersight enabled platforms (Intersight device connector). Intersight Essentials builds on the Base edition. Essentials is where organizations can begin to deploy policy-based configuration, firmware and lifecycle management. Intersight Essentials will be licensed on a subscription basis. Customers will be expected to pay $12.49 (US) per physical server, per month. Understanding that not all IT organizations want to manage their systems in a hosted model, Cisco will eventually make an on-prem version available for purchase. The timeline for that availability has not been communicated as of yet.
Cisco seems to understand the importance of the ecosystem to the success of Intersight. Through RESTful APIs, Intersight can interface with third-party cloud management tools such as Ansible, Chef and Puppet.
Is This Science Fiction?
If this sounds like science fiction to you, you’re not alone. Cisco is on to something, though. Digital Transformation is driving rapid change in the datacenter. Compute, storage and networking are all services that must be provisioned and re-provisioned in seconds. These services must support a variety of services residing both on-prem and in the cloud, and the availability and elasticity of these resources will be key to driving TCO.
Most IT organizations can’t manage this resource orchestration efficiently. Server utilization rates linger in the 30% range, VM sprawl is a problem organizations still deal with, containers and microservices demand instant access to resources, and systems management and maintenance is still time-consuming. There is need for a more automated datacenter.
Moor Insights & Strategy Quick Take
The longer-term vision of Intersight is spot-on. Not only does it address the issues IT organizations face today, but it also provides a platform that can accommodate the unknowns of tomorrow. If Cisco successfully executes this vision, it will firmly position itself as a leader in multi-cloud infrastructure orchestration and management.
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Matt Kimball is a Moor Insights & Strategy senior datacenter analyst covering servers and storage. Matt’s 25 plus years of real-world experience in high tech spans from hardware to software as a product manager, product marketer, engineer and enterprise IT practitioner.  This experience has led to a firm conviction that the success of an offering lies, of course, in a profitable, unique and targeted offering, but most importantly in the ability to position and communicate it effectively to the target audience.