Cisco 'Data Center Anywhere' Vision Includes ACI, HyperFlex, CloudCenter Updates


Cisco wants to bring the power of the data center to wherever customers need it most, whether it’s in a public cloud, on-premises, or at the edge.

To that end, Cisco took to Cisco Live in Barcelona to unveil a series of updates to its data center portfolio, including the expansion of applications-centric infrastructure (ACI) to the public cloud, the extension of HyperFlex to the edge, and enhancements to its CloudCenter offering. The updates, according to Cisco, are moving the data center from a centralized, to a distributed model, to get networking, compute and storage closer to where the demand is located.

"Cisco is trying to focus more on services and applications, and less on the data center aspects of operation," said Ryan Marsyla, strategic director of architecture for Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based managed service provider and Cisco partner.

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At the same time, customers are looking for a simplified, automated, and scalable operations model across their entire infrastructure, according to Brian Ortbals, vice president of advanced technology for solution provider and fellow Cisco partner, World Wide Technology (WWT).

"So much has changed around where our customer's data lives, so it's created an entirely new mindset around the infrastructure itself in the spirit of trying to create a better experience for users and operators," Ortbals said.

In its latest series of data center product updates, Cisco is simplifying what it takes for businesses to connect applications to the cloud and to the edge, including branch or remote locations, he said.

"Our customers need to be able to more quickly provision, operate, and troubleshoot their infrastructure, whether it's in their data center, in a third party's cloud, or at the edge," Ortbals said.

Cisco on Wednesday in Spain revealed that ACI, its intent-based networking solution for the data center and remote locations, will be available in AWS and Microsoft Azure environments starting in Cisco's Q2, letting businesses extend ACI into these popular Infrastructure as a Service environments.

Customers need unified security policies across their IT environments, so Cisco bringing this capability to the cloud is important, Trace3's Marsyla said. "I think it's a good move on Cisco's part, and it’s the way we see our community of developers wanting to interact with the public cloud," he said.

Cisco announced the expansion of HyperFlex, its software-defined storage and converged infrastructure system, into branch offices and remote locations. The offering means businesses can more easily deploy hyperconverged infrastructure from their data centers, all the way to the edge of their IT environments. Extending HyperFlex means customers can expect high levels of application performance, even far away from the data center. Customers can expect this update in Q2, the company said.

"There's nothing 'centered' about data anymore," said Daniel McGinniss, senior director of data center marketing for Cisco. "Customers need data processing out closer to the source of the demand to deliver the best customer experience for things like IoT … for us, it's about enabling the data center to go anywhere the data is, and the simpler that we can be is one less dynamic that has to get factored into the decision-making process that customers are going though."

CloudCenter is also getting an update. The latest enhancements to CloudCenter will let customers manage applications, including automation, governance and cost in real-time, across multiple cloud environments.

"CloudCenter can help customers downsize instances they might be renting from Amazon to save some money, and when you multiply that out across thousands of VMs a customer might have in the cloud, this becomes really impactful," said Todd Brannon, senior director of data center marketing for Cisco.

Cisco also wanted to make its CloudCenter suite easier to consume, so U.S.-based customers can expect tiered pricing and simplified deployment during Q1, and Q2 for Europe.

Lastly, Cisco revamped its data center enterprise agreement because customers were asking for a simpler way to buy and manage tech across their data center architecture, just as they have been doing across Cisco's security and collaboration portfolios. Customers can now purchase ACI, HyperFlex, cloud management dashboard Intersight, and data center analytics platform Tetration via a single three or five-year enterprise agreement, available later this quarter.

The new enterprise data center agreement is important for both partners and end customers, WWT's Orbals said. "It's one thing to architecture great technology, but if it's difficult to consume, then that's where it starts to break down for our customers."

The enterprise agreement allows partners remove another barrier to entry for customers, while giving these businesses access to a more integrated platform that doesn't require the purchase of separate licenses, Orbals added.

Perhaps most importantly, partners said, the updates give the channel more of the kind of tools and functionality they need to go beyond the role of a VAR and enter into managed service provider territory.

"Customers don't want to go through the rigor of managing multiple sites and solutions, were we can start deploying these things with cloud manageability and laying our services for optimization support, day two operations, or general managed services to help customers manage data at the edge," Marsyla said.