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Revolutionary but not disruptive

Cisco says cloud-based Intersight provides a major breakthrough as a systems management platform.

CISCO believes that innovation needs to be revolutionary without being disruptive. In other words, it should deliver major benefits to users without being too difficult to use.

The company feels that its new cloud-based infrastructure management platform, Intersight, fits the bill as a major breakthrough systems management platform.

Intersight, which was formerly known as Project Starship, aims to offer public cloud-like access to data centre tools and resources while at the same time lowering IT operating expenditure (OpEx).

Courtney Dodds, Cisco's Asia Pacific & Japan managing director for data centres, says Intersight is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) based systems management solution for Cisco's server and hyper-converged offerings: Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and HyperFlex.

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"Cisco Intersight combines the simplicity of the cloud with actionable intelligence derived from analytics and machine learning. By moving management software to the cloud we relieve users of the burden of maintaining systems management software and hardware," says Mr Dodds.

Cisco UCS and HyperFlex are designed as programmable infrastructure with a unified API (application programme interface). As a result, no hardware is required to allow Cisco UCS or HyperFlex systems to be supported by Intersight.

What Cisco Intersight does is move the management plane to the cloud. An added benefit is machine learning to provide actionable intelligence for daily operations.

Mr Dodds notes: "Today, more than ever, businesses are implementing distributed applications and distributed infrastructure in efforts to digitise themselves and support new services.

"The speed and complexity of this rapid change is becoming challenging for existing teams to support operations and ensure performance, reliability, stability and security while delivering cloud-like agility for their applications and infrastructure."

LESS MANUAL EFFORT

Cisco Intersight will give customers the ability to reduce the manual effort required to support their server and storage infrastructure while at the same time provide better insights to improve performance, reduce outages and lower the overall cost of management.

According to Cisco, all that is required to transition to Intersight is the latest releases of UCS Manager, Integrated Management Controller (IMC) or HyperFlex software plus a new innovation which Cisco calls a device connector.

The device connector is a lightweight and autonomous piece of software enabling secure communication between the system and the Intersight portal. It is bundled with the firmware as an embedded product feature.

Existing infrastructure management systems are usually deployed on premise as separate tools and appliances. Cisco is moving the management of servers, hyper-converged infrastructure, and the associated fabric and storage, to the cloud.

What the company hopes to do is that by moving the management to the cloud, analytics and machine learning can be applied to deliver new insights which in turn result in a more proactive approach to systems management.

"Cisco UCS and HyperFlex will continue to make life easier for customers by providing actionable insight, a capability which can only be provided by using advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence technology analyses telemetry of tens of thousands of connected platforms.

"This insight will allow customers to understand if best practices are being followed, instantly apply security fixes and proactively reduce outages," says Mr Dodds.

IDC analyst Ashish Nadkarni agrees to this assessment. He feels that this cloud sourcing is "the big picture promise" of Intersight.

"What you get in this kind of model is a secure way of learning from each other," he says, explaining that a company with a 1,000-server data centre is only going to have insight over those 1,000 servers. "But if I make that 100,000 servers, because now everybody's infrastructure is pooled in terms of the learning, my chances of troubleshooting or finding out things before they happen go up."

POWER OF CLOUD

The Cisco official observes that by harnessing the power of the cloud to manage infrastructure, it is possible to use machine learning and analytics to take the pressure off IT. This is made possible by analysing the telemetry collected, combining insights and then utilising automation to make operations far easier.

"As Cisco Intersight SaaS platform, Cisco Intersight will dramatically simplify systems management by providing customers the agility and simplicity they are used to getting for traditional public cloud environments.

"Deployment, management and operations are designed to be straightforward and will continually improve, add features and functionality," Mr Dodds adds.

The Cisco official notes that Intersight has garnered immense interest from a range of customers throughout Asia-Pacific and Japan.

"Customers, such as retailers and banks that manage hundreds of servers distributed across thousands of locations, have told us that Intersight is going to help them lower operational risk and lower the cost of management.

"We see that Cisco Intersight is going to be able to help customers large and small by providing them equal capacity to manage one or thousands of servers and benefit from the analytics, security and insight," Mr Dodds adds.

SECURITY

Security was a key focus when Cisco started to design Intersight. According to the company, IT organisations need to feel confident that Cisco would deliver systems management from the cloud that offers iron-clad security.

Security is at the core of Cisco Intersight's design and it has been able to borrow technology and security operations from existing Cisco SaaS platforms, says Mr Dodds.

At a fundamental level, Cisco Intersight must comply with Cisco InfoSec protocols and data handling requirements (over 100 specific requirements).

One key aspect of the platform is multi-factor authentication for devices, encryption and it ensures only systems management information is accessible through the out-of-band system.

Mr Dodds adds that Intersight is tightly linked to Cisco Technical Assistance Centre (TAC).

As a result, many of the processes that are manual with the current on premise tools can be automated for accelerated problem isolation and troubleshooting.

Intersight has been welcomed by partners of Cisco.

In a recent blog post, titled "Next Gen Infrastructure Management with Cisco Intersight", a Pure Storage spokesman said: "Pure Storage looks forward to creating enhanced customer and partner value with Cisco through the Intersight management and analytics platform. With the development of new connectors, integrations and insights gained from machine learning that enable faster, proactive operations, we look forward to continued collaborations with Cisco to deliver the best-in-class data platform for the cloud era."

Pure Storage is a Mountain View, California-based enterprise data flash storage company.

In the future, as Intersight learns from a larger portion of the install base, Cisco will offer more proactive alerting and problem remediation through Intersight. This will help reduce the risk of performance problems and downtime.

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