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Cisco’s Unified Computing System goes hybrid at Future Cloud event

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Cisco Systems Inc. is expanding up its hybrid cloud program with a host of new technologies being announced at its Future Cloud virtual event today.

Today’s announcements are the result of a multibillion-dollar investment aimed at building more cloud capabilities into every aspect of Cisco’s networking tools, with a focus on delivering “Continuity, Insights, Security, Connectivity and Operations,” the company said.

Cisco is catering to the enterprise shift toward multiple cloud computing infrastructure platforms that enable faster digital transformation. In its pitch today, it explained that enterprises are struggling to provide their customers with an optimal digital experience from wherever they need access. To address those challenges, they’re moving to cloud-driven operational models that are based on speed, insight and control in order to handle the greater distribution of applications and their users.

One problem for enterprises is that hybrid cloud models come with their own challenges, as they lead to complex information technology environments that can quickly overwhelm the teams trying to manage them. It’s this complexity that Cisco is trying to ease with its hybrid cloud networking infrastructure, and the new Cisco Unified Computing System X-Series offering will be central to its plans.

Cisco UCS is a converged data center architecture that integrates computing, networking and storage resources to increase efficiency and enable centralized management. It’s used by more than 50,000 customers worldwide, Cisco says, and this is the first version designed to enable hybrid operations across multiple cloud platforms.

As well as the basic architecture, Cisco announced several new Intersight services that are meant to help implement, manage and run it across hybrid cloud environments. For example, the new Cisco Intersight Cloud Orchestrator is a low-code automation framework that’s used to orchestrate infrastructure and workloads to accelerate the delivery of new services across networks.

Meanwhile, Intersight Workload Engine is a new operating system for Cisco’s hyperconverged infrastructure platforms that are built on UCS. It provides a platform for modern, cloud-native workloads with consistent software-as-a-service management, the company said.

Cisco Service Mesh Manager is an extension to the Intersight Kubernetes Service that enables more visibility and simplified management with policy-based security for Kubernetes clusters hosted on-premises or in the cloud. That’s important, because Kubernetes is the most common tool used to manage large numbers of containers, which host the components of modern, cloud-native applications that run anywhere.

A hybrid cloud environment demands a new generation of observability tools, and Cisco has enterprises covered there too. By integrating its ThousandEyes internet and cloud intelligence service with its Cisco Catalyst 8000 Edge Series and Cisco Nexus 9000 networking switches, Cisco said, it can provide insights on network health and application performance across clouds, data centers, campuses, branch offices and everywhere else in the network between users and applications.

On security, Cisco announced a new Nexus Dashboard Orchestrator service that can be used to configure and manage common policies across multiple on-premises sites as well as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure regions. Support for Google Cloud will be added later in the year.

Todd Nightingale, Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of enterprise networking and cloud, said the company was trying to help customers to become “cloud smart” to deliver new kinds of applications that can live in multicloud environments. “From infrastructure teams to app developers, Cisco can provide the level of observability and insight they need to orchestrate and manage applications and workloads no matter where they reside,” he said.

The company is also stepping up its efforts to help enterprises to adopt its new networking infrastructure across hybrid cloud environments through its new customer advisory services. CX Business Critical Services for Cloud, for example, provides advisory services and expertise to help customers architect, deploy, secure and then optimize their digital transformations. CX Intersight Workload Optimizer Services, meanwhile, is a consulting service for customers that want to enhance the resource consumption of their cloud-based applications.

International Data Corp. analyst Stephen Elliot said one of the challenges of hybrid cloud IT environments is that they can become overwhelmingly complex very quickly.

“IT teams must monitor and optimize application experiences, working alongside developers,” Elliot said. “Cisco’s latest hybrid cloud innovations are a bold effort to position the company as a cloud-neutral enabler for businesses.”

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research Inc., said Cisco is pushing ahead with its cloud ambitions with the launch of the UCS X-Series, aided by offerings based on Kubernetes and observability. “It’s smart to combine its security DNA with thousands of eyes because security is of course top of mind for many enterprises,” he added.

Image: Cisco

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