Cisco uncrates Kubernetes for Intersight, debuts a dashing dashboard

Switchzilla cloud glue lashes IT systems together

Cisco on Wednesday augmented its Intersight systems management platform with container juggling code and introduced a dashboard for overseeing data center networks.

In conjunction with its Cisco Partner Digital Summit, the networking biz announced Intersight Kubernetes Services, a tool for managing software containers across private and public clouds, and Nexus Dashboard, an interface to unify other management applications.

In a phone interview with The Register, Prashanth Shenoy, VP of marketing at Cisco, said that the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the pace of change in IT organizations, which are attempting to implement digital transformation projects in days or weeks rather than months or years.

"Every CIO we talk to is rethinking operational models," said Shenoy. Cisco, he said, is trying to meet customer needs by making IT operations more nimble and by providing simpler, more compelling tools.

"This is an evolution of Cisco's platform strategy as we move toward more automation and insights," said Shenoy. "We want to break silos in IT applications."

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Will Townsend, senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, thinks Cisco's plan makes sense. "In general I believe these efforts will help ease deployment and operations especially in light of the pandemic and need for business resiliency," he said in an email to The Register. "In my opinion they also have the potential to accelerate cloud adoption and automation."

Intersight, which provides management for Cisco UCS and Cisco HyperFlex platforms, is available as a SaaS offering or on-premises via the Intersight virtual appliance. It also offers services for virtualization and Terraform-based codable infrastructure.

Intersight Kubernetes Services, available in the first half of 2021, add the ability to automate the configuration and deployment of Kubernetes (K8s) clusters across VMware ESXi, open source hypervisors, and bare metal via Cisco HyperFlex Application Platform, and in public cloud K8s services like AWS EKS, Azure AKS and, soon, Google Cloud GKE.

This K8s concoction is complemented by another new addition, Intersight Workload Optimizer, a tool that allows IT teams to manage resources across servers, hypervisors, and clusters, so as to balance application performance and cost.

Todd Brannon, senior director of data center marketing at Cisco, said that as containers go mainstream, core IT teams are being asked to operationalize Kubernetes clusters and the tools for doing so are new to many of them.

"It's all about how we simplify Kubernetes for these teams," said Brannon. "We're taking the burden off customers' shoulders so they don't have to build a monster to manage a monster."

Nexus Dashboard, available before the end of the year, provides a single interface for managing multiple sites, on-premises or cloud-based, and multiple operational services like Cisco Nexus Insights, Network Assurance Engine NAE for ACI-NXOS, and the Multi-Site Orchestrator, among others.

"The strength of the announcement is the capabilities that enable IT operations to shift to a proactive management model," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, in an email to The Register. "For example, Nexus Insights lets customers manage the fabric in real time but can predict when problems will occur, letting customers address them before they become business impacting."

Kerravala echoed Shenoy's claim that cloud deployments, strong over the past decade, have accelerated since the pandemic began. He contends that while the use of public cloud services continues to grow, most businesses will adopt a hybrid cloud model, which will eventually include distributed clouds running at the edge of the network.

Kerravala said that while Intersight is being positioned as a tool for managing multi-cloud environments, he believes it will also address the distributed clouds at the network edge.

"Distributed clouds have a lot of potential but add to the complexity of IT and Cisco's Intersight can reduce that by being a common dashboard," he said.

Kerravala said Cisco has done a good job of rolling dashboards for various IT tasks. He said the company is beginning to tie these tools together and believes continued investments to support these efforts make sense. ®

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