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Cisco Intersight to take data center networking to the cloud

Networking will eventually become a critical component of Cisco Intersight, a new cloud-based data center management system focused on the computing layer today.

Cisco's new cloud-based system for managing converged infrastructure in the data center is currently focused mostly on the computing layer. In the future, however, network management will become a critical component.

On Thursday, the hardware-maker introduced Cisco Intersight, a software-as-a-service system that will eventually become a full-fledged management option for the company's Unified Computing System (UCS) and HyperFlex, a hyper-converged infrastructure platform. To meet that goal of a complete management system, Cisco plans to add capabilities for network operators.

"The goal is that you have a consistent policy framework across the data center," said Ken Spear, product marketing manager for UCS at Cisco. "We're simplifying things, so that also has to occur at the [network] fabric level."

Cisco Intersight and networking

Intersight, which is available as a tech preview, will contain some of the capabilities of UCS Manager, with others added over time. The SaaS system will also include the Cisco Integrated Management Controller, which is used to connect UCS Manager to external servers.

Eventually, Cisco will tack on UCS Director, an orchestrator that ties together hypervisor, network, storage and compute. UCS Director can be used to configure Layer 4-7 services, such as load balancers and firewalls. Director does this by providing a UCS connector to Cisco's software-defined networking platform, Application Centric Infrastructure.

UCS Director's integration into Cisco Intersight will mark the start of the system's network management piece, Spear said. "That's when it will tie into networks."

The details of that tie-in are unavailable, but it's safe to assume that network operators will benefit from the performance metrics, telemetry and device-tracking data Intersight will gather and analyze. Network managers will also get access to Intersight's analytics and machine learning capabilities, which will help with maintenance, troubleshooting and automation.

The goal of Cisco Intersight

Cisco's grand plan is to provide context data to every IT group -- network, storage, server and virtualization, said Torsten Volk, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.

"Intersight aims to bridge the traditional data center silos -- with their individual element managers -- so that policies, cost control, telemetry and performance metrics can be centrally applied," Volk said.

Cisco is building a 'one-stop shop for management of everything data-center-related.'
Andrew Froehlichpresident of West Gate Networks

In essence, Cisco is building a "one-stop shop for management of everything data-center-related," said Andrew Froehlich, a TechTarget contributor and president of the network consultancy West Gate Networks in Loveland, Colo.

"It's a great play by Cisco, since they are one of the few companies to offer products for almost every data center function," Froehlich said.

Intersight is available as a tech preview that's limited to telemetry collection. In the fourth quarter, Cisco plans to release an Essentials version that will include analytics, system monitoring and operational capabilities. The service will cost $12.49 per month for each physical server. Cisco plans to release more expensive versions incorporating additional features later.

Intersight fits into Cisco's strategy of increasing recurring revenue from software and cloud-based services over the next several years to offset declining hardware sales. The move toward software and the cloud also helps Cisco in its goal of simplifying network infrastructure complexity.

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