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Cisco expands CloudCenter for multi-cloud management

Cisco hopes additions and changes to its CloudCenter software will appeal to companies that want to work with multiple clouds.

Cisco has beefed up its CloudCenter multi-cloud management software to help enterprises work with disparate environments, rather than attempt to compete with the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Now called CloudCenter Suite, the product delivers workflow automation, application lifecycle management, cost optimization and governance across multiple clouds through a series of modules. It's also built on a container-based architecture with Kubernetes, which provides benefits such as modularity and abstraction from underlying infrastructure. This differs from CloudCenter's original deployment model, which grouped features more closely together onto virtual machines.

The Workload Manager module addresses governance of public and private cloud environments. Cost Optimizer analyzes, delivers reports and makes recommendations on how customers spend money in hybrid cloud scenarios. Both are subsets of the CloudCenter Suite. Action Orchestrator, which builds on Cisco's acquisitions of Cmpute.io in December 2017 and CliQr in March 2016, handles workflow automation.

Other modules in the Cisco CloudCenter Suite include Suite Admin for central administration of CloudCenter tasks and Suite Installer, which installs the Kubernetes version of CloudCenter Suite in public and private cloud environments.

Cisco also added a more granular purchase model for CloudCenter. Many customers are interested in multi-cloud management capabilities, but lack an appetite for a full suite, a Cisco official said.

CloudCenter is available in three subscription license tiers: Essentials, Advantage and Premier. Essentials provides a basic set of cost reporting, governance tools and adapters. Advantage and Premier add richer features to each subcategory. Specific prices for each weren't disclosed.

The product is supported on multiple clouds, including Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Dimension Data and IBM Cloud.

How to cut the multi-cloud fog

Cisco is far from the only vendor attempting to present itself as an ideal partner for enterprises' multi-cloud management needs. The list runs from large companies, such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), to smaller ones, such as RightScale, which Flexera acquired in September.

Some large players shaped their multi-cloud strategy after they failed to gain a foothold in the market as public cloud providers. Cisco, for one, shuttered its Intercloud public cloud service in 2017. HPE pulled the plug on its own public cloud, Helion, in January 2016, and Dell and VMware long ago gave up public cloud aspirations.

Everyone is focused on helping the infrastructure guys [with multi-cloud management].
Naveen Chhabraanalyst, Forrester Research

The industry is in a bit of a multi-cloud hype wave, so customers must be especially careful to determine how this approach would benefit and fit within their enterprise.

A number of roles within enterprise IT shops have a stake in multi-cloud, said Naveen Chhabra, an analyst at Forrester Research. Application developers are at the center of gravity for cloud consumption, he said. Some companies have targeted developers in a multi-cloud context, evidenced by GitLab's recent partnership with TriggerMesh.

Other companies, such as Cisco, HPE and NetApp, have focused on IT infrastructure professionals, who may have a command from above to make all cloud assets accessible through a single management pane.

Naveen Chhabra, analyst at ForresterNaveen Chhabra

"Everyone is focused on helping the infrastructure guys," Chhabra said.

Storage administrators are also interested in the cloud, particularly for less frequently accessed data. And a fourth group, virtualization managers, have a potential stake in multi-cloud, given the increased options to push on-premises VMware workloads to AWS, Azure and other public clouds. Storage and VM pros may see their roles draw closer together over time, thanks to trends such as hyper-converged infrastructure, Chhabra said.

As for Cisco, CloudCenter Suite is a step forward, but more of an "accumulation of products," he said. Cisco has more work to do with integrating its various components, he added. "It's a vision."

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