Cisco is rolling out new hardware and software to attract enterprises considering a multi-cloud strategy (supporting one set of applications on premises and another set in the public cloud) and hybrid cloud deployments (that is, applications that can move between, or are deployed across, both private and public infrastructure).
First up is HyperFlex 3.0, the latest version of Cisco’s hyperconverged product family. The 3.0 release adds support for Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor (the product already supported VMware’s ESXi).
The system also now supports Docker containers and the Kubernetes orchestration software, which lets organizations build and run microservice applications on HyperFlex. In particular, Cisco has introduced a FlexVolume driver that provides consistent storage for containers being managed by Kubernetes.
The company is rolling out design guides for pre-validated business applications that can run on HyperFlex, such as Microsoft Exchange and Splunk, as well as applications from Oracle and SAP.
Cisco is also positioning HyperFlex 3.0 as the private cloud node in a deployment model that spans the customer premises and the public cloud.
The idea is that workloads can be moved from on premises to the cloud as required, or some elements of the application, such as data, can stay on premises while the Web front end runs in the public cloud.
HyperFlex can now also scale out to 64 nodes. The greater scale lets IT support more and larger applications within a single operational environment.
Customers can also stretch a cluster between two data centers. Synchronous replication keeps the application and data the same between the two data centers. Note that this capability is limited to sites within 100 kilometers of each other and requires Cisco’s Fabric Interconnect.
With the HyperFlex 3.0 release, the platform can be managed with InterSight, a cloud-based management option from Cisco that lets administrators monitor and manage multiple HyperFlex appliances from a cloud-based portal.
HyperFlex 3.0 will be generally available in at the end of March 2018.
Cisco has also announced Container Platform, a version of the Kubernetes orchestration software optimized to run on HyperFlex.
Container Platform includes Cisco Contiv, which is virtual networking software. The open-source software creates a network fabric to connect containers, VMs, and bare metal and lets administrators set policies, build multitenant environments, and logically segment traffic.
Container Platform will be available for HyperFlex this April.
Container Platform is also expected to run on virtual machines and bare metal servers. The goal is to provide a uniform container application environment that spans the customer premises and the public cloud.
In particular, Cisco is partnering with Google Cloud to integrate Container Platform and the Google Kubernetes Engine so customers can run applications on premises and on the Google Cloud Platform. Cisco says this capability will be available in the summer of 2018.
1. Cisco has clearly learned from its Meraki acquisition that customers like products that are relatively simple to set up and operate, and is trying to deliver a similar experience across other portfolios.
2. Cisco has found a respectable degree of success with its converged USC boxes, and is now all-in on private cloud via HyperFlex. It’s a sign of the intense competition among traditional enterprise vendors to provide software and hardware that matches the ease with which public cloud services can be consumed.
3. Cisco, VMware and other enterprise stalwarts are searching for the right strategy that blends easy-to-use premises infrastructure with a software fabric that can reach into AWS, Azure, and GCP.
Cisco and VMware also are also betting that enterprise application developers will embrace Kubernetes. That bet hasn’t proved out yet, but they’re building policy and security hooks for Kubernetes into their own products so that developers will have a familiar environment regardless of where the application runs.
At the same time, these two enterprise giants also want to ensure that the infrastructure side of the house can continue to enforce security rules, meet compliance requirements, and tweak service levels without having to instruct developers in the finer points of networking.
These are respectable goals. Enterprise IT infrastructure should align to deliver the best application environment it can.
But when it comes to hybrid cloud, I detect a whiff of magical thinking. Hybrid cloud looks great in a diagram, but a part of me can’t help thinking that it’s driven more by enterprise vendors terrified of eroding license revenue than it is by customers aching to smear their applications across two widely different domains.
That said, if there is an appetite for hybrid cloud, Cisco and others are gearing up to serve it.