Cisco Prime for Data Center Assurance

Cisco Prime Carrier Management: Use Cases for Data Center Assurance

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What You Will Learn

Managing the physical, virtual, network, and compute infrastructures within data centers has become an increasingly complex challenge, with multiple separate and overlapping technology solutions that slow operations and contribute to cost inefficiency. The problem is exacerbated by rising numbers of subscribers, new applications, and growing bandwidth demands. Cisco Prime™ Carrier Management provides integrated, end-to-end performance monitoring and fault management of the network, compute, and storage environments within data centers. These and other features provide much higher efficiency and a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). This white paper provides an overview of leading use cases related to infrastructure and application assurance and capacity management in the data center using the unified, workflow-oriented, and highly automated features of Cisco Prime Carrier Management.

Overview: Unified Assurance across the Data Center and WAN

Within today’s data centers, legacy processes and disparate user interfaces and agents are used to manage physical and virtual devices for compute, network, and storage infrastructure. This results in an inefficient, slow, and highly complex environment for those tasked with managing infrastructure, applications, and capacity. By contrast, a unified, comprehensive solution for physical and virtual resources can overcome the shortcomings of multiple and sometimes overlapping point solutions.

Cisco Prime Carrier Management provides a unified monitoring and management solution that is capable of managing physical and virtual resources across the data centers and WANs and across compute, network, and storage infrastructure, thus reducing complexity, simplifying operations, and lowering TCO. It is a truly unique product in the marketplace as it spans multiple areas across the data center and WAN - from technologies to services to subscriber access networks - with centralized, end-to-end, automated workflows for provisioning, monitoring, and management of service quality, along with application delivery, and resource utilization. Additionally, a standards-based northbound interface (NBI) with open API provides easy integration with third-party applications. (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Unified Assurance Across the Data Center and WAN

This paper focuses on uses cases for data center assurance based on the many management features available with products in the Cisco Prime Carrier Management suite. As a scalable and flexible data center assurance solution, Cisco Prime Carrier Management features integrated performance monitoring and fault management technologies. It is an integral component of Cisco® Unified Management, which is part of the Cisco Unified Data Center platform that provides a portfolio of management software solutions to complement Cisco networking and compute systems.

Use Cases for Data Center Assurance

Cisco Prime Carrier Management supports a variety of use cases that make it much easier for network, compute, and storage administrators to ensure the availability and timely maintenance of data center routers, switches, servers, and other infrastructure. Assurance is a critical component of data center operations as it helps ensure that services meet customer needs and service-level agreements (SLAs).

Data center assurance is a subset of capabilities provided by Cisco Prime Carrier Management, with products that encompass management of the data center and WAN, for end-to-end mobile networks, evolved programmable networks (EPNs), video networks, and cloud networks. Specific capabilities include (Figure 2):

Infrastructure Assurance consists of management of the physical and virtual devices used in the network, compute, and storage environments, including how they impact each other through root-cause analysis, virtualization mapping, and network and storage impact analysis.

Application Assurance includes services and application lifecycle management, application performance assessment, customer impact analysis in the event of a network failure, and other management tasks related to application services.

Capacity management utilizes data gathered from infrastructure assurance to determine how and where to optimally provision a new virtual machine (VM), compute resource optimization across the data center, provide capacity planning based on future needs, and perform other tasks related to capacity planning.

Figure 2. Infrastructure and Services Assurance Management

The following use cases fit into the broader data center assurance categories above. They include tasks that are currently handled by administrators on a daily basis as well as operational features that may be contemplated in the future, based on the adoption of specific architectures or technologies (for example, the virtualization of network functions).

Cisco Prime Carrier Management differs from competitive solutions because it does not focus on compute, network, or storage environments alone but rather encompasses them all. Another unique feature is its ease of scalability to support the largest, most complex, and dynamic networks. Additionally, highly granular and specialized network performance monitoring and other management tasks are possible based on the product’s open integration with other Cisco Prime and third-party products through the NBI API.

Providing Assurance for the Compute, Network, and Storage Infrastructure

Virtualization, automation, orchestration, and other features have made traditional and cloud computing environments more efficient but also more complex to manage using legacy approaches and products. VM sprawl, for example, can quickly outpace an administrator’s ability to manage the virtual environment effectively. Other challenges include gaining real-time visibility into which VMs may be underutilized, troubleshooting VM issues, organizing virtual or bare metal servers for use as compute-as-a-service offerings, and synchronizing a customer ordering portal to compute resources. If a compute service goes down, administrators should be able to conduct a root-cause analysis to determine service disruption causes following a service impact alert. Examples of disruption causes may include loss of network connectivity due to the outage of a blade server network connection, a VM outage caused by the local blade server disk failing, or a VM failing due to a rack server power supply failure.

All of the above use cases are offered as examples of common data center assurance challenges that are addressed by features in Cisco Prime Carrier Management (Table 1).

Table 1. Compute, Network, and Storage Infrastructure Assurance Use Cases

Use Case

Data Center Assurance Features of Cisco Prime Carrier Management

Onboard new customer

When onboarding a new customer through a self-service portal, synchronize the customer information to the assurance system.
Create administrative user credentials for the customer company so it can manage activity of its users on the portal.
Associate customer services with compute service.
Determine when service resources have been successfully provisioned.
Collect inventory related to each service request and associate with customer.

View and manage VMs from a single location

From a single location, search and find VMs by name, IP address, and Domain Name System (DNS) name.
View VM, OS running on VM, and performance statistics of VM and associated alarms.
Compare the VM’s performance with the hypervisor and blade server on which it is running.
View network and storage dependencies for the VM.
Track the lifecycle and priority of the VM and see its availability (that is, over 24 hours, one month, or quarterly).

Manage VMs supported by VMware vCenter Server

View VMs and their performance statistics.
Add new vCenter instance for inventory collection based on detection of all hypervisors managed by the vCenter instance.
Detect VMs that belong to the hypervisor.
Collect inventory for VM and hypervisor and enable performance polling of CPU, memory, temperature, and power.
Access VM and hypervisor availability reports.

Manage compute-as-a- service offering

Whether provisioned on a VM or on a bare metal blade or rack server, service can be easily located through a search of name, IP address, DNS name, or customer name.
The resources used to provide the service can be viewed along with their performance statistics, events, alarms, and metrics on availability.
The lifecycle and priority of the VM used can be tracked to see availability of the service (that is, over 24 hours, one month, or quarterly).

Troubleshoot a VM

In response to an alarm, search for server by name, IP address, and DNS name.
Obtain VM details (including customer that a VM belongs to, priority of VM, dev/stage/production lifecycle of VM) to determine severity of VM issue.
See alarms and events associated with a VM, hypervisor, and physical server the hypervisor is running on.
See the performance statistics of the VM and compare them to the hypervisor and physical server.
Quickly view performance statistics (24 hours or one week) for the VM and be able to identify whether an issue is recurring.
Identify whether the issue is related to the VM or the underlying infrastructure on which the VM resides.

Add a Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®) and collect inventory details

Add a Cisco UCS and collect inventory details for the devices based on logging in with a hostname or IP address and a Cisco UCS Manager user name and password.
After validating that the hostname and IP address is a Cisco UCS, collect inventory details on Cisco UCS blade server chassis, blade servers, Fabric Interconnect, virtual interface card, and I/O modules.

Delete Cisco UCS server

Easily delete a Cisco UCS server cluster, including associated monitoring capabilities for related components.

Monitor Cisco UCS availability

Monitor availability for Cisco UCS devices and components by pinging each component’s IP address for availability.

Perform Cisco UCS fault monitoring

View events and alarms generated by the Cisco UCS that relate to every component or view alarms and events related to the system as a whole.

Perform Cisco UCS performance monitoring

View the CPU and memory trend charts for the Cisco UCS Fabric Interconnect and Cisco UCS blade servers.

Perform availability monitoring on network devices

Enable availability monitoring of network devices in the Device Work Center in a single click.
Monitoring can be viewed over time (24 hours, one week, one month) and alarms are activated if the threshold is breached for a device.

Perform fault monitoring of network devices

Following inventory collection for a device, enable fault monitoring for the device in a single click.
Device can be automatically configured to send syslog traps to the syslog trap receiver that corresponds to the device location.
Device-level root-cause analysis enables events to be rolled up to the highest alarm for the device impacted.

Perform performance monitoring for network switches

In a single click, default performance monitoring displays CPU, memory, modules, and interface utilization metrics.
Default monitoring and suggested thresholds can be used or thresholds for specific attributes to be monitored can be updated.

Assessing Service Impacts

Providing timely, effective customer service can be the basis of longstanding customer loyalty, while slow, poor service can lead to customer attrition. With the integration of technologies that span compute, network, and storage environments in the data center, Cisco Prime Carrier Management provides fast, user-friendly visibility and workflows for assessing, communicating, and resolving impacts to customer services. Administrators must be able to quickly analyze and report on compute, network, and storage service impacts. Using root-cause analysis, they should be able to quickly resolve issues. Whether in response to customer service calls, alarms, or regional impact views in the network operations center (NOC), providers need the tools to visualize, understand, and fix problems that affect services.

The following customer service use cases are offered as examples of common challenges that are addressed by features in Cisco Prime Carrier Management (Table 2).

Table 2. Customer Service Assurance Use Cases

Use Case

Data Center Assurance Features of Cisco Prime Carrier Management

Analyze compute service impact through root-cause analysis

Obtain notification of compute services impact.
Search for compute service based on notification.
View list of dependent resources that provide the compute service.
Quickly view root-cause resource for service impact.

Provide effective, prompt customer service

In response to a customer service call, view services associated with the customer by searching by customer name and viewing the list of associated services and their status.
Drill down on alarms for each affected service to determine root cause.
Compare service SLAs on customer self-service portal with affected services to determine which services are out of SLA compliance.
Drill down to resources that make up each service that has been badged with an impact to determine remediation.

Enable NOC operator view of service impacts by region

Drill down to impacted region and identify individual customers affected and services impacted. Service impacts are also visible from customer self-service portal.

Manage VPN service together with compute services per customer

View a network service (for example, VPN) associated with a customer along with the customer’s compute services.
Drill down into the network services view to see resources associated with each service. These resources have alarms rolled up and badged to the service. Alarms provide the ability to determine root alarm for service.
Network service is associated with compute services for each customer and the impact of the network service on each compute service is rolled up to the compute service alarm.
Administrator can quickly identify the impact of the network service outage for each customer.

Many service providers and enterprises are now exploring the potential benefits of virtualizing application workloads on VMs using general-purpose or high-volume servers. The Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) industry initiative aims to transform the way that service providers design their networks by evolving standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry-standard, high-volume servers, switches, and storage. Network functions in the data center include firewalls, virtual switches, and load balancers. As this new approach to technology deployment grows, administrators need a way to deploy, monitor, and manage virtual resources.

While this approach is new to most network environments, Cisco Prime Carrier Management has anticipated its broad adoption with features that include adding VMs, monitoring their availability and performance, viewing and managing faults, supporting vMotion, and inventorying virtual devices in the data center (Table 3).

Table 3. Virtualized Network Functions Assurance Use Cases

Use Case

Data Center Assurance Features of Cisco Prime Carrier Management

Add VMs in Cisco UCS environment

Collect inventory of a VM by selecting the server and specifying hypervisor credentials and Cisco UCS blade server cluster.
Display VM attributes that include: Number of CPUs, memory allocated, hard disk space assigned, file systems of VM, VMware vCenter server managing the VMs, VMware ESX cluster the VM is part of, and the Cisco UCS server cluster the VM belongs to.

Monitor VM for availability

Enable availability monitoring on the data center portal for the VM. View reports and charts (for 24 hours, one week, one month) for troubleshooting VM issues.

Monitor VM for faults

View list of alarms for Cisco UCS VM clusters under management.
Correlate VM events to server events to associate to root-cause alarm.

Monitor VM performance

Debug issues related to VM performance by identifying root cause of issues.
View CPU and memory trends during the time of issue.
View performance polling or collect performance statistics in a single click. Default attributes polled on the VM include CPU, memory, and interface utilization.

Manage VM inventory changes

When a VM is moved to a different server, system raises alarm that specifies change to server logical inventory. Inventory update is automatically triggered to resynchronize the server inventory impacted by vMotion.
After vMotion is completed, alarm is cleared. If vMotion operation fails, alarm is updated.

Inventory virtual network devices

In Device Work Center, input the IP address and hostname of physical and logical devices to collect inventory.
Following inventory collection, view interfaces, modules, chassis, and power supply for each device.


Cisco Prime for Carrier Management provides significant data center assurance features for administrators who are grappling with legacy tools, a highly complex environment, and growing operational costs - all of which have impacted efficiency and service quality. Instead of using overlapping point products for management of physical and virtual compute, network, and storage infrastructure, administrators can enjoy unified monitoring and management of physical and virtual resources across the entire data center to help meet SLAs, lower complexity, and reduce TCO with Cisco Prime for Carrier Management. Centralized access to integrated operator workflows and intelligent, automated management of data center resources and tenants provide unparalleled business agility through scalable and efficient operations. Preintegrated software components with a standards-based NBI for integration with third-party applications simplify deployment, ease usability, and add tremendous flexibility and scalability.

About Cisco Prime

The Cisco Prime portfolio of IT and service provider management offerings empowers organizations to more effectively manage their networks and the services they deliver. Built on a service-centered foundation, Cisco Prime supports integrated lifecycle management through an intuitive workflow-oriented user experience, providing A-to-Z management for evolved programmable networks, mobility, video, and managed services.

For More Information

For more information on Cisco Prime for Service Providers, email