Provisioning ease and flexibility of Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services private cloud reduces costs, minimizes downtime and user disruption during data migration.
Business Situation and Challenge
Ten Cisco IT engineers, split between the U.S. and U.K., are responsible for operating and delivering Cisco's internal WebEx Social enterprise collaboration platform. It is an extensive implementation that requires building and supporting approximately 200 virtual machines (VMs) in the production environment as well as multiple sandbox, staging, and other development and testing environments.
In October 2012 WebEx Social underwent a major software upgrade, which enhanced functionality and usability across the platform and added integration with email and other unified communications. The WebEx Social Support and Operations team needed to manage the overall release cycle expediently with as little downtime as possible. Cisco's infrastructure-as-a-service private cloud solution, called Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS), helped the team do just that.
"We were aiming for a 45-day release cycle from first customer ship of the code through the production release," says Iain Brown, operations technical lead, WebEx Social Support and Operations at Cisco. "CITEIS provided us with the speed and flexibility to meet our goals with minimal impact on the business or employees, even during the data migration."
Any Cisco employee can use the CITEIS web-based portal to request infrastructure services ranging from a single VM to an entire virtual data center in less than 15 minutes.
Solution and Benefits
Cisco employees order compute, storage, and networking services from a single CITEIS interface. They select prebuilt OS images or upload custom images, and choose from two subscription models: CITEIS Virtual Data Center (VDC), which is predefined pools of resources with bundled services, and CITEIS Express on-demand resources. Employees are assigned either a general user or administrator role for CITEIS. Administrators can assign different privileges to users without involving Cisco IT.
The CITEIS private cloud solution yields several benefits:
• Speed of deployment
• No restrictions on capacity
• Reduced hosting costs
• Easy-to-use VM templates
• Full control
"With CITEIS we can choose a network type, whether it's internal, protected, or DMZ, create and eliminate machines at will, deploy custom templates, and request load balancing all through a self-service portal," says Brown. "Because we're in full control, we can have infrastructure up and running fast without the complexity and time-consuming demand clearing process and configuration involved with building a server in the traditional way."
The provisioning ease and flexibility of CITEIS allowed the team to provide a production-level, read-only environment of WebEx Social during the critical 72-hour data migration. Working with database administrators, the team built a VM using CITEIS, which enabled them to clone the production database, take the read-only snapshot, and provision storage quickly. For the entire WebEx Social production downtime, employees could access all their business-critical data.
"While people couldn't create content during this time, the read-only version softened the blow during the three-day data migration required for the upgrade," says Brown.
The WebEx Social Support and Operations team also leverages CITEIS for its proof-of-concept work and hosted lab solution:
• Proof of concept: CITEIS is a resource- and time-efficient solution for environments that will be up only for a few weeks or months. Short-term projects do not warrant the amount of time, people, and resources required by traditional demand clearing.
• Production support tools: Traditionally the team has hosted their monitoring and production support tools in a lab environment. But power and service is not guaranteed in the labs. CITEIS not only reduces the costs of lab hosting, but it also provides consistent quality and service and gives the team free reign and access to the machines they need to set up their tools.
Business Impact and Metrics
Time and cost savings are two of the bottom-line benefits derived from the CITEIS solution. The WebEx Support and Operations team can take 3 to 10 weeks to provision a host in the traditional data center model compared to 10 to 15 minutes in CITEIS VDC.
In the traditional demand clearing process, the team's cost for provisioning one VM (standard specification) is approximately US$1116 compared to $18 in CITEIS. Hosting a compute platform and storage in the traditional way costs about US$150,000 per quarter versus $12,500 per quarter in CITEIS VDC.
Because CITEIS is a new solution for the WebEx Support and Operations team, it has not come without a few challenges. For example, there's been a shortage of tools to monitor VDC and identify potential performance issues on the VMs, and storage performance is not always as robust as it is in traditional data center-hosted VM environments.
CITEIS developers have been responsive to the team's queries, and several enhancements to CITEIS are under way. For example, to address the storage performance, upcoming features in CITEIS will allow different tiers of shared storage to be allocated.
CITEIS is an integral part of the team's technical strategy. The team will decommission its hosted lab solution and move it to the cloud, where availability of power and service is not an issue. This move will also improve availability of the monitoring and production support tools.
The team plans to capitalize on CITEIS platform-as-a-service offerings to make sandboxes available on demand, allowing WebEx Social developers to "run in the sandbox with full administrative access," according to Brown. They will be able to provision a sandbox automatically themselves, and power it down and return the resources into the pool when they are done. This on-demand capability will free up engineers to spend more of their time supporting production and release-dedicated environments instead of supporting sandboxes.
Brown also plans to take advantage of the improved performance that dedicated tier 1 storage will provide.
"Right now we run network file servers over NFS [network file server], which is not particularly efficient use of I/O," he says.
For More Information
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