This post is written by my colleague Tomas Van Beek.
Let us start with the basics: what is Cisco Intersight? For this, I took the easiest option and I Googled it. It took me to the Cisco statement in their ‘At a Glance’ document:
Cisco Intersight is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) infrastructure management platform that is augmented by other intelligent systems. It provides global management of the Cisco Unified Computing System™ and Cisco HyperFlex® hyperconverged infrastructure anywhere.
This is correct, but this is just the smallest possible tip of the iceberg. Let me elaborate with my personal statement: Cisco Intersight is a direct line into Cisco’s product intelligence and insights.
Cisco Intersight is the first (and at the moment of writing only) platform that offers full visualization and management, proactive and predictive support, recommendations and advisories but also automation and orchestration of your (datacenter) infrastructure via a SaaS solution. This SaaS platform allows Cisco to do continuous integrations and deployment of new features without the need for manual upgrades.
This model allows automated interaction with the Cisco Technical Assistance Center to automate and decrease the iterations between support and customer. It also gives recommendations and advisories from Cisco based on their product knowledge and install base, mapped on exactly your infrastructure. It allows automated controls and checks if your environment is healthy, up to date and compliant, and even under support. If Cisco is aware of what versions you are on, what configuration you have, and has some insights in all peripherals you are linked to, imagine what automation possibilities there are. In the next phase, the artificial intelligence behind the Intersight platform will allow the infrastructure to remediate itself …
We are not there yet but let me show some of the nice possibilities Cisco Intersight has at this moment. First of all, I want to debunk 2 statements.
1. Cisco Intersight is only for Cisco products == FALSE
Cisco Intersight can natively integrate via its device connector into some Cisco products like UCS Manager, CIMC, and HX Connect. But next to that, it also can integrate into 3rd party products via Intersight Assist.
Intersight Assist is a lightweight virtual appliance hosted in your own environment, which is linked to Intersight and acts as a kind of proxy for 3rd party devices. It makes a TLS secure connection via https to the Intersight SaaS offering, all encrypted via AES with a 256-bit randomly generated key.
Now, after claiming your Intersight Assist in your Intersight.com portal, you can start claiming 3rd party devices easily via Intersight.com. At the moment of writing, VMware vCenter and PureStorage FlashArrays are supported, but no doubt that this list will increase enormously shortly.
Via the virtualization Tab, you easily get visibility and all possible actions in your entire virtualization farm (independent from Hypervisor).
As a short sneak peek: Cisco Workload Optimization Manager (by Turbonomic) will be next, allowing lots of performance insight on your entire datacenter and public cloud infrastructure and applications, including trending in performance, remediation actions, scaling and placement recommendations, etc.
2. Cisco Intersight is just another tool for managing your infrastructure == FALSE
Of course, you can manage your entire infrastructure from one central point without the need for a VPN, but this is not the only use case of Cisco Intersight. Cisco Intersight is also a direct line into the Cisco Technical Assistance Center, which allows automatic upload of config files and show-tech files when a case is created. This case creation can be done automatically, manually, or even via phone or all known processes as before. Even contract statuses are shown in a very visual way (I do not have support contracts unfortunately on my lab equipment, but you get the point).
Next to that, Cisco Intersight also continuously checks if your server firmware, OS version, and driver version are all in line with the compliance matrix. This way you can easily stay away from known issues and avoid the typical sentence: ‘please upgrade to firmware version X to remediate this issue‘.
So, management and support are included, but the most attentive people also have seen the Orchestration tab in the Intersight.com portal. This might be the most powerful functionality of the Intersight platform for the near future. The orchestration functionality allows us to create customized and understandable workflows based on predefined tasks on infrastructure we have claimed. Fully in line with our natural behavior (i.e. every engineer is lazy) and combines a series of manual tasks to be executed in an automated manner.
Underneath an example of such a workflow: deploy 2 new virtual machines (HX Profiler and HX Bench) on our vCenter, but with the right configuration and fully automated. These workflows can easily be foreseen from input and output variables, so that they can be adapted for user demands, but still are executed in a standardised way.
At the moment of writing, this is still a preview feature, but I am very interested and curious about what the possibilities will become in the future.
Lastly, there is the possibility to use Cisco Intersight to push solutions on top of your infrastructure. Think this way: “do I want this series of servers to become a Hadoop instance with Cloudera as an open-source platform, or become a virtualization farm with Hyperflex as software-defined storage?” It is just one click away to push the solution you want, on top of a series of servers that have been claimed by your portal.
At the moment of writing, the first solution that is possible via Intersight, is to push fully automated an SD-Wan solution on top of a Hyperflex (Edge) cluster, to have accurate and secure connectivity to all your branches.
Needless to say, we will see other solutions popping up in the future. If I see all the functionality and possibilities, you start to doubt why nobody else has ever used this Management as a Service model before.