Applications are becoming the most visible aspect of an organization's brand. The performance, usability, and reachability of branded apps are of utmost importance since they are a primary interface to customers. To keep up with evolving customer expectations, developers and operations teams are rapidly adopting design patterns using containers and microservices for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). In order to enable these innovations to deliver a competitive customer experience, IT relies more and more on a hybrid cloud model.
The enterprise cloud network-including the WAN-keeps application components securely connected and operating in a predictable and performant way. In this sense, the network is an intrinsic part of modern application design and plays an essential role in maintaining KPIs that protect the brand as customers depend on applications to accomplish their daily tasks, including essential services where availability is crucial. Being able to safely automate workflows and have deep visibility into the cloud network, compute infrastructure, and applications has always been a critical need for IT organizations-and even more so in the new hybrid world.
But Hybrid Cloud Gets Challenging
Deploying applications in the cloud is relatively simple for new cloud-native applications. According to IDC research, to gain business agility, enterprises are committing to modernize more than half of their existing applications by 2022, leveraging cloud-native application architectures as a means of achieving their goals.* That's a significant portion of existing application deployments. For many organizations refactoring these applications to a cloud-native foundation will include integration with exisiting data center services and data repositories, while taking advantage of embedded security policies to protect payment and personal information. This is accelerating the rise of hybrid applications.
The transition to hybrid-cloud introduces new challenges, like the many individual services on a smart watch pulling data from a plethora of sources, but hyper-scaled to serve millions of clients. Established services in an on-premises data center need to be easily accessible to cloud application containers, such as when a cloud-native shopping cart needs to access the payment information on the PCI island in the private data center. The entire communication path needs protection with guaranteed levels of service.
Hybrid cloud requires a simple-to-use, centralized cloud networking platform built to support multiple operator personas-NetOps, DevOps, and CloudOps-to manage a constantly changing constellation of services, data sources, and connections. Historically, provisioning a new application required a handshake between DevOps and NetOps, with NetOps configuring the network before DevOps could deploy the application. This was a manual, error prone process, assuming static dependencies, thus reducing the velocity of change. Thankfully, the increasing adoption of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools is helping automate and simplify management of the complex interactions among data centers, hybrid-clouds, networks, and compute infrastructure.
Infrastructure as Code Is the Operational Link Between DevOps and NetOps
IaC automation capabilities are critical for DevOps teams for automating provisioning of cloud infrastructure. DevOps teams can rely on a consistent automation model for infrastructure and workloads across the edge, co-locations, data centers, and public clouds. Depending on the desired outcome, IT teams can leverage IaC tools such as HashiCorp Terraform and Red Hat Ansible, interacting with either Cisco Nexus Dashboard for managing cloud networking services or through Cisco Intersight to manage compute resources.
NetOps can now expose infrastructure services for consumption by the DevOps and CloudOps teams via the Cisco Nexus Dashboard. Using HashiCorp Consul Terraform Sync with Nexus Dashboard, DevOps can directly drive the infrastructure changes needed for application deployment and management while enabling NetOps to monitor the progress in real time, across the global infrastructure. This is made possible by the automation capabilities of Cisco Nexus Dashboard enabling rapid deployment of services, CI/CD pipelines, and seamless collaboration between DevOps, CloudOps, and NetOps.
Take, for example, a Development Team working with the Nexus Dashboard owner to package connectivity permissions for a hybrid-cloud application in an IaC Plan/Playbook. NetOps can use Nexus Dashboard to define the secure connections needed for the application to function among clouds and on-premises services-and only those services. This alleviates the need for DevOps to define and keep track of the network permissions needed for the application. DevOps can make functional changes to a Plan/Playbook using the existing infrastructure and connectivity requirements or NetOps can add new resource connections as needed for updates.
Learning the Ways of IaC for Network Operations
NetOps teams, one of the key operators of Nexus Dashboard, have an opportunity to not only provide valuable assists to DevOps to keep applications up to date and running efficiently, but also to advance their professional career. Learning the principles of IaC by using Terraform or Ansible is an essential skillset that will become even more valuable as organizations continue their move to hybrid application architectures and hybrid cloud operations. To support this learning journey, Cisco DevNet provides classes, learning labs, videos, and sandboxes for experimenting with IaC and Nexus Dashboard services such as Nexus Dashboard Orchestrator. These educational opportunities enable a more productive partnership between NetOps and DevOps teams, improving the deployment and upkeep of vital applications.
Working Together with Cisco Nexus Dashboard and Cisco Intersight
Today, IT teams that base workflows on Cisco Intersight can seamlessly take advantage of Cisco Intersight Service for HashiCorp Terraform. Likewise, network operation teams using Nexus Dashboard as their cloud networking platform will be able to take advantage of Cisco Nexus Dashboard support for HashiCorp Terraform cloud agents. Cisco offers IT teams the flexibility to incorporate IaC models no matter which infrastructure management platform or toolchains they employ to ensure the desire outcomes. With both approaches, Cisco Solution Support provides a single point of contact to support the integration of Nexus Dashboard and Intersight with Terraform Cloud for Business.
For more information and demonstrations on the dual use of IaC through Cisco Nexus Dashboard and Intersight, visit the various resources below.
Using Infrastructure as Code to deploy F5 Application Delivery and Cisco ACI Service Chaining
Enabling Enterprise Transformation with Cloud Native Networking
Video: Cisco Nexus Dashboard simplifies application management with HashiCorp Terraform
Cisco Live Session: Accelerate Datacenter Infrastructure Provisioning Using Infrastructure as Code
Get started with Infrastructure as Code
Cisco Nexus Dashboard
Compliance-driven network infrastructure automation with Consul-Terraform-Sync
Read more blogs from Thomas Scheibe
* Worldwide Service Mesh Forecast, 2021-2025, IDC Research, August 11, 2021, #US48108721