Cisco Solutions for AWS Cloud Modernization

If you missed my prior blog on app assurance check it out!

Forecasting cloud spend and assuring application performance

It’s challenging to know all the native cloud solutions available to use, it’s even more challenging to know which Cisco solutions are available for use with AWS. 

You will find that there are solutions that repeat or even overlap portions of the AWS Migration stages. For example, in the Discovery stage of cloud migration, the tool you’d likely use for Application Discovery / Infrastructure Discovery is Application Dynamics (AppD). 

It’s important to know that this is not an extensive list, nor should this be used in a silo; rather these are the most relevant products for a migration.

Below is a reference to the relevant Cisco solutions associated with the AWS Cloud Migration journey. Business outcomes will evolve as a customer matures in the cloud and so will the solutions to meet those outcomes. 

“A Process for Mass Migrations to the Cloud” Orban, Stephen, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/enterprise-strategy/214-2/. 

Cloud Workload Optimization – Cost and Performance?

I took inspiration to write this blog from the “Workload Optimization” section from the digital book “Cisco Intersight: A Handbook for Intelligent Cloud Operations” – Please consider connecting and send a thank you to the hard-working authors of this fantastic book.

IT operations have one fundamental goal, to deliver performant applications at the lowest possible cost while maintaining compliance.

Because of this, organizations turn to cloud providers to achieve a lower variable cost compared to an on-premises data center, which is generally finite in scale and fixed in cost.

Cloud providers such as AWS can achieve higher economies of scale, which translates into lower pay-as-you-go prices and effectively infinite infrastructure.

Having a handle on which application requires which underlying resources, license constraints, and placement rules are beyond the scale of humans.

As a result, determining the placement of workloads minimizing cost while assuring workload performance becomes a guessing game.

Cost Optimization Pillar

According to AWS, a cost-optimized workload fully utilizes all resources, achieves an outcome at the lowest possible price point, and meets your functional requirements(AWS, n.d.).

Put another way, the Desired State is to assure workload performance and minimize spend in the public cloud (Intersight Handbook, 2021).

AWS provides a vast array of instance sizes to achieve optimized workloads and various ways to consume instances in an on-demand or via Reservice Instances (RI) which are heavily discounted for a specific term, generally one year or three years. Think of RIs as a billing discount applied to running On-Demand Instances. RIs are appropriate for consistent and predictable workloads.

The challenge with consuming RIs is that the public cloud consumers will pay for the RI whether they use them or not. RIs become more like “the sunk cost of a physical server on-premises than to the ongoing cost of an on-demand cloud instance (Intersight Handbook, 2021).” This consumption model can create behaviors that lend to horseshoeing application into an undersized instance or neglect to resize an instance when a workload outgrows its current resource needs.

“There are hundreds of different instance options in AWS and Azure, with new options and pricing emerging almost daily (Intersight Handbook, 2021).”

Automation to optimize costs

The lack of expertise and security is more critical at the beginning stages of cloud than managing cloud spending. However, as organizations mature their cloud practice, managing cloud spending becomes the number one issue, and they struggle to forecast cloud costs accurately.

An average of 24 percent of the organization reported that their cloud spend was over budget and expected to increase by 39 percent in the next twelve months (Flexera, 2021).

This issue is further compounded when you include more than one cloud provider and requires automation to decide on price and performance vs. price for performance.

Assuring applications performance while optimizing cost is precisely what Cisco’s Interisght Workload Optimizer SaaS will do. (Workload Optimizer is a separately licensed feature set within the Intersight platform)

Workload Optimizer is constantly receiving real-time data on consumption, pricing, and instance options from the cloud providers and combining such data with the knowledge of applicable customer-specific pricing and enterprise agreements to determine the best actions available at any given point in time.

It does this through direct API target integrations with the cloud provider in real-time to add value far beyond any cloud-specific or hypervisor-specific, point-in-time tools that may be available. Besides being multi-vendor, multi-cloud, and real-time by design, Workload Optimizer does not force administrators to choose between performance assurance and cost/resource optimization.

Wrapping up

The underlying resources, license constraints, and placement rules of running workloads in the public cloud are beyond what most organizations can handle. While the organization’s capability to use the cloud continues to grow, so does its need to forecast and manage cloud spending. The solution requires automation, real-time information, and optimization to make informed decisions. Cisco Workload Optimizer has the ability to do just that and a whole lot more. If you’re interested in understanding Intersight and the components that make up the hybrid-cloud tool, you can find the documentation here.

Mike

Baker, M., Beck, B., Chosnek, D., McGee, J., McKeown, S., TerEick, B., & Vaswani, M. (2021). Cisco Intersight: A Handbook for Intelligent Cloud Operations. https://www.booksprints.net. 

Cost optimization pillar – AWS well-architected framework. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2022, from https://docs.aws.amazon.com/wellarchitected/latest/cost-optimization-pillar/welcome.html 

Reserved instances – amazon elastic compute cloud. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2022, from https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/ec2-reserved-instances.html 

“2021 State of the Cloud Report.” Flexera, 2021, https://info.flexera.com/CM-REPORT-State-of-the-Cloud?dtid=oblgzzz001087. 

Cisco at AWS re:Invent 2021

Here is a summary of Cisco’s mentions and highlights at AWS re:Invent 2021!

Please note: each of these links require registering on the AWS re:Invent site.

Launches and Mentions

AWS GATEWAY LOAD BALANCER >> Now featuring Cisco Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)

Learn more by reading Cisco’s blog

AWS MARKETPLACE LAUNCH >> Cisco Snort 3 Anywhere

Snort 3 Anywhere is a containerized form factor of the well-known, industry defacto standard standard IPS engine. With this latest offering now available in AWS Marketplace you can easily deploy Snort 3 in your EKS or on-premises container environment. Learn more in Cisco’s blog

AWS MARKETPLACE LAUNCH >> Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer SaaS

Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer is a real-time decision engine that drives continuous health of applications across on-premises and public cloud environments to analyze workload consumption, costs, and policy constraints across the full stack. Learn more via the new listing in AWS Marketplace and Cisco’s blog.

NEW AWS QUICK START >> Featuring Cisco Meraki Virtual MX

Customers can secure SD-WAN traffic between branch offices to resources on AWS with this new AWS Quick Start. Click to view and deploy.

Mike

Canary in the Cloud

Now a cliche but once a reality, it turns out that the canaries, like other birds, are much more sensitive to poisonous gases than humans. The birds were brought down into the coal mine and acted as an indicator and early warning of possible danger to the British miners.

An electronic detection system later replaced the birds, but these birds served an essential role for decades.

The public cloud has changed the way organizations deliver, respond, and represent their customers, and organizations are building an early warning systems approach to their cloud. The teams and systems that make up this strategy are Cloud Center of Excellent (CoE), which provides centralized controls, tools, and best practices.

The purpose of these teams is to accelerate cloud adoption by centralizing expertise while reducing costs and risk (Flexera, 2021).

Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report

Unlike the canaries that provide chaotic monitoring of harmful gasses, enterprises have tools that offer next-level proactive and predictive monitoring. These systems allow organizations to understand the complexity of their cloud and oversee across multiple business units and functional areas.

Full-Stack Canary

Well, it’s not a cute bird, but it does overcome the spiraling complexity of cloud, hybrid cloud, and traditional IT. AppDynamics, ThousandEyes, and Intersight Workload Optimizer make up Cisco’s Full-Stack Observability platform. Connecting the dots up and down the “stack”-from the customer or employee-facing application, all the way down to the lowest level infrastructure (compute, storage, networking, and public internet).

Conclusion

When we consider the technical environment we live in, we recognize the need to monitor the entire IT estate. Like the canaries in the coal mine, the answer is to predict and identify an issue before it adversely affects customers and businesses.

Mike

“2021 State of the Cloud Report.” Flexera, 2021, https://info.flexera.com/CM-REPORT-State-of-the-Cloud?dtid=oblgzzz001087. 

Magazine, Smithsonian. “The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 30 Dec. 2016, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/story-real-canary-coal-mine-180961570/. 

Smith, Kiona N. “The Canary in the Coal Mine Isn’t Ancient History.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Jan. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kionasmith/2019/12/31/the-canary-in-the-coal-mine-isnt-ancient-history/?sh=1245d4244393. 

“Rise of Full-Stack Observability.” AppDynamics, AppDynamics, 13 July 2021, https://www.appdynamics.com/resources/reports/rise-of-full-stack-observability. 

AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Exam Review

I recently took the AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam bringing me my third fundamental cloud certification after CompTIA Cloud+ and AWS Cloud Practitioner. Not a bragging moment; I mean, they’re entry-level exams after all.

I am, however, advocating for one certification over the rest. Not to completely derail us, but the AWS Cloud Practitioner is by far the way to go out of the three exams. The complimentary exam resources and their content are superior to the other two. Does this make me an AWS fanboy? Unsure. But the content was logically laid out, the speakers and visual aids were excellent, and I learned a lot. I haven’t taken the GCP test yet, so that could change things for me, but as of today, I’d recommend your first cloud certification be the AWS Cloud Practitioner. I digress; let us move back to our topic.

The AZ-900 exam is the entry-level exam for Azure, Microsoft Cloud Computing service, with no prerequisite.
You will need to understand Azure-specific services from Data Bases like Cosmos DB, Analytics like Azure Synapse, Networking, and Storage. You can find a complete list of skills you will be measured against here.

Through the course material you will learn and rehears Azure services reasonably quickly. If you have the fundamental cloud concepts down Azure Specific services, become table-stakes.

If you aren’t familiar with Azure services or cloud fundamentals, rest assured that you can learn these topics in the free course they provide. The content alone is enough to pass the exam. However, I found it difficult to follow and found myself lacking the motivation to complete the course. It took me about ten hours to finish the content with diligent note-taking. I did like that there were hands-on labs or sandboxes as they refer to it throughout, but it requires a phone number and a credit card for identification purposes.

There’s a little XP tracker in the top right-hand corner of the course you earn experience points (XP) after completing a section or a sandbox lab. I found myself wanting to drive up XP like a video game. It was a stimulating reinforcement measure for sure.

Pearson VUE provides the test for USD99 but what’s pretty cool and little known is that you could get a discount on the exam or even have it completely free depending on your situation. Even if you don’t get the test entirely free for a limited time, Microsoft offers job seekers impacted by COVID-19 and students for USD15. You can look for the exam discounts under your certification dashboard. Choose the MCP Home tab and after signing in, navigate to your profile. You will see ‘Exam Discount’ on the left. Be sure to check!

Mike