​Cisco joins the Kubernetes cloud rush

Kubernetes is the top dog of cloud container orchestration, and that means everyone is jumping on its bandwagon, including networking giant Cisco.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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If you want to manage containers on the cloud, chances are you're using Kubernetes, the most popular container orchestration program. And, networking powerhouse Cisco wants to help your enterprise make the most of it.

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On May 1, Cisco announced Kubernetes support for AppDynamics and Cisco CloudCenter. With this integration, Cisco promises enterprises can easily harness the value of Kubernetes to help deliver experiences that exceed their customers' expectations for scale, sophistication, and velocity.

How? To start with the basics, companies are rapidly adopting containers on the promise of increased application agility. It's containers that power continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD). While Kubernetes is a big help with this, since it enables you to manage multiple containers at once, there are still challenges with unlocking the full value of containers as they move applications from development into production environments in data centers and the cloud.

Cisco promises that Cisco CloudCenter 4.9 and AppDynamics for Kubernetes set a new standard for Kubernetes by allowing enterprises to seamlessly deploy, monitor, and optimize their Kubernetes-orchestrated applications both on-premises and in public cloud environments.

Specifically, AppDynamics for Kubernetes monitors the performance of applications deployed in pods -- the logical unit Kubernetes uses for multiple containers. It also leverages labels, the identifying metadata and foundation for grouping, searching, filtering, and managing Kubernetes objects. This enables organizations to gather performance insights and set intelligent thresholds and alerts for the performance of Pods, Namespace, ReplicaSets, Services, Deployment, and other Kubernetes labels.

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With Kubernetes support, Cisco CloudCenter can deploy container-based applications with AppDynamics monitoring enabled upon deployment. The new Cisco CloudCenter 4.9 is a key element of Cisco and Google's forthcoming Goodzilla open, hybrid cloud offering. With it, customers will be able to run production-grade containers on any infrastructure through the combination of the Cisco CloudCenter 4.9, Cisco Container Platform, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP)'s Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). Practically speaking, this will enable users to have a hybrid cloud with Kubernetes linking their on-premise clouds to the Google Cloud.

Specifically, Cisco promises:

  • Support hybrid application topologies: With Cisco CloudCenter 4.9, containerized workloads can be deployed to a Kubernetes cluster on premises or in the cloud. IT operations teams can also also deploy a declarative blueprint that includes container-based services as well as VM-based or cloud-based services to a hybrid mix of Kubernetes and traditional VM or cloud environments.
  • Empower developers without Kubernetes expertise: CloudCenter auto-generates the pod manifest file for each deployment after the user selects the deployment environment. This approach avoids configuration parameters, and keeps container workloads from getting locked into a single cloud. This makes it easier for developers that aren't proficient or interested in learning kubectl commands to tap Kubernetes' power.
  • Apply IT governance and controls to Kubernetes: Cisco CloudCenter cost and usage controls, as well as roles and permissions can be set to determine who can deploy what, when, and where in different pre-production and production Kubernetes environments. Kubernetes alone doesn't provide these types of IT controls that are critical for running containers in production at scale.

All that's nice, but with everyone and their uncle supporting Kubernetes, what can Cisco offer that others can't?

Matt Chotin, AppDynamics' senior director of developer initiatives, explained, "Cisco and AppDynamics are focused on making development and operations teams successful in their use of Kubernetes and related platforms successful. No other vendor provides an end-to-end solution to deploy, monitor, and optimize their Kubernetes-orchestrated applications across multicloud environments."

Chotin continued, "Even if you look at just the monitoring side of things, AppDynamics is the only company that provides full visibility into customer touchpoints, distributed applications, Kubernetes environments and infrastructure. There are myriad monitoring solutions that provide some amount of information. But to get true insight with these tools, you would need to somehow cobble them all together, at which point you've become an open-source tools integrator, and you still don't have complete visibility at the business transaction level."

He concluded, "The magic of AppDynamics for Kubernetes and CloudCenter 4.9 comes from using the two together. It's like the difference between getting an MRI only to get pushed off to a specialist, and getting diagnosed and treated in the same appointment. Companies can use CloudCenter to deploy container-based applications with AppDynamics monitoring enabled at deployment. AppDynamics for Kubernetes can then detect and report on dynamic conditions at the application or cluster level, then trigger CloudCenter to optimize performance for seamless user experience until abnormalities are resolved."

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Chotin has a point. The Kubernetes dashboard, kube-state-metrics, cAdvisor, or Heapster -- these all provide Kubernetes health data, but they don't have storage capabilities. So, you must add either InfluxDB or Prometheus, two popular time-series databases, to provide data persistence. For data visualization, you must then add open-source tools such as Grafana or Kibana.

Oh, and did I mention you need log collectors, as well? Unless you're comfortable integrating open-source programs into a monitoring system, you probably will want to check out Cisco's new enterprise-level programs.

Cisco CloudCenter 4.9 is available now. AppDynamics for Kubernetes will be available by May 9. They will also be bundled together through the CIsco Multicloud Portfolio as Cloud Consume. They're also available with Cisco HyperFlex through Cisco's SmartPlay bundles.

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