Cloupia came onto the scene with its Unified Infrastructure Controller, a multicloud and multihypervisor management tool that includes self-service requests for infrastructure and a number of automation controls. It can connect with a variety of external products, such as VMware's vSphere, Microsoft's Hyper-V, NetApp's FlexPod system, EMC's VNX and VSPEX storage, Rackspace's cloud servers, Amazon's EC2, and Cisco's UCS. In announcing the purchase, Cisco VP Hilton Romanski wrote the deal "will extend the converged management benefits of [UCS Manager] and UCS Central beyond compute to include server, network, storage, and virtualization functions."
Mark Balch, Cisco's director of product management for Data Center Business, said in an interview that UCS Manager alone does not have the ability manage storage endpoints, provision operating systems and VMs, or otherwise control policies and automation outside the compute layer. That will still be true in a sense, as Cloupia will remain a stand-alone product within the UCS portfolio, rather than being rolled into existing dashboards. But because Cisco can now offer Cloupia as an option alongside UCS and its Nexus switches, Cisco will have a portfolio to let enterprises manage and orchestrate the compute, network, storage and virtual layers, even though individual components might come from different vendors.
Cloupia also allows Cisco, which has been criticized for being too complicated and proprietary, to include customer flexibility in its talking points.
"It's always important that customers have a way to adopt technologies at their pace," Balch said. "No one throws away perfectly good infrastructure just because of new technology ... [A company's infrastructure] doesn't have to be all Cisco. They need to be able to plan the migration that works for them."
The Cloupia acquisition follows Cisco's release last month of its own distribution of the OpenStack orchestration platform, which is designed to facilitate the deployment of private and public cloud infrastructures.
A day after Cisco's announcement, Dell announced its acquisition of Gale Technologies. The deal gives the Texas company's Active System converged infrastructure platform many of the same capabilities that Cisco is bringing to the UCS portfolio with Cloupia.
Balch spoke highly of Gale, which had been a UCS ecosystem partner, but offered that it's "hard to make infrastructure work smoothly if it's not designed that way in the first place." He said UCS was built from the ground up to be programmable, explaining that though vendors develop software whenever customers request new features, "the underlying infrastructure is no more flexible than it used to be." He said that the ability of Cisco's UCS and Nexus stacks to absorb new programming is a differentiator.
He also said that rather than "delivering a VM and wishing the customer luck," Cisco can now, with Cloupia, provide granular control. "Instead of saying I need a VM with some storage," he stated, "we're basically saying, 'Tell us what kind of capabilities you need to run--physical, virtual, a mix--and we'll give you that in an automated fashion based on policies." He characterized this departure from "generic VM deployment" as another Cisco advantage.
IDC analyst Mary Turner said in a research note about the acquisition that Cisco "will be able to provide customers with a more integrated and comprehensive converged system management solution and a single point of responsibility to address complex customer and partner requests." In an email, she wrote that IDC's research shows that management simplification is a major priority for many businesses, and that both Dell and Cisco "have strengthened their offerings by being better able to address this set of concerns."