Cisco Intersight is Cisco’s newest infrastructure management (IM) platform. A general overview of Cisco Intersight and its many benefits can be found in our Cisco Intersight Primer Series article. This article, however, will focus on integration with third-party infrastructure, specifically Hitachi Storage.
What is Cisco Intersight?
Cisco recognized that customers were likely using many different tools to effectively manage their infrastructure. As such, Cisco sought to simplify the management of Cisco compute infrastructure with the introduction of Cisco Intersight in 2017. Cisco Intersight is a cloud-based, subscription service IM platform that provides enormous management flexibility. The following are some of the many unique aspects of Cisco Intersight:
- Manage infrastructure from anywhere, at any time, regardless of where the infrastructure physically resides.
- Updates are continuously provided to customers without the need for time-consuming maintenance or system downtime.
- Connected-TAC simplifies the process of getting needed information to Cisco by automatically pulling relevant logs and files upon opening a TAC case.
- Vulnerabilities in Cisco products are constantly monitored, and customers are promptly notified of problems/issues.
- The customizable dashboard allows customers to quickly view, monitor and analyze information that they deem most important.
A look at Hitachi
Hitachi Vantara (HV) , a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., was reborn in 2017 when Hitachi Data Systems merged with other Hitachi subsidiaries: Pentaho and Hitachi Insight Group. In 2019, Hitachi Consulting was also merged into Hitachi Vantara.
Hitachi Vantara provides industry-leading digital transformational solutions through world-class hardware, software and services. HV helps companies in their digital journey through consulting-led solutions and vertical industry expertise.
Hitachi Vantara is well known for its high-end enterprise storage systems, the Virtual Storage Platform (VSP). The latest high-end system is VSP 5500. They also have midtier systems, VSP F and G series. These systems are based on the same OS, SVOS-RF, as the VPS 5500. HV has NAS solutions in form of a gateway (HNAS) or as a unified system (VSP N series) to support the file sharing requirements.
To manage these different storage systems, Hitachi Ops Center was developed to enable customers to view, manage and troubleshoot the entire enterprise with a single pane of glass.
For massive unstructured data that is prevalent in today's digital world, HV offers a comprehensive suite of products. Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) is the centerpiece that is scalable to 100s of petabytes and beyond. Along with HCP, there is HCP Anywhere, HCP gateway and Hitachi Content Intelligence.
Besides the infrastructure offerings, Hitachi Vantara has a whole suite of data management and analytics, video analytics and IoT solutions. WWT has the following in our labs and on our platform:
- Hitachi Vantara Ops Center
- Hitachi Vantara VSP 5500
- Hitachi VSP G and F Series
- Hitachi VSP N Series
- Hitachi Vantara HCP
Cisco’s partnership with Hitachi
In addition to simplifying the management of their own infrastructure, Cisco focused on integrating third-party infrastructure. As a result, Cisco teamed up with Hitachi Storage.
Cisco and Hitachi have a long partnership history, including the Cisco Validated Design (CVD) for Converged Infrastructure with previous generations and the current generation of products. Hitachi had previously delivered plugins for Cisco's UCS Director. Hitachi is also one of the first third-party storage vendors to integrate with Cisco Intersight.
Customers may be asking: “What exactly are the management capabilities of Hitachi VSP arrays using Cisco Intersight?” These competencies are as follows:
- View storage device inventory, as well as other general information about Hitachi hardware and storage usage.
- Add certain storage device information widgets (i.e. capacity, inventory, utilization, etc.) to the completely customizable Cisco Intersight dashboard for quick reference.
- Automate Hitachi storage provisioning of volumes using Cisco Intersight’s workflow designer.
View storage overview in the dashboard
After logging into Cisco Intersight, you can now add or modify the dashboard to include the widgets associated with storage.
Here is a screenshot of the new dashboard with storage information. From this dashboard, you can quickly see the status of the storage systems in the enterprise.
You can also get more detail information about the Hitachi Array. There are a couple of different ways to do that. Select Storage under OPERATE panel on the left side of the screen, or click on the storage element from the dashboard.
When you click on atc5500 on the Top 5 Storage Arrays by Capacity Utilization widget, one will see the following.
This view shows the overview information about Hitachi VSP array. If you want to get additional detailed information, click on the “Inventory” tab and view additional logical information such as Host Groups, Volumes, Pools and Parity Groups, and hardware information such as Controllers, Drives and Ports.
Here is a screenshot of the pools.
Automate and orchestrate the provisioning of Hitachi storage
Cisco Intersight now has the capability to automate and orchestrate the provisioning tasks of Hitachi storage systems. Cisco Intersight has several workflows associated with Hitachi Storage systems. These include:
- New Storage Host
- New VMFS Datastore
- Remove Storage Host
- Update Storage Host
Cisco Intersight also has tasks associated with Hitachi storage systems. These include:
- Connect initiators to Storage Host
- Connect Volume to Storage Host
- Copy Storage Volume
- Disconnect initiators from Storage Host
- Disconnect Volume from Storage Host
- Expand Storage Volume
- New Storage Host
- New Storage Volume
- Remove Storage Host
- Remove Storage Volume
By utilizing the existing workflows and the tasks, you can create your own workflows to meet the requirements for their environment. For example, we found an error with New Storage Host workflow, and had to create our own workflow to correctly add the Storage Host.
Creating a new storage host
Before you can provision storage to the host, you have to create a storage host entity. You can do this by running the built-in workflow, “New Storage Host.”
Select “CONFIGURE/orchestration" from the panel on the left, then you'll see something like this:
Find the workflow named “New Storage Host.” On our system, it's on the second page of the workflows. Click on the … of the workflow and you'll see a menu pop up:
Select “Execute” from the menu and enter the appropriate input.
After successfully executing the workflow to create a storage host, you can now run another workflow to allocate volumes to the host. We ran the workflow called “New VMFS Datastore,” and it successfully allocated volume to the host and also created the VMFS on the vSphere host.
One cool feature of the Cisco Intersight Orchestration is the workflow designer. You can enter the designer by either clicking on the “Create New Workflow” button on the top right of the window, or click on the name of the workflow.
If we go back to the workflow list, by clicking “CONFIGURE/Orchestration" on the left side panel, and then clicking on “New VMFS Datastore” under the “Name” column, you'll see:
From this designer window, you can edit and create a new version of the workflow. You can also see the history of the execution of this workflow. Select “History” on the top right, and you will see the execution history of the workflow.
On this window, one can look at the input of the workflow and also the “Logs,” “Inputs” and “Outputs” of each task in the workflow from the previous execution of the workflow.
There also is the capability to re-execute the workflow with different inputs. By clicking on “Clone Execution” button on the bottom right, you can re-execute the workflow. You can choose to modify the input from the previous execution of the workflow.
When you open the input by clicking on “+,” you'll see something like this.
From this screenshot, you can see that the datastore name hitachids2 was entered as the datastore name in the previous execution of the workflow.
Here are the screenshots from the vCenter server after the execution of the workflow.
The datastore name “hitachids2” is seen from the vCenter server.
These workflows are relatively basic, but you can see the potential and the power to create more robust and complex workflows to automate and to orchestrate one's infrastructure, now including Hitachi storage systems.
How does Hitachi Storage integrate with Cisco Intersight?
Cisco Intersight works through the use of its device connectors. Device connectors provide a secure, encrypted link to Intersight; this is how Intersight gives commands to infrastructure. While these device connectors are embedded in Cisco products, they do not exist on third-party infrastructure. Consequently, an Open Virtual Appliance (OVA) called the Intersight Assist Appliance (with its own embedded device connector) is needed in order to allow for integration with third-party infrastructure.
Since Cisco Intersight is a subscription service, certain tiers of licensing allow for different functionality of Cisco Intersight. There are four different tiers of licensing: Base, Essentials, Advantage and Premier. In order to enjoy the benefits of Hitachi's integration with Cisco Intersight, customers must purchase at least the Advantage tier of licensing. This tier allows access to the Intersight Assist Appliance. If automation of Hitachi's array is desired, the Premier tier of licensing is required.
How we can help
Have questions about Cisco Intersight and/or how it integrates with Hitachi products? Our subject matter experts are here to help. Contact your WWT account team or reach out to us directly to schedule an in-depth demonstration of Cisco Insight.