A Tale of Two Playgrounds

For those of you who frequent my content, both in the form of blog posts and on Twitter, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m a huge fan of cloud-based resources for learning, development, and demonstration. Over the course of the last couple of years I’ve been tooting the Cisco dCloud horn pretty loudly, and for good reason; it’s just that freaking awesome! For those of you who aren’t already in the know, Cisco dCloud is a publc-facing cloud environment that lets users (whether a partner engineer, a sales executive, or even a customer) explore various Cisco-centric technologies via a huge virtualized space-of-awesomeness (the dCloud portal). You can choose your data center, fire up a lab, whether that be collaboration (my favorite), route/switch, security – you name it – and you’re off to the races kicking the tires, doing your demo, or even giving training on an environment that you didn’t have to build. Pretty cool, huh? They even have cool lego people (dCloud Steve rocks!) and a couch with an attitude.

As a partner engineer doing deployments in the field, I find myself using dCloud on a pretty regular basis as part of proof-of-concept activities for a client, or even training (them or me!) and it’s saved me just tons and tons of time versus having to constantly build and rebuild my own on-premises labs (did you catch that, I said it correctly LOL). Seriously, if you haven’t used dCloud first hand, you really should give it a try!

Cisco continues to add to their portfolio of awesome-sauce cloud resources for people like you and me, and have been making some noise in a somewhat new area (for me anyway) – the area of network programmability, aka DevNet. It should come as no surprise that collaboration, cloud, and programmability (of all types) are coming together – we see this not only in our data centers and our enterprise environments, but we run into examples of this out in the real world every day, from the iPhone in your pocket to IoT-driven intelligence in connected cities, and even self-driving cars.

One of the recent additions to the DevNet collection is something called the DevNet Sandbox. It first came to my attention here a couple of months ago when they released a Unified Contact Center Express 11.5 ‘sandbox’ and I got to poking around and thought to myself ‘this is kind of like dCloud, but from a different angle. So with dCloud, you’re in many ways limited to working within the constructs of the lab environment they create for you, by way of pre-authored labs and structured scenarios, in a largely Cisco-centric setup (although I have seen some exceptions, where partner-developed apps have shown themselves too). That’s where DevNet sandbox comes in – you literally get pretty much free rein of the environment to do whatever you want. I had an opportunity to chat with Tom Davies, Senior Architect for DevNet at Cisco this afternoon and he put it best when he said ‘It’s all about learning’. Way to go Cisco!

DevNet_LearningLabs

The overwhelming intent’ of the DevNet Sandbox is to allow people who are presumably doing app/dev work against the various Cisco solutions, to access the APIs and test out whatever scenarios they want. There are two flavors of DevNet Sandbox as well, one where it’s kind of an open ‘free for all’ and everybody can touch systems on an ad-hoc basis to do common tasks, but there’s a second reservation-based flavor where you can use the environment for longer-term engagements. It’s really quite flexible. One area where the DevNet Sandbox is particualy empowering is when you start talking network programmabiltiy, and having the ability to touch real gear (Nexus 9k anybody?) over a VPN and develop solutions against the gear, without having to stock your own lab.

Admittedly there is some overlap of capabilities between the two environments, but that’s not a bad thing – the teams are actually working together and deciding which of the two environments best suit the content they’re trying to release, and in some instances the same sorts of technologies end up being deployed to both – a win for those of us who want to actually kick the tires and experiment with these technology solutions. One area where the DevNet Sandbox really shines is in just how quickly you can stand up solutions. With dCloud it takes roughly an hour for most of the scenarios I want to test against to provision and be available for use. I spun up a DevNet Sandbox UCCX environment today, and it took less than 15 minutes. I can’t even get comfortable in my chair and mount the ISOs for my applications in less than 15 minutes if I were building this stuff in my own lab.

When I started off writing this blog, my intent was to help you decide which environment was best for a given task, and I’ve failed miserably at that – but what I’ve succeeded at is learning that both are awesome resources that Cisco is making available to the community at large to make ‘all the things’ we’re trying to do easier, and more accessible. That’s just amazing to me. I can definitely tell you this – I’m not falling out of love with dCloud any time soon, its just an amazing resource, but I’m definitely adding the DevNet Sandbox to my tool belt, and will be spending much more time seeing just what it can do.

Mini-Hacks_and_LearningLabs

For those of you attending Cisco Live this year in Las Vegas (next week, actually) there are a couple of resources you have to check out. First off, be sure to head on over to the dCloud booth in the World of Solutions and talk to these folks about what they’ve got going on, and get a demo of dCloud for yourself. If you don’t fall in love immediately, I just don’t understand it. I also strongly suggest you stop on over to the DevNet Sandbox booth in the DevNet Zone and take a look at this new offering and some of the resources it brings to the table. Talk to Tom and pick his brain! And while you’re checking out the DevNet Zone, try your hands at a learning lab or two!

Let me close by sharing a couple of awesome links that you should check out as you investigate both of these cloud platforms and figure out how to put them to use in your daily adventures.

Head on over to Cisco dCloud
and watch the videos where dCloud Steve talks about everything you’d want to know to get started in working with that environment. You can’t miss him, he’s dressed like a cloud!

Check out the DevNet Sandbox, and take a peek at all of the Networking, Data Center, Cloud, Security, Collaboration and more they have to offer.

Rumor has it (ok, so it’s not a rumor, they posted it on the DevNet blog earlier this month), there’s going to be a DevNet Escape Room at Cisco Live, where you have to leverage API’s and network programmability to get out of the room – but don’t just take my word for it, check it out yourself!

While we’re on the subject of network programmability, if you didn’t see the big announcements Cisco made today regarding “The Network. Intuitive.”, based on Cisco DNA, you should also check those out here.

I know this has been a lot to take in, and I’ve had a really fun time researching and writing about it, but what I want you to leave with is this – there are never-ending opportunities out there to experiment, learn, and develop your own network tool box. Use these cloud resources to help you on your way, whether you’re a developer, a field engineer, or a customer supporting Cisco networking technologies within your enterprise. The sky’s the limit people.

Thanks to the dCloud and DevNet people for all of your hard work on both of these environments, we really appreciate it here in the trenches. Carry on!