I had the opportunity to work with Cisco Advanced Services for a project based on Cisco ACI .

It was the first time for me, here’s how it went.

Background

The customer requested official support from the vendor during the design and implementation phases of the new DC fabric so the BoM of project included Advanced Services .

Advanced Services - Fixed Price

For those unfamiliar with Cisco ACI Services , it is a porfolio of services to support Partners and Customers in design and support phases.

Each service has its SoW and the choice is based on the desired outcome and the maturity of the Partner on the matter of ACI.

In this specific case the choice was Cisco Advise and Implement Service that includes:

  • project management
  • design
  • implementation
  • integration services (VMM and L4-7)
  • validation and testing

It is very important to read and understand what task are under Cisco responsibilities and what are partner responsibilities, the Scope of Work and the deliverables.

Scope of Service

The scope of service is very detailed in the documentation. At a first read it may look somehow limited on the number of objects to be created.

The concept behind these numbers is to limit the service to consult and not as workforce adder.

I’m pretty sure I read that on Erik Dietrich blog or tweet . The idea is the consultant advises about how to do things and to find the best option in a wide range available. A workforce adder is just an additional person that operates as an extension of an existing team.

For that reason the scope of the service is limited in quantity but includes the main features of ACI.

Deliverables

The quality of the deliverable provided before, during and at the end of the project was very satisfying for us (the Cisco Partner) and for the Customer.

A project manager provided a plan, status updates and supported the on-site engineer for all the non-technical topics.

I’m not very used to remote-only work but the experience was positive despite never meeting the PM in person. Only the system engineer worked on-site.

Overall experience

The overall experience for my team and the customer was positive. We planned a total of two weeks of on-site work with the System Engineer for the initial implementation, with some optional tasks in agenda based on the actual results.

We managed to finish all the required and optional tasks on time, so we moved sooner to the second phase of the migration that included integration with Azure Stack and Service Graph . The Cisco engineer assigned to the project was very helpful to provide useful information *even if these topics where not part of the initial agreement. That means that any additional configuration is not supported in the scope of the project, but Cisco TAC is available for additional support.

A key point to speed-up the implementation was moving from away from the GUI leveraging APIC API with Postman collection run to create and configure most objects.

I advise to create the first objects using the GUI to better understand the workflow and requirements, and then move to API to avoid wasting time with data entry tasks.

Another important factor was to include ACI training for the customer. This had a minor impact on cost and timing but a huge impact on effectiveness, a lesson learned that I advised my team to apply in future projects to better align expectations.

It is quite common that customers are exposed to the technology only by pre sales and marketing people. While this is an important part of the sale process to get a general idea of the technology, expectations based on superficial documents quite often lead to delusion.

In this case, after the deployment, the customer was supposed to be in charge of all the Operations task of the network. This was not a fully manage service.

For that reason the training was very important to align expectations and give the customer the necessary training to operate and maintain the network.

Many companies don’t provide training for the technical teams so we got a very positive feedback for that.

Wrap up

The inclusion of Cisco Advanced Services was very useful for this project due to some time constrains and the impact on the services. The customer is a SaaS provider so when the infrastructure is in production any change is a risk with direct impact on the business. It would have been hard to justify additional changes because some choices were not optimal due to lack of experience.

The customer was very proactive to include Cisco AS and training on the cost of the project. This is not a common behavior, quite often only the cost of hardware and support contracts are taken in account.

I advise to consider to add Cisco AS for similar cases. The trade off is time vs. money, where time includes not only delivery but also planning, troubleshooting and rework to fix sub-optimal design and implementation choices.

If you had a chance to work with Cisco AS or questions about it, feel free to share your feedback in the comments.