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ACE Service Introduction Network

ACE Service Introduction Network

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Published by Cisco IT
How Cisco IT Introduces New Services Quickly and Safely.

Early testing by volunteer users helps Cisco deploy new network services faster and gain productivity benefits sooner.

Most IT organizations struggle to meet two opposing demands. One demand is from employees who want to increase their productivity by using the latest IT technologies and services, even before they are fully tested and supported. The other demand is from the business requirement for a solid set of basic IT services with high levels of support.

Cisco IT is no different, and has struggled for years to support both demands. The requirements for Cisco IT production services emphasize reliability, high levels of support, and cost control. These basic business requirements have forced Cisco IT to standardize on limited sets of services as well as stable and proven production code levels that are also scalable, manageable, and well understood by the network engineers. However, Cisco IT has found it difficult to maintain this standardization while also supporting the latest products features and new, pre-production code versions demanded by users on the same network.
How Cisco IT Introduces New Services Quickly and Safely.

Early testing by volunteer users helps Cisco deploy new network services faster and gain productivity benefits sooner.

Most IT organizations struggle to meet two opposing demands. One demand is from employees who want to increase their productivity by using the latest IT technologies and services, even before they are fully tested and supported. The other demand is from the business requirement for a solid set of basic IT services with high levels of support.

Cisco IT is no different, and has struggled for years to support both demands. The requirements for Cisco IT production services emphasize reliability, high levels of support, and cost control. These basic business requirements have forced Cisco IT to standardize on limited sets of services as well as stable and proven production code levels that are also scalable, manageable, and well understood by the network engineers. However, Cisco IT has found it difficult to maintain this standardization while also supporting the latest products features and new, pre-production code versions demanded by users on the same network.

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Published by: Cisco IT on May 02, 2012
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05/02/2012

 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
CHALLENGE
Give selected users early access to new Ciscoproducts and network services Avoid risk of installing prerelease products on theproduction networkDeliver cost-effective user support for the newservices network
SOLUTION
Deploy the independent ACE network whileleveraging some production network resourcesCoordinate deployment of new products andservices with the production networkSupport ACE users separately and mostly with self-help resources
RESULTS
Faster deployment of new products, services, andfeatures on the production networkUsers gain the productivity benefits of new networkservices sooner  ACE and production network teams makecollaborative decisions that benefit both networks
LESSONS LEARNED
Limit the number of users and offer self-supportresourcesCreate protections for the production networkSet clear user expectations about featuredifferences on the testing and production networks
NEXT STEPS
Continue testing new Cisco products and networkservices
How Cisco IT Introduces New Services Quickly andSafely
Early testing by volunteer users helps Cisco deploynew network services faster and gain productivitybenefits sooner.
Background
Most IT organizations struggle to meet two opposing demands. Onedemand is from employees who want to increase their productivity byusing the latest IT technologies and services, even before they arefully tested and supported. The other demand is from the businessrequirement for a solid set of basic IT services with high levels of support.Cisco IT is no different, and has struggled for years to support bothdemands. The requirements for Cisco IT production servicesemphasize reliability, high levels of support, and cost control. Thesebasic business requirements have forced Cisco IT to standardize onlimited sets of services as well as stable and proven production codelevels that are also scalable, manageable, and well understood bythe network engineers. However, Cisco IT has found it difficult tomaintain this standardization while also supporting the latestproducts features and new, pre-production code versions demandedby users on the same network.To address this limitation, in 2006, Cisco IT created the AdvancedCisco Experience (ACE) network. The purpose of the ACE networkis to introduce new, advanced services and products to a small,select group of users before those services are deployed on theproduction network. Cisco salespeople initially wanted the ACEnetwork to provide them with early releases of Cisco® Unified Communications (UC) products, so they couldexperience the user benefits and explain them firsthand to customers. Over time the ACE network has evolved toproviding select employees with more services, significantly improving user productivity. Examples of theseservices include new releases of Cisco video and collaboration products as well as security and data center services. Most of these products are later deployed on the Cisco IT production network.
© 2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco Public.Page 1 of 10
Cisco IT Case Study – April 2012 ACE Service Introduction Network
 
The ACE network also gives Cisco employees a way to test products that would not be deployed on the Ciscoproduction network. For example, Cisco products designed for smaller business as well as cloud services andcertain mobile devices are supported for demonstration purposes in the safe environment of the ACE network.With its focus on introducing new services, the ACE network has also proved very useful to employees who designand develop new Cisco products. They get a safe environment for field-testing their products in a large, global, andrepresentative enterprise as well as creative feedback from Cisco employees. Once deployed on the ACE network,Cisco salespeople are able to experience, learn from, and demonstrate these new Cisco products to customers inan actual work environment.The ACE network has proved valuable to Cisco IT activities by providing a safe and limited environment to testnetwork designs and product configurations, develop deployment tools, and build and fine-tune support proceduresbefore a new service is deployed in the production network. The lessons learned by Cisco IT from this testing havegreatly accelerated the deployment of new technologies into the production network, while maintaining thatnetwork’s basic business requirements of stability, effective support, and cost-effectiveness.
Challenge
“Any enterprise faces IT challenges related to pre-deployment planning and testing, and they often need to aseparate network for this reason,” says Gregg Campbell, a Cisco systems engineer. “Our customers want a way totest new products and features, so they can verify their business value before deployment and learn how to better promote user adoption of these features once they are available on the production network.”In 2006, Cisco IT was in a similar situation and decided to build ACE as a separate network for introducing newservices. The ACE team faced the following challenges:
Design the ACE network in a way that it allows communication with and can use resources on theproduction network when appropriate, without affecting the security or functionality of any network services.
Fund operations of the ACE network without drawing from the production network budget.
Define the right size for the network: Support scalability, yet keep a reasonable limit on the number of ACEnetwork users. This meant creating a process for approving users and setting realistic expectations for thelevel of network experience and support they would receive.
Provide user support that is focused and economical through resources that are separate from the Ciscointernal help desk and technical support groups.
Support and secure a second independent network inside Cisco.
Solution
Today the ACE network supports a broad range of Cisco products and technologies for UC, video, andcollaboration. The specific product versions and services deployed in the ACE network change frequently, basedon their availability and Cisco IT deployment plans. Table 1 shows a representative list of Cisco products deployedin the ACE network as of early 2012.
© 2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco Public.Page 2 of 10
“The ACE team is able to quickly deploy and implement new technologies,which provides a test bed and lessons learned to the Cisco IT team.”
— Ben Irving, IT Manager, Strategic Innovations, Cisco
 
Table 1.
Example Cisco Products Deployed as ACE Network Services
ACE Network Support for Cisco UCProducts, Features, ApplicationsProducts Supported by Cisco IP PhonesConnected to the ACE NetworkElements Supported by the InterconnectionBetween the ACE and Production Networks
Cisco Unified Communication Managerwith Mobility ManagerCisco Unified Personal CommunicatorCisco Unified Mobile CommunicatorCisco Unity® ConnectionCisco Jabber® instant messagingapplicationCisco Mobile for BlackBerry, AppleiPhoneCisco Cius™ tablet with video, mobility,and virtual desktop integration (VDI)Cisco TelePresence® personal endpointsCisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility ClientCisco Unified PresenceCisco Unified Mobility AdvantageMobile clientsCisco Adaptive Service Appliances forphone proxy and VPN phoneCisco Unity ConnectionCisco Unified Contact Center ExpressCisco WebEx® ConnectCisco TelePresence Movi™, EX60 andEX90, and C20 and C90 endpointsCisco TelePresence VideoCommunication Servers (VCS)Cisco TelePresence Management SuiteCisco TelePresence Server MSE 8710Cisco instant messaging clients with videoVideo phones (e.g., Cisco Unified IPPhone 9971)Cisco Unified Video AdvantageCisco Cius tabletsCisco Media Experience Engine (MXE)
Network Design
The ACE network has global coverage, with operations that are parallel and complementary to the Ciscoproduction network. ACE network users are primarily Cisco sales representatives, with some users from the CiscoIT, information security, data center, and other departments that need a network for predeployment planning andtesting. Initially serving 2000 Cisco salespeople in the Americas region, the ACE network today serves 6000 Ciscousers worldwide.To create the ACE infrastructure, Cisco IT uses some infrastructure elements and resources on the productionnetwork while also maintaining some elements and resources separately:
Separate: Inbound public switched telephone network (PSTN) trunks, voice gateways, and Cisco UnifiedCommunications Manager (UCM) clusters for voice calls.
Separate: Cisco TelePresence VCS for internal video calls. For video calls to external companies, the ACEnetwork links to the gatekeeper and the Cisco VCSE on the production network.
Common: PSTN access, call forwarding, and the dial plan for calls that cross Cisco UCM clusters.
Common: Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory (AD) servers for email and calendaring, and user directory and access control services. ACE products such as Cisco UCM, Cisco Unified Presence, andCisco Unity synchronize with the production AD servers each night. ACE users can wait for ACE to synchwith AD or can use a “synch password” command to speed up the process.
Common: Cisco WebEx cloud conferencing services.“We still rely on the production network at the physical layer, which means we don’t need to build everything for acompletely separate network,” says Pradeep Musugu, senior member of the technical staff, Cisco IT. “Instead, wecan connect to the production network as needed using SIP trunks, inter-cluster trunks for the Cisco UCM systems,or direct gatekeeper connections.”
© 2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco Public.Page 3 of 10

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