UPDATED 10:50 EST / NOVEMBER 15 2019

al-cube-conversation-2019 APPS

Cisco wants to solve the DevOps skills gap with Lego-style coding

The skills gap is just another complication of doing business in today’s digital age. Application programming interfaces are the essential links that make online business possible. Yet, experienced software developers are a rare commodity. Those that are available demand high salaries and flexible work conditions that mid-level and small companies are pushed to provide.

So, what can a business do? Re-skilling is an excellent solution, but it is slow and costly. Outsourcing with contract employees is fast and cheap, but as Boeing Co. discovered, problems controlling quality and security can be devastating.

If applications are causing the problem, then applications can also be the solution. Low-code app development tools enable non-developer staff to create with drag-and-drop interfaces that set out to make coding child’s play. One solution is Cisco System Inc.’s Action Orchestrator.

“Action Orchestration is a component inside our CloudCenter Suite that brings together cross domain orchestration,” said Ali Ghorbani Moghadam, (pictured, center) senior technical lead, software engineering, at Cisco.

“We really think about it as building blocks or Legos or something like that,” added Mike Chenetz (pictured, right), It just is really extensible, really easy to use, and we think it’s a real game-changer,” added Mike Chenetz, (pictured, right) technical marketing engineer for the Cloud Platform Solutions Group at Cisco.

Moghadam and Chenetz joined Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, for a CUBE Conversation that takes a deep dive into the Cisco CloudCenter’s Action Orchestrator feature. (* Disclosure below.)

Extensible, flexible, fast and easy

A host of features make the Action Orchestrator, known as AO, stand out from the competition, according to Moghadam. These include the ability to build workflows through a drop-and-drag interface using “atomic actions” — reusable elements that are both preconstructed and able to be created and customized.

“Creating those atomic actions and being able to template-ize those and building those building blocks like Legos that in the future you can just build more and more out of and just add to the complexity without it being complex at all,” Moghadam stated. “It makes it super simple for someone who has not had any experience coding to put together their workflows … whereas in the competitors you have to know a certain amount of programming skills.”

AO is JSON-based, which gives it the advantage of being able to be installed on-premises, Moghadam explained. To ease the footprint with on-premises deployment, Cisco carefully chose the languages used for writing the services, for example using Go instead of Java.

AO provides central orchestration

There are many tools aimed at simplifying coding, Chenetz acknowledged. But “there’s no central orchestration,” he said. AO aims to provide this through the ability to run existing tools, scheduling them together.

“You can use everything that you still would use, but now you have all the integration. You have all the variables. You have all the workflow,” Chenetz added.

Video demonstrations are shown during the conversation, with Chenetz narrating the actions and explaining features. One example is creating a call for Smartsheet Inc. using the Postman API development platform. In just a few minutes, Chenetz demonstrated how to create a new action on AO, validating it, and running it.

“This just illustrates the extensibility that’s available within our product,” he said. “I have an action that I might have needed that wasn’t available on in this tool but it was created, and [now] it works out of the box.”

“How can I start using it?” is the reaction when customers realize the possibilities of AO, according to Moghadam. Getting a free trial is easy via the CloudCenter Suite, he added, so customers “just get hooked to it and then start using it from there on.”

An excited amazement at the power of the extensibility is the reaction Chenetz sees. He likens it to the reaction he got when his three-year-old son first experienced using Legos. “It’s like, ‘You can build stuff? I can build stuff myself?’” he said.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s CUBE Conversations(* Disclosure: Cisco Systems Inc. sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither Cisco nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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