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What Cisco Wants in a Carrier Partner

Mitch Wagner

LAS VEGAS — Interop — When Cisco is evaluating service provider partners, it has special needs. The company looks for global reach, as well as the technology to support the company's "Intercloud" hybrid cloud strategy. Cisco's partners also need the bandwidth to carry the data explosion in the coming Internet of Everything.

Rebecca Jacoby, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CIO and SVP, described what the company looks for in its partners in a one-on-one conversation during a reception here at Interop. During our discussion, Cisco attempted to distract me by cruelly dangling delicious hors d'oeuvres and pastries. But I remained resolute and focused.

"We're looking for service providers to be more global in nature," Jacoby said. When they don't cover a particular part of the globe, service providers need partnerships with local providers.

Cisco CIO and SVP Rebecca Jacoby (Source: Cisco)
Cisco CIO and SVP Rebecca Jacoby
(Source: Cisco)

Service providers need the technology infrastructure to support Cisco's Intercloud hybrid cloud strategy, which the company introduced recently. (See Cisco's Cloud Bet: What's in It for SPs?) When using hybrid clouds, enterprises run some applications in the cloud and others locally. Data and applications move between public and private clouds as needed. Proliferation of mobile devices and BYOD drives the need for Intercloud services, Jacoby said.

The Internet of Things (which Cisco chooses to call the Internet of Everything BECAUSE CISCO IS SUCH A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE) will demand far greater bandwidth than currently needed, as everything from home washing machines to factory machinery is instrumented and connected to the Internet, Jacoby told me. Carriers will need to provide direct connections between the instrumented equipment and the location where the data is needed, rather than requiring the data to go through multiple hops. (See Chambers Caught in 90s Deja Vu.)

Some of the biggest challenges that Cisco faces in dealing with service providers are mundane, such as connecting billing and back-office with Cisco's internal systems, Jacoby said.

Cisco is in the process of implementing its own Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture internally, both for its own operations and cloud offerings to partners and customers. In doing so, Jacoby's department is performing a time-honored function for vendor IT departments: providing a showcase for real-world use of the vendor's own technology. (See Cisco's ACI Gets Physical With SDN and Cisco Asks the Killer SDN Question.)

Cisco values ACI internally because it provides the kind of programmability that network managers look for with SDN without placing too much of a burden on staff. Network managers want programmability, but not if it's too hairy.

"It's all really complex enough. So what we're looking for is extraction and abstraction of the policy level." ACI's abstraction makes network programmability "really practical for an enterprise IT organization." She added, "You can set policy, you can manage policy, and [ACI] effectively allows you to program the fundamentals of how you are operating and prioritizing your resources." That kind of programmability, Jacoby believes, enhances network productivity and flexibility. (See SDN Faces a Human Hurdle .)

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to mwagner@lightreading.com.

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/12/2014 | 2:07:33 PM
Re: Partner or customer?
Steve102 - "Is "partner" another word for "customer" or is there some extraordinary business relationship here?"

In this case, "partner" means "provider" -- the people providing Cisco with connectivity for its own purposes. Complicated by the fact that these providers are also customers of Cisco's networking hardware, and partners and potential competitors for Cisco's Intercloud initiative. 
User Rank: Light Beer
4/11/2014 | 6:23:21 AM
Partner or customer?
Is "partner" another word for "customer" or is there some extraordinary business relationship here?
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/10/2014 | 4:27:11 PM
Re: Managed services...
Cisco's relationship with its carrier partners is complicated. Cisco is a supplier of networking equipment and services, a customer of the networks, and a partner and competitor in Intercloud cloud services. Makes my head hurt just thinking about it. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/10/2014 | 4:03:19 PM
Managed services...
It looks like Cisco wants to provide ongoing services to its service provider partners... so everything is now about providing ongoing support and updates (and not just selling hardware). 

Open source trends seem to point to more and more of this, as the software is free, but the ongoing service and support isn't. And SDN will likely accelerate this trend in networking equipment.

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