Cisco Systems might be getting a little better at addressing the elephant in the room, announcing efforts this week at Cisco Live! in Milan, Italy that should broaden its appeal in increasingly software-based and automated networks. The new solutions also couldn't come at a better time, as Cisco just suffered a stock downgrade partially related to its potential to be a loser in the evolution to software-defined networking (SDN).
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) said in Milan that it is extending its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller -- essentially its version of a datacenter SDN controller -- to enterprise and campus wide area networks via a new enterprise module for the Cisco One platform. Perhaps even more significantly, Cisco is also adding a northbound API to Openstack and other orchestration systems, OpenFlow support and command-line interface capability -- all of which should help the software interface with both Cisco and non-Cisco network hardware resources (See Cisco Extends APIC to Enterprise.)
In a separate but similarly themed announcement, Cisco unveiled Intercloud, a new infrastructure software solution for hybrid clouds, and Intelligent Automation for Cloud 4.0, a new version of its cloud management software (See Cisco Goes Hybrid With Intercloud.}
On the APIC announcement, Jeff Reed, vice president of SDN and enterprise manageability at Cisco, says: "We want people to see the different parts of the network as the pieces of an entire system. This means bringing the capability for intent-based policy control of resources in the datacenter to the enterprise network."
The APIC enterprise module brings Cisco more in line with moves that companies like Juniper Networks, Dell Computer, and others have moved to take SDN beyond the datacenter and into the enterprise WAN. Cisco first announced the APIC as part of its Application Centric Infrastructure approach in November. The company notes the APIC can be available both as software and as an appliance if the enterprise wants the latter. (See Cisco's ACI Gets Physical With SDN.)
The Intercloud announcement also reads like an attempt to change the perception that Cisco is still too heavily wedded to its proprietary hardware and isn't embracing a more software-focused or cloud-based approach. It allows customers to move resources and workloads between private, public and hybrid cloud and datacenter environments. Fabio Gori, director of cloud marketing at Cisco, says Intercloud can interface other vendors' servers and switches, with the common hypervisors from companies like VMware, Microsoft, RedHat, and Citrix Systems and numerous cloud service providers.
"There is no vendor lock-in," Gori says. "You do not need to have Cisco infrastructure on the left or on the right of Intercloud." Not surprisingly, however, he says that it's better if you go all-Cisco.
"This launch gives us a chance to talk about openness. Clouds are going hybrid, and we want to stay ahead of the game," Gori says. "At the same time, we have spent billions of dollars in R&D to ensure that and end-to-end approach can deliver superior QoS and security."
Both the APIC enterprise module and Intercloud announcements come amid rampant criticism of Cisco's ability to compete in a world intent on adopting SDN and virtualization. Just this week, JPMorgan downgraded Cisco's stock to "underweight," based in part on the challenges this company is facing with carriers in emerging markets, but also on the likelihood of datacenters and campus networks adopting more SDN-based solutions.
— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading