Cisco is strengthening its ties with Microsoft, announcing a joint technology platform Wednesday that will combine Cisco Intercloud with Microsoft Azure to help service providers more quickly and cheaply launch new applications. (See Cisco: Software, Cloud to Be 'Main Focus'.)
Specifically, the two companies are combining Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Azure Pack with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to create the "Cisco Cloud Architecture for the Microsoft Cloud Platform." The platform combines infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) in one. (See Cisco Aims for '#1' in Hybrid Cloud.)
Nick Earle, Cisco's senior vice president of cloud and managed services, calls this phase two of cloud computing -- linking different clouds together using open, interoperable and app-centric software with the aim of creating a hybrid model that can work across clouds. Earle says this model lets cloud providers focus solely on services and not on being systems integrators. (See Cisco Gives Its Software Licensing a Makeover.)
"We have about 200 Cisco cloud providers that need to provide new applications at DevOp speeds -- put it out there, get feedback, improve it, put it out again," Earle says. "People couldn't do that previously because they were being systems integrators."
Microsoft and Cisco first joined forces in July, when they announced a multi-year agreement to integrate their services and jointly go after the data center market. Earle stressed that today's announcement with Microsoft isn't just a cross-sell arrangement the two companies' marketing departments cooked up; it entails a full year of engineering work and a "deep level of engagement with a shared long-term vision around cloud." (See Cisco Set to Launch Cloud Services.)
Cisco's ACI lets it abstract policies, such as for security and load balancing, and put those policies into a set of libraries attached to apps, so that when an app is deployed, the policy is automatically applied to it from the data center to the end points. This should speed time to market for services including disaster recovery, big data, network services and enterprise apps.
"In this world, Cisco takes on the responsibility of bringing up-to-date app policy libraries that will work with what we have today," Earle says, adding that the first release will use Microsoft for orchestration.
Cisco has been building out what it calls the Interloud, or a global "cloud of clouds," for the past year. Intercloud directly connects enterprise customers to cloud providers including Microsoft and Amazon Web Services Inc. , as well as carriers providing connectivity. It launched its Intercloud partner ecosystem with one partner, Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS). (See Telstra Extends Cloud Capabilities With Cisco.)
With the addition of 14 cloud providers today, Cisco says it now it has 60 partners, operating 350 data centers across 60 countries. By being part of Cisco's program, they are all able to run internal apps on any partners' cloud and move between them freely. (See Cisco Beefs Up Its Intercloud, Adds Telco Partners .)
Most of the new names are cloud service providers, but there are also some network operators on board, including Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and Telecom Italia (TIM) , and data center operators such as US-based ViaWest Inc. (See Cisco's Cloud Bet: What's in It for SPs?)
Cisco and Microsoft, while huge names, are not the only cloud players wanting to play a bigger part in the ecosystem. Others including VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) and even Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) are tackling connecting public and private clouds as well. (See VMware, Cisco Build Rival Data Center Teams, VMware Looks to Help Carriers Bridge Private, Public Clouds, CenturyLink Offers Private Clouds in Hybrid Management and Verizon Brings Thunder to the Cloud.)
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading