Cloud enablement

Cisco Plays in the Clouds

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yes, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) will sell the gear that will go into network clouds, but the real opportunity for the company might be to help connect those clouds together.

It's the first time the company has publicly explained a strategy for the really hot and really vague category that is cloud computing. Chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior made the topic a focus of today's keynote at Cisco Live!, the company's annual conference and training event for IT networking professionals.

Warrior had outlined her talk for press and analysts earlier this week, noting that Cisco wants to provide the gear that links clouds together. While the "Intercloud" (a network of clouds) is the eventual goal, the more immediate problem involves connecting companies' own networks, including clouds of their own making, with service-provider clouds. (See Cisco's Cloud Story.)

The last part is important because "many IT organizations and IT teams have already made investments in their architecture that they don't want to throw out," Warrior said. A cloud involves some level of trust, because it means the company will be using servers, software, and storage devices that are housed in someone else's network. Many enterprises are a wee bit skittish about that.

"We believe Cisco's opportunity lies in the fact that we can combine the 'on-prem' [on-premises] world and the cloud world and play a role in federating the two."

In other words, Cisco could help companies adopt cloud networking slowly. Maybe the internally built and owned cloud comes first, followed by the use of a dedicated cloud run by a service provider such as Amazon Web Services Inc. or AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). Connection to a network of public clouds could wait until much later.

To talk about how clouds are getting used so far, Warrior brought in Joe Weinman, AT&T's head of global portfolio strategy and business development, who talked from Lisbon via Cisco TelePresence -- because you can't have a keynote without showing off TelePresence.

"The virtual private cloud that ties both things together -- that is the key to unlocking value," Weinman said.

Weinman sees two models for cloud usage emerging, each of them involving a combination of a company's regular network with some sort of cloud. The first would be to use the cloud for bursts of activity, where any sudden need for storage or computing would "spill over into a service provider cloud." The second involves using the cloud as a "front end," containing user applications that are supported with "back-end" software components running in the company's own network or internal cloud.

In either case, an enterprise isn't suddenly waking up at night screaming "Cloud!" Rather, IT activity increases to a point where a cloud starts to seem like a good idea. "It turns out the essential key to cloud services is to handle peaks in demand that can't be deferred," Weinman said.

He added that it's incorrect to assume companies have to use the Internet to connect to a public cloud. Any number of private networking options could be viable, including MPLS virtual private networks (VPNs) or even an old standard like Ficon. "They may not even access it at Layer 3," he said.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

daveginsburg 12/5/2012 | 4:01:38 PM
re: Cisco Plays in the Clouds

i've got it - to connect all those clouds you need a god box ;)

Honestly 12/5/2012 | 4:01:38 PM
re: Cisco Plays in the Clouds

Warrior and Chambers are so all about marketing.  CSCO has so many issues here.  We could start with them/CSCO locking customers into a CSCO solution that lacks openess and the real SW glue required to do what they claim.

Just look at IBM, Alcalu and HP and you will find the real cloud players here.

This is just more CSCO positioning.  They must because their IBM and HP channel will go totally dry in the next 24 months.  In fact watch their revenue fall short in Q1 10.

Honestly 12/5/2012 | 4:01:37 PM
re: Cisco Plays in the Clouds

:)  Best comment ever.

gocowboys 12/5/2012 | 4:01:37 PM
re: Cisco Plays in the Clouds

This is just a marketing cloud. :-) or are they clouding the issue?

mr zippy 12/5/2012 | 4:01:36 PM
re: Cisco Plays in the Clouds

Like this one?



(I use that for network clouds for internal diagrams at work - and when people question the cherubs, I say they represent our happy customers)

scshitole 12/5/2012 | 4:01:31 PM
re: Cisco Plays in the Clouds

Wait for 2 - 3 years and you will know the results. Cisco is very strong company anf they do what they say.

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