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6/10/2015
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Cisco Plans To Ring The World With 'Intercloud'

Cisco enlists software and data center partners for its Intercloud chain of 350 worldwide, connected data centers -- big data, dev platform, and IoT included.

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Cisco Systems has knit together an alliance to establish a daisy chain of 350 data centers around the world. Unlike Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, however, it's not building the data centers itself -- at $250 million, $300 million, or more a pop.

Instead it's relying on partners to provide 344 of the data center facilities. Examples include Telifonica in Spain with seven data centers, Telecom Italia with three data centers, and Yunan Nantian Electronic Information in Beijing and Kunming, China. To that 344 it will add 6 that it directly owns. Combined, the 350 data centers will serve as the backbone of Cisco's Intercloud service. All 350 will run a common set of OpenStack software with Cisco-mandated management procedures. These Intercloud data centers will be linked together by Cisco's Intercloud Fabric, a high-speed network with security and traffic management built in.

(D3Damon/iStockphoto)

(D3Damon/iStockphoto)

On the network, Cisco will offer specialized services that it builds with 35 partners, such Nirmata, the cross-cloud, containerized microservices company; Apprenda, the on-premises platform-as-a-service provider; and Cloudera, the Hadoop-as-an-enterprise-system supplier.

Cisco's Fabio Gori, director of worldwide cloud marketing, said in an interview that Cisco is establishing "a globally connected network of clouds" that will be operated with a set of Cisco-prescribed software. That will help guarantee a standard environment for the higher-level services that Cisco and partners expect to offer over the chain, according to Gori.

Cisco isn't striving to duplicate the low-cost, infrastructure-as-a-service that Amazon offers. Instead it's seeking to generate business with services atop a chain of data centers near its customers' headquarters, operations, and millions of mobile device users. Its data centers, distributed across 50 countries, will also be close to millions of home appliances, factory assembly lines, and sophisticated heavy machinery that will one day make up the Internet of Things. Cisco prefers to call it the "Internet of Everything."

Instead of seeing how many plain vanilla virtual machines it can launch, Cisco will offer a cloud platform for what Gori called security, compliance, and communications suitable for enterprise workloads. It's planning sets of specialized services to offer through an Intercloud Marketplace, which is slated to become available in the fall. Initially, the focus will be big data collection and analysis, development of next-generation apps on development platforms, and use of data from the Internet of Things.

Cisco will provide a single interface for customers to connect to the Intercloud, regardless of what data center they're using, and they will have the option of using the same interface to provision virtual servers on Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. "Our customers need more than just multiple clouds. Our customers need a globally connected network of clouds," said Cisco's Nick Earle, senior VP of global cloud and managed services sales, in Wednesday's announcement.

[Want to learn more about Cisco's Intercloud? See Cisco Buys Piston, Builds Out Intercloud.]

Cisco is designing the interface so that users don't need to know a lot about the specific clouds they're using. "The workload you're deploying will carry its security rules into the Azure cloud. You don't need to hire Azure expertise," said Gori.

Cisco is talking about the big data capabilities of Intercloud in its six data centers in the US, Europe, and Asia, Wednesday at the Hadoop Summit in San Jose, Calif. The Intercloud Marketplace, with independent software vendor partners' software available for deployment, is slated to be operational this fall.

Among the big data partners are Hadoop system suppliers Hortonworks, MapR, and Cloudera. NoSQL system provider partners are Couchbase, MongoDB, and Basho (supplier of the Riak NoSQL system). BeyondCore provides automated analytics, while ScaleArc supplies scalable MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle database services. Each of those systems is slated to be available as software-as-a-service or a managed service on the Intercloud, said Gori.

Other independent software vendors include development platform-as-a-service partners Apprenda, used by both Java and .Net developers, and ActiveState, supplier of the Stackato platform built on top of open source Cloud Foundry. Internet of Everything partners include Davra Networks, for its Internet of Things application enablement platform.

Cisco has also assembled a mix of other independent software supplies such as: open source Chef configuration management; Datadog IT infrastructure management; Cliqr, for migration legacy systems onto the public cloud; Cloudberry Lab, a cross-cloud backup service; Ctera hybrid cloud storage operations; Druva's end point, mobile-device data protection; Egnyte's cloud-based file-sharing service; Elasticbox, with its DevOps approach to delivering applications to the cloud as reusable components; Ironyun cloud-based video management; and others.

Cisco and the 35 independent software vendors signed up so far are trying to create a rich environment for enterprise computing. The signups so far create an interesting patchwork quilt of offerings, but Cisco isn't likely to stop there. As more applications become available, the Intercloud federation may pose a vendor-neutral environment with many choices for its customers. But Cisco will have to continue to strive for uniformity of offerings, predictable interactions, and guarantees of services across a large vendor group.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2015 | 4:56:16 PM
The cloud daisy chain
Google's Urs Hoelzle coined the phrase, the data center is the computer. Sun used to say the network is the computer. In Cisco's case, given its emphasis on a high speed connecting fabric between Intercloud data centers, the data center network is the computer. One data center could back up another -- perhaps not upon launch but with another year's further development. A service so busy it's tied up in one could reroute requests to another. An application busy in one location could be shifted to another to the west as daytime activity follows the sun. Cisco is a bit ahead of itself, because these uses are at a very early stage. But if the Internet of Things comes on strong, it will be well positioned to exploit those uses.
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