Cloud // Software as a Service
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12/7/2010
12:12 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Wolfe's Den: Cisco Seeks To Rule The Cloud

The networking behemoth intends to automate cloud deployment, as spotlighted via its just-announced partnership with BMC. We chat with Lew Tucker, Cisco's chief technology officer of cloud computing, who talks about cloud-o-nomics, interoperability standards and how Cisco aims to be the go-to supplier of equipment to cloud providers.

"The cloud is the computer" could be Lew Tucker's updated version of the famous Sun Microsystems catchphrase. Tucker [pictured at right], the one-time Sun chief technology officer for cloud computing, is now in that role at Cisco, where he's working to position the networking behemoth as the leading equipment supplier to cloud providers.

Tucker is also deeply involved in industrywide standards efforts aimed at supporting cloud interoperability. I sat down with Tucker in New York City last week for a chat, where he emphasized that we're still in the early days of the cloud era. Users are defining and planning their modes of interaction with the cloud, and the economics are beginning to become more transparent.

Topping Tucker's list of objectives is helping enterprises turn cloud setup from a kludge into a streamlined set of repeatable processes. "We're working on making networking a platform," he explains. "You want to be able to treat the network as a system--not a set of boxes--with an API so you can automate deployment."

To that end, Tucker says Cisco is looking build its own automation technologies, but is also willing to play the acquisition card when appropriate.

Partnerships are also being brought to bear on cloud enablement. A major deal in that regard was announced Monday, when Cisco and BMC Software formed an alliance to develop solutions for multitenant cloud computing infrastructures. The two companies announced the Integrated Cloud Delivery Platform, which will help cloud providers deploy end-to-end cloud services. Cisco and BMC said they'll also continue working closely together to provide additional automation-related solutions.

The Cisco-BMC deal spotlights the potentially lucrative angle Cisco is taking with its cloud strategy. Typical discussions of cloud computing, at least in the press, tend to focus on who's supplying services (e.g., Google App Engine, Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure). Yet the broader business opportunity may be to supply those service suppliers. As in, sell them the routers, switches, and Unified Computing System (UCS) platforms, which are needed to deliver scalable, on-demand computer cycles.

"We sell to people who are building clouds; we also sell to people who want to deploy cloud services," Tucker says. He sees the service provider market as particularly active, pointing to Verizon, Savvis, Terremark, and Telstra as Cisco customers which are offering enterprise-class cloud services.

Where We Are

Despite the current level of frenzied activity, Tucker says that "we're still at the beginning of cloud computing; we're taking baby steps."

"Most enterprises are looking at the 'cloud-o-nomics' of the public cloud because the market price -- for an hour of CPU time and a gigabyte of storage -- is being set," Tucker says. "But they're very uncomfortable with the lack of enterprise-class security and potential compliance issues. So they're thinking about how they can adapt that model, so they can run their own private cloud instances."

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