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.
In today's still-uncertain economic environment, it's perhaps not surprising that everyone's cost-conscious. "Users want everything to be pay as you go and pay only for what you use," Tucker says. "This is true for both private and public cloud."
On a technical basis, Tucker views cloud -- or more precisely, the deployment and management of large-scale clouds -- as a network intelligence problem, with virtualization the key item upon which that intelligence must be brought to bear.
He points to Cisco's Nexus 1000 virtual switch, which runs in the hypervisor and enables the network to connect to virtual machines, as an example of how traditional switching is morphing into something new. "There's this notion that we're recreating networking in the virtual machine space," he says.
"Network technologists are looking at it from the point of view of what are the protocols, what are the innards," Tucker explains. "What combo of hardware, software, virtualization, API and automation can be brought together to create the right combo to run apps in the cloud?"
It's a safe bet that whichever vendors collectively own the stack will be the major players of the cloud era. Tucker points to VMWare, Citrix with XenServer, and Red Hat with KVM as examples of current market leaders, but says at this point there's no consolidated, one-size-fits-all "here is the cloud" stack.
Cisco has aligned itself with VMWare and EMC, in its so-called VCE partnership. That's not a standards effort, per se, but enables the three participants to present a united front of storage, networking and virtualization, which work and play well together.
Of course, Cisco has a host of competitors who'd be happy to eat its cloud lunch. Tucker points to HP and IBM as the two companies looming largest on his radar screen. On the pure-play networking front, one would have to also keep an eye on Juniper, which offers cloud-ready infrastructure solutions and has been on an acquisitions tear recently.
Moving forward, although Tucker has characterized cloud as being in its infancy, he sees rapid movement ahead. "I think a year from now we'll have a lot more successful deployments, a lot more of the common patterns understood," he says. "People will be able to point to real, measureable cost savings."
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