Cisco, Red Hat Team Up On Integrated Infrastructure For OpenStack-Based Clouds

Cisco and Red Hat are tightening their ties once again.

The two companies unveiled Thursday an extended partnership through which they will deliver a new converged infrastructure solution for OpenStack-based cloud deployments.

The expanded alliance, revealed by Cisco at its Unified Computing System (UCS) launch event in New York, is centered on a new product called Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform (UCSO).

The platform combines Cisco's UCS, Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) software-defined networking solution, and the Red Hat OpenStack distribution.

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Cisco said the aim of the integrated platform is to serve as an on-ramp for customers looking to deploy OpenStack-based private clouds or Cisco's Intercloud hybrid cloud services.

"When we got into this conversation [with Red Hat], we knew of two key components that we felt were really important: our ACI, and how that actually could [be factored] in, and then Cisco's Intercloud strategy," said Jim McHugh, vice president of UCS marketing at Cisco.

The new UCSO platform is available as three offerings. The first is a Starter Edition that Cisco said enables "quick and easy" installation for enterprise private clouds. The Starter Edition is slated for availability in November.

Next is the UCSO Advanced Edition, a flavor of the platform designed for the deployment and operation of large-scale private clouds. The third offering is an Advanced ACI Edition, which is focused on cloud deployments that leverage Cisco's ACI infrastructure.

The Advanced Edition and Advanced ACI Editions of UCSO will be delivered as "rolling releases" throughout the course of next year, Cisco said.

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As part of the expanded Red Hat-Cisco alliance, the two companies are offering 24/7 product support for UCSO and, for an additional fee, customer access to a team of "cross-trained" Red Hat and Cisco technical support staff.

Cisco said qualified channel partners and the Cisco Cloud Consulting Services team will be driving deployments of UCSO.

Chris Ward, CTO of GreenPages LogicsOne, a national solution provider that is considered a leader in delivering cloud solutions to midmarket customers, said the new Red Hat and Cisco alliance is a win-win for the companies.

’Cisco is very much embracing Open Stack solutions and they are also partnering with everyone they can,’ said Ward. ’I think it is a good strategy on the Red Hat side as it could help them in the larger service provider space, which traditionally utilizes non-Cisco-based solutions in both networking and compute, and those are the guys who also tend to use KVM [Red Hat] versus VMware hypervisors, so it makes sense."

An executive from another national solution provider, who asked to remain anonymous, said the tightening of the Red Hat-Cisco ties is another sign of a rift developing between Cisco and VMware, who last month rolled out its own OpenStack distribution at VMworld.

Cisco and VMware, both part of the VCE alliance for building cloud offerings based on Cisco, EMC and VMware technology, are also moving aggressively into the market with their own SDN offerings. "This is another shot in the Cisco versus VMware war," said the partner. ’This is Cisco competing with VMware on another front."

Cisco's expanded partnership with Red Hat comes as the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant stages the most significant refresh to its UCS line since the product launched in 2009. On Thursday, Cisco took the wraps off UCS Mini, a new version of its flagship converged infrastructure offering that's purpose-built for smaller organizations and remote offices.

The company also debuted its first-ever line of modular servers, called the Cisco M-Series, targeted at cloud service providers, along with a refreshed line of its B-Series blade servers.

The new products could fuel Cisco's already steady growth in the data center and server markets. IDC reported last month that Cisco's server revenue soared more than 35 percent in the second quarter. The analyst firm also reported in June that Cisco eclipsed rival Hewlett-Packard to become the No. 1 x86 blade server vendor in North America by revenue.

The new UCSO platform isn't the first instance of a Cisco-Red Hat collaboration. In January, the two companies unveiled a jointly developed go-to-market strategy called "Journey to the Open Cloud."

Steven Burke contributed to this story.