Cisco Intercloud Ecosystem Swells With 30 New Global Partners

Cisco Systems is expanding its "cloud of clouds" strategy by bringing more than 30 new service providers, distributors and resellers into its Intercloud fold and also launching a new solution provider program that comes six months after unveiling plans to enter the public cloud space.

The partnerships, revealed Monday, connect Cisco's Intercloud to more than 250 datacenters in 50 countries. Intercloud Fabric, Cisco's technology for connecting the varied clouds, begins shipping Monday as well.

The diverse partner ecosystem includes VARs, system integrators, aggregators, distributors, ISVs and a number of cloud service providers that compliment Cisco's own infrastructure hosting services.

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"This is about us engaging and enabling an entire ecosystem," Edison Peres, Cisco senior vice president of cloud and managed services, told CRN.

Cisco's 30-plus new Intercloud partners include Charlotte, N.C.-based service provider Peak 10; Wayne, Pa.-based service provider Sungard Availability Services and Redwood City, Calif.-based colocation provider Equinix. There are also several service providers outside the U.S., including Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom and Australia's Data3. They join previously announced Intercloud partners such as Australian telecom Telstra and solution provider Dimension Data.

International partners are critical to Cisco's Intercloud efforts in a world of increasingly strict data sovereignty regulations, Peres said.

Cisco also said distributors Comstor and Tech Data have joined Ingram Micro as Intercloud partners.

The launch of the new Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) program for solution providers marks the first step toward opening the Intercloud opportunity to the Cisco channel at large, Peres said. Early participants include Greenbelt, Md.-based Presidio and St. Louis-based World Wide Technology along with New York-based Logicalis.

Cisco expects to grow the invitation-only ATP program to 100 solution providers within the next few months, Peres said. The ATP, a type of program Cisco uses selectively to introduce new emerging technologies to a limited number of solution providers -- often as a precursor to a broader channel roll out -- will likely remain an invitation-only program for the next six months to a year, he added.

To accelerate partner adoption, the San Jose-based networking giant also committed an additional $1 billion in Cisco Capital financing to help fund solution providers, cloud builders and cloud providers, up from an initial pledge of $1 billion.

The announcement represents a major step in the cloud strategy Cisco unveiled with much fanfare and some surprise earlier this year, which looks to connect fragmented, custom-built clouds through open APIs.

Cisco is championing a hybrid cloud vision enabled by its CloudFabric interconnection technology that will be rolled out in hundreds of data centers around the world in the coming months.

Peres compared the endeavor to what was going on in the 1990s when the internet brought together the world's LANs into one unified network.

"In our world, what we're doing is trying to create and bring the power of an ecosystem of partners -- multiple providers, multiple builders, multiple resellers," Peres said.

It's about enabling multiple public clouds, he said, "so they can create more and more creative offers and solutions to the customer."

The strategy presents "big opportunities for partners" since its success depends on a network of system integrators and VARs that can help customers achieve "a balancing act in the world of hybrid."

"They have to help the customers down to the workload level," Peres said.

Intercloud Fabric attached to datacenters is intended to provide seamless movement of workloads between private and public clouds, independent of hypervisors, combating vendor lock-in.

It also aligns to the APIs of some of the large public players, including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, breaking their proprietary hold on customers by creating options for migration. Because those clouds aren't running Fabric on their end, however, users can't expect performance and security standards as high as they would see when connecting two Intercloud partner clouds both running the technology, Peres said.

NEXT: Partnership With Equinix Cloud Exchange

One partner will be colocation giant Equinix, which is currently connecting the Cloud Exchange it launched earlier this year with CloudFabric, an offering that will become more defined over the next several months.

The partnership promises a two-pronged solution for enabling speedy and secure migrations of large enterprise workloads, said Chris Sharp, Equinix vice president of cloud innovation.

Leveraging the Cisco technologies inside Equinix network-neutral datacenters around the globe is "another step in the direction of adding to that ecosystem and adding the ability of customers to dynamically leverage the right cloud services as they need them," Sharp told CRN.

Enterprise customers hosting private clouds in Equinix facilities can rapidly funnel workloads, through the physical switching fabric, across private and public clouds. That secure, high-bandwidth connectivity combined with Cisco Intercloud Fabric at the application level will add benefits including policy and security enforcement -- a combined physical and application layer solution.

"Solution providers will be able to pull together and cross-connect capabilities in the cloud exchange" as they build hybrid clouds with "application visibility and control" and "true throughput and connectivity control," Sharp said.

The partnership also gives Cisco the opportunity to deploy Intercloud in 16 global markets in which Equinix operates its cloud exchange.

Jennifer Follett contributed to this story.