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Cisco, The Software Company, Is Breaking Down Cloud Silos, Ringing In The Era Of 'Little Data'

Vice President Nick Earle tells NexGen Cloud attendees that the networking leader is making all its products available as SaaS, and connecting clouds to devices on the network's edge.

As the industry shifts to application-centric IT and a services model, Cisco is following an ambitious strategy of unifying clouds through software and breaking down data silos, Nick Earle, Cisco's senior vice president of global cloud and managed services, told NexGen Cloud attendees Thursday.

The networking leader is no longer all about routers and switches, Earle said. Instead, Cisco is blazing a trail to enable cloud-native environments where cross-platform micro-services are powering advanced analytics at the network's edge.

That approach will usher in a new paradigm of "little data," Earle believes, in which users can query data stores in real time without concern for where the data lives on the network.

[Related: AWS VP at NexGen Cloud: 'We're Living In The Generation Of The API']

It's all part of a transformation through which Cisco is becoming a software company -- one still true to its roots, which are deeply entrenched in the channel.

"Eighty percent-plus of everything we've ever done has gone through you," Earle told attendees of the conference sponsored by The Channel Company, CRN's parent.

"And everything we do is moving to the cloud. … Everything we make is going to become available as a SaaS offering," he said.

With its omnipresence in the data center, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco is in a unique position to disrupt the way organizations access, interact with and gain value from cloud applications and data.

"With 80 percent of the Internet going through our boxes, we can make the Internet programmable," Earle said. "And that's what we're going to do."

To that end, and through a number of innovative products, Cisco is building out its Intercloud Fabric technology that connects data center infrastructure across vendors.

"We're not building our own data centers to compete. We're going to connect the clouds," Earle told NexGen attendees.


It’s an approach reminiscent of what Cisco did for data 30 years ago with its networking products, linking formerly closed, proprietary environments that locked in customers, he said.

The world is undergoing exponential growth in the number of connected devices, applications downloaded, and data generated by those devices and applications, Earle said.

Those trends are not only driving cloud adoption, but they're also moving the action closer to the network's edge, where the Internet of Things is becoming a ubiquitous presence.

While the current IT environment is one where partners are mostly still managing servers and applications in data centers, all those resources, as well as the money, are shifting.

"And the applications don’t look the same to the edge," Earle said. "They don't actually work in the data center."

Those modern, cloud-native applications are characterized by the kind of micro-services developers are increasingly leveraging.

But while large organizations might not want their IT resources isolated in a corporate data center, they'd still prefer software to treat the cloud, from a policy, security and compliance standpoint, as if it's behind a firewall, he said.

For those "edge" use cases, Earle made the case that what he calls "little data" is of greater importance than the more-traditional notion of big data.

Where big data involves moving data into a store and then querying, "little data" is all about agile data integration through real-time streaming, regardless of where it resides on the network.


Cisco is enabling solutions that "take the query to the data," Earle said, with the data itself staying put.

Will Strickland, a partner at Coda Global, an MSP startup based in Oakland, Calif., said he was intrigued by how Earle presented Cisco's idea of pushing data out to the network edge.

Where most vendors talk about consolidation, Strickland found Cisco's messaging unique. And the strategy the Cisco vice president laid out, Strickland said, "seems much more embracive of partners."

His business partner, Matt Smith, said Cisco's offerings seem like they can deliver services that address the realities of the hybrid cloud.

Cisco's "fitting in where it makes sense for them to fit in, and putting out something that's relevant," Smith told CRN. "This was an eye-opener for me."

PUBLISHED DEC. 10, 2015

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