Cisco CEO Robbins Envisions Expanded Public Cloud Partnerships


Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins expects more and deeper public cloud partnerships, along with integrated channel programs to support them.

Robbins, who already has forged a high-profile hybrid cloud partnership with Google and has relationships with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, said in a recent interview with CRN that customers' drive to a multi-cloud business model means Cisco will look to expand its cloud partnerships.

"One of the core drivers of our overall strategy is the multi-cloud transition," Robbins said. "By definition, that means we're going to build solutions that allow our customers to apply security and policy and traffic management to whatever cloud service they choose. We'll continue to evolve our offers and expand partnerships where it makes sense. You can assume that we will want to offer the most robust set of capabilities that we can."

[Related: Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins On The Channel's Role In Navigating The Multi-Cloud World]

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Cisco and Google formalized their hybrid cloud partnership a little less than a year ago. It allows application developers to use Cisco tools to manage on-premises environments and link those environments to Google's public cloud. Google has similar partnerships with VMware and Nutanix.

The Google partnership, as well as Cisco's partnerships with Azure and AWS, are in part an acknowledgement of the public cloud's market dominance. Cisco developed its Intercloud technology, which was a network of partner providers running Cisco hardware that would be interconnected, allowing customers to move workloads between them. Cisco scrapped that plan, though, as AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform took off.

Now, Robbins is eyeing not only expanded relationships with Cisco's public cloud partners, but perhaps even integrated channel programs, he said.

"With the cloud providers, many of them have channel programs today that we can integrate with, and they can integrate with ours and it's pretty natural," Robbins said. "Others are in the early days of figuring it out, and in that case we can help them think through how they're going to do it. There won't be one answer, but there is a recognition even by them that this is a partner play in the future, which is good because that plays to a historical strength for us."

Partners stand to gain at every step of the way, and with key technologies like network automation and SD-WAN, as customers adopt a multi-cloud strategy, Robbins said.

"The reality is that as our customers broadly adopt this multi-cloud environment, they're rearchitecting how they build IT infrastructure," he said. "That's a combination of automation, orchestration, SD-WAN, analytics, deep security, hybrid cloud enablement. The end state is very attractive. The road from where we are today to the end state is a tremendous opportunity for our partners. Helping our customers think about how they do that; writing applications on top of the infrastructure that help customers do that on top of platforms that are out there; understanding the different cloud services and helping customers make decisions -- there's a broad-based set of opportunities out there for our partners."

Walt Braeger, vice president of cloud at Logicalis, a New York-based solution provider that works with Cisco, said it's critical that vendors get core management and security capabilities right as they jump into the multi-cloud market and customers' digital transformation. So far, Cisco has checked all the boxes, Braeger said.

"Customers have to be prepared to define and implement solid systems management and security foundations that Cisco lays out in their message," Braeger said. "If we learned anything from prior technology shifts, it's that there are core requirements that you need to get right. If you miss those, you're going to spend energy and investment on redoing the foundation when you'd like to spend that energy and investment on delivering an enhanced client experience."

Braeger said Logicalis sees significant opportunity with Cisco and Google in technology integrations, as well as " adjacent opportunities to help our clients get their cloud and security foundations right so they can start to successfully and confidently embrace IoT."

With the Internet of Things comes analytics opportunities, Braeger said.

Logicalis is hoping that deeper relationships with cloud providers "will accelerate cloud adoption by our clients to enable innovation, agility and cost-efficiencies, all while being mindful of security," Braeger said. "The power and reach of Cisco-Google is huge. In an overly simplistic view, Google brings deep consumer insight and experience while Cisco brings enterprise scale and insight with reliability, scalability and availability."