Cisco Embraces Amazon, Microsoft With InterCloud Infrastructure Software

Cisco Tuesday aimed to stake out higher ground in the battle for cloud supremacy with the launch of next-generation InterCloud infrastructure software that offers increased functionality for moving workloads between public clouds as diverse as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and VMware's own public cloud offering, according to Cisco.

Cisco also introduced Tuesday an updated controller module it says will extend the value of Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) -- the networking giant's flagship software-defined networking (SDN) offering -- beyond the data center and into WAN and access networks.

Both solutions were unveiled Tuesday at the Cisco Live event in Milan, Italy, running Jan. 27-31.

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Cisco InterCloud, the first of the two new products, is infrastructure software designed for hybrid cloud environments that allows organizations to combine and move workloads, such as data or applications, across different public or private clouds.

"Cisco is coming to market with an industry milestone that will fundamentally allow customers to place their workloads into any cloud ... and then for bidirectional movement and secure movement of workloads across this world of many clouds," said Fabio Gori, Senior Director of Cloud Marketing, Cisco.

In addition to Cisco calling the InterCloud an "industry milestone" that will help support customers and partners in their move toward hybrid, and more open, cloud environments, the company singled out Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in its press release announcing the new offering, but did not single out VMware's vCloud Hybrid until pressed on whether InterCloud supports the VMware public cloud.

A key solutions architect for a top VMware enterprise partner said he suspects that Cisco will have trouble making InterCloud and ACI compatible with VMware offerings given VMware's $1.26 billion acquisition of software-defined networking high-flyer Nicira in 2012.

Among the other key technology partners supporting the Cisco Powered services are: BT, CSC-ServiceMesh, CenturyLink, Virtustream, EMC, Citrix, Microsoft, NetApp, Rackspace, VCE and Zerto. Cisco also singled out SP500 powerhouse Denali Advanced Integration, No. 114 on the SP500, for its support of the InterCloud software.

InterCloud represents the latest in a string of moves Cisco has made that pit it against long-time partner VMware, which is aggressively promoting its own open approach to cloud orchestration. In November, Cisco, alongside its SDN spin-in Insieme Networks, launched ACI, less than three months after VMware launched its own flagship SDN platform NSX.

Bill Barry, chief architect at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider and No. 114 on the SP500, said he sees InterCloud as a highly disruptive, game-changing solution that is set to shake up the overall cloud services market.

Specifically, Barry said, it will free customers from feeling "locked in" to a specific cloud service provider.

"It's disruptive to VMware, it's disruptive to OpenStack, and it's highly disruptive to AWS and Azure," Barry told CRN. "Any [vendor] who wants to lock anybody in is going to be highly threatened by this."

For Denali, Barry said InterCloud represents a massive opportunity to move toward more of a cloud brokerage model and help their customers build out next-generation hybrid cloud ecosystems.

"We feel that by arming companies with Cisco InterCloud, through Denali, we will be able to create a new environment for [customers] where we can help them transform whatever they have today into this transparent, portable cloud environment, and really with very minimal disruption and with all the help and horsepower Cisco is putting in behind this," Barry said.

NEXT: Cisco's New Application Policy Controller

Mark Melvin, CTO at ePlus, a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider and No. 40 on the SP500 list, said that, while the market has already seen hybrid cloud solutions from some of Cisco's competitors, InterCloud seems to be the most advanced.

"Some of the other competitors have had some pieces which allow you to do links into the public cloud, but this is going to give you a much greater level of scalability and a wider and deeper integration level than we have seen before," Melvin said. "Some competitors promise this, but haven't delivered on it."

According to Cisco, InterCloud gives customers more flexibility by allowing them to move workloads across multiple public and private clouds while maintaining those workloads' unique network and security policies, and allowing customers to manage those workloads through a single pane of glass. InterCloud can be integrated with cloud management solutions including Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC), CSC-ServiceMesh's Agility and Red Hat's CloudForms.

Cisco said the InterCloud solution is not meant to be viewed as an updated version of the Nexus 1000v launch it staged last year. It is, instead, a "totally new, high-level and broader software-based" hybrid cloud solution, but it can be used with other Cisco products, such as the Nexus 1000v.

Cisco also unveiled Tuesday the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) Enterprise Module, an expanded version of its APIC controller that will deliver the benefits of Cisco's ACI solution -- such as increased network automation -- beyond the data center and into enterprise WAN and access networks.

Cisco said its new APIC Enterprise Module, available during the first half the year, will arm IT organizations with increased network visibility and automation while making it easier to rollout and manage applications across wired and wireless infrastructures.

The APIC Enterprise Module also includes technology from Cisco's $2.7 billion acquisition of security specialist Sourcefire that allows organizations to automate network-wide threat detection.

The module also offers network-wide Quality of Service (QoS) for compliance management across both branches and headquarters, Cisco said.

The aim of the APIC Enterprise Module, Cisco said, is to help IT organizations spend more time on developing next-generation business applications and less time on manual network operations. Cisco said it estimates IT organizations to spend as much as 80 to 90 percent of their time on network operations, and that the new APIC Enterprise Module can cut down on that time by up to 36 percent.