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Cisco aims to be cloud connector in hybrid data centers

Cisco's main pitch is that it wants to be in the middle of hybrid clouds and be the glue that connects everything. If successful, Cisco starts to look more like a software company.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Cisco Systems on Tuesday launched a series of application programming interfaces and software designed to better link enterprise data centers with public and private cloud computing resources.

The move is that latest installment of Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) vision outlined late last year. Cisco's general theme is that the network has to become more automated and software enabled to connect the Internet of things---millions of sensors networked together.

"This is an extension to the ACI principles outside of the data center and applying those to the data center, wide area network and campus," said Jeff Reed, vice president of SDN and manageability in Cisco's enterprise networking unit.

Cisco's main theme, outlined at Cisco Live in Milan, revolves around the Internet of everything as well as automating enterprise networks.

Among the key items, which will go production in the calendar first and second quarters:

  • The Cisco One platform will get an enterprise module---Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) Enterprise Module---that's designed to hook up the company's software layer with corporate data centers---ones that run Cisco gear as well as other equipment. This enterprise module can be software based or delivered as an appliance, connects to Open Daylight, an open source framework, connect to existing gear and integrate easily. The enterprise module is designed for tasks such as security automation, provisioning and network optimization.
  • More APIs designed to connect the Cisco One platform to other compute, storage and network resources.
  • Cisco has added partners such as Radware, Glue Networks, Citrix and ActionPacket to the Cisco One ecosystem.
  • And an effort dubbed InterCloud that puts the networking giant in the middle as a software bridge to cloud services and data centers.

Here's a look at Cisco's revised platform.

cisco one apic enterprise

Cisco's main pitch is that it wants to be in the middle of hybrid clouds and be the glue that connects everything. "Hybrid clouds, flexible sourcing models and private and public clouds are the new normal," said Fabio Gori, senior director of cloud marketing at Cisco.

hybrid cloud cisco


Strategically, InterCloud may be the most interesting item for Cisco. If successful, InterCloud puts Cisco in the middle of the network and cloud connections on a software basis. Licensing models are still being worked out. If Cisco can make InterCloud a dominant software defined networking platform it'll have more licensing revenue and the profit margins that go with it.

Meanwhile, InterCloud is designed to work with any server or switch, said Gori. Naturally, there will be more features enabled with Cisco's software and hardware combined.

cisco intercloud model2
cisco intercloud model


Cisco also had a bevy of other cloud applications to go with InterCloud, including a collaboration with Red Hat to extend Openstack, a cloud automation platform and services designed for SaaS providers and carriers.

Add it up and Cisco aims to be a software backbone of the network as much as a hardware one. Cisco's main thrust is to grow the ecosystem and make it easy to consume the Cisco One platform. For instance, Cisco One and its additional capabilities will be free to support customers. Gori added that Cisco's cloud software also won't be priced on virtual machines. "We're not going to tax every virtual machine," he said.

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