Intercloud is a Cisco-originated project, but Cisco officials insist they want it to become an industrywide effort. In fact, they want it to be analogous to the Internet. Just as the Internet is a network of networks, an entity owned by no one, the Intercloud could become a network of clouds.
It’s a lofty ambition, and its success will depend partly on whether the rest of the industry sees Cisco’s intentions as earnest or arrogant.
“It’s not a Cisco thing. It’s an ‘everybody’ thing. We don’t want to see a Cisco label on it,” says Fabio Gori, Cisco’s director of cloud marketing.
To back its story, the company today is announcing more than 30 partners that are participating in Intercloud, taking advantage of its capabilities, or providing products related to it. The list includes Equinix, which is also being announced as a customer for the Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI), Cisco’s software-defined networking (SDN) architecture.
Boiled down to practical terms, Intercloud lets any workload be moved to any arbitrary cloud, regardless of the network infrastructure or hypervisors on either side. Cisco’s role isn’t to build the entire Intercloud, but to build the onramps that connect it to whatever network or cloud you’re using.
That interconnection will be vital as multicloud deployments become the norm, Cisco believes. “I see enterprises using four, five, six cloud providers, easily” in the future, Gori says.
He adds that Metacloud, the startup whose pending acquisition was announced earlier this month, could add private enterprise clouds to the list of targets for Intercloud onramps. (UPDATE: The Metacloud deal closed today.)
As for why Cisco ought to be the company spearheading the Intercloud, if it’s such a “not-a-Cisco-thing” project — Gori says other vendors don’t seem as prepared for this confluence of clouds. “We feel compelled to push technologies and a business model tearing down the walls, enabling everybody to go into every garden,” he says.
Cisco’s policy obsession around ACI plays into the Intercloud idea as well. When your enterprise connects to any cloud, hosted or not, “you want your policy to be ported into this cloud, and that should happen before your workload moves into this cloud,” Gori says.
Intercloud Fabric is the cog that makes Intercloud run, and Cisco is officially starting to ship it today.
Announced in May, the Intercloud Fabric comprises software for moving workloads from one cloud to another, regardless of hypervisor. That includes Cisco’s own cloud, which is being built out with partners.
Intercloud Fabric for Business creates a link from an arbitrary cloud or data center to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. For clouds beyond those two, Cisco is offering Intercloud Fabric for Providers, which creates a secure tunnel through which virtual machines or workloads can move between the enterprise and an arbitrary host cloud.
In either case, the IP address of the workload, and the forwarding rules associated with it, don’t have to change, Cisco claims.
Stories from the Service Providers
As mentioned, Cisco is announcing a large group of Intercloud partners, with the spotlight being put on carriers BT Group, Deutsche Telekom, and Equinix. They join Telstra, which Cisco listed as an Intercloud customer back in March, in a deal that essentially has Cisco running a white-label cloud for the Australian carrier.
BT plans to use the service providers’ version of Intercloud Fabric to turn its own cloud into an extension of enterprises’ clouds. DT, meanwhile, says it will deploy Intercloud nodes into data centers operated by the carrier’s T-Systems business. The idea is to provide infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for soverign data (meaning, data that’s not allowed to leave the country) and other applications.
Equinix already offers its own Cloud Exchange, which provides connectivity among multiple clouds. Intercloud will enhance this as Cisco can bring the idea down to the virtual machine level: deciding what policy or security should accompany particular VMs, for example. Equinix will be deploying Cisco’s ACI in full form, including the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) for delivering policy-based SDN.
Other pieces of today’s launch include:
- Cisco’s own IaaS offering — a Cisco-run hybrid cloud service based on UCS and using the Intercloud Fabric to connect workloads to Cisco’s premises.
- A $1 billion investment from Cisco Capital to fund partners’ and startups’ efforts related to the cloud. That’s in addition to the $1 billion that Cisco previously pledged for building out its own cloud infrastructure and technologies.