Kip Compton was recently promoted to Cisco’s SVP and general manager of the company’s cloud platform and solutions business, signaling a bigger cloud strategy for the company. But today, at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, Compton seemed to express just the tiniest bit of frustration with Cisco’s sales team.
He had lots of enthusiasm about Cisco’s opportunities in cloud. But he said, “We’re still pivoting with our partners and our own sales force. Some of our partners and some of our own sellers see the data center and understand how to sell the server and the switch.” He seemed to indicate that these sellers are less gung-ho when it comes to selling Cisco’s newer technologies such as its CloudCenter and it AppDynamics monitoring platform. “A lot of the time our sellers still see the on prem,” he said.
Compton said his role is “somewhat unique” in that it crosses other business segments at Cisco such as networking, the data center, security, and collaboration. “Cloud affects all those businesses,” he said. “I work across all those architectures to make sure we have a coherent strategy.”
Meanwhile, enterprise customers are pursuing multi-cloud strategies, and Cisco needs to help them find a coherent strategy, as well. Compton said, “Every customer is different. The on-prem private cloud is absolutely part of hybrid cloud. If you have a workload on prem that you can run at 70-80 percent utilization, you can run it cheaper there than on public cloud. Most customers are looking at a balanced approach.”
In terms of making money with cloud, Cisco sees multiple revenue opportunities. It’s working with some of the big webscale companies such as Microsoft with Azure Stack, which provides compatibility between Microsoft’s public cloud and on-premises private clouds.
Of the partnerships with big cloud providers, Compton said, “Those relationships are multi-faceted. There’s an opportunity for us to work with those companies to support their own infrastructure with software and hardware technologies. The other aspect of the relationship is helping enterprise customers adopt those environments.”
For example, Cisco sells the on-premises infrastructure with the Azure Stack. And then customers sometimes augment that with Cisco’s HyperFlex, which is its hyperconverged infrastructure technology. And it also earns money from its support and advisory services.
Compton said enterprises want to access the unique capabilities in each cloud, but they want a solution that will work across everything. “They’d like it to work the same in AWS, Google, and in their on-prem environment,” he said.
CloudCenter is one way Cisco is helping customers achieve this. CloudCenter securely deploys and manage applications in multiple data centers, private clouds, and public clouds.
In addition, Cisco is making its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) within enterprise private data centers available in public cloud environments including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
Keeping Up With Containers
The company is also keeping up with the newest cloud technologies, including containers and service mesh. Of containers, Compton said, “The momentum is tremendous and particularly around Kubernetes. A lot of ways networking and security were solved for VMs don’t work for containers.”
In January, Cisco announced its Container Platform. The platform uses Kubernetes as a management and orchestration component to support enterprises migrating workloads and applications into production environments. And it recently announced Kubernetes support for CloudCenter and its AppDynamics monitoring platform.
Compton also mentioned Istio — a service mesh technology that’s been getting a lot of attention. “When you go to containers you can make applications into smaller pieces called microservices,” he said. “But you need a way to manage all that. We’re pretty excited about Istio.”
Asked by the Cowen analyst if these newer technologies were really being used widely, or if they were still the domain of early adopters, Compton said, “It’s moving fast. We definitely have enterprise customers who are using containers. A lot of customers are starting by running containers in VMs. That provides a migration path.”