Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, February 24, 2024

Cisco Fleshes Out $1B Intercloud Strategy 

Cisco Systems is investing $1 billion to help partners and customers speed adoption of its Intercloud Fabric technology. The investment is part of an expansion of the OpenStack-based interconnection technology to 30 new companies operating 250 datacenters in 50 countries, the networking giant said.

The expanded list of datacenters would begin offering hybrid cloud services as Cisco begins shipping it Intercloud Fabric to early customers. Cisco executives said the fabric provides the ability to create "on ramps" to Intercloud.

Intercloud is described as a "hypervisor-agnostic" cloud interconnect technology designed to accelerate adoption of Cisco's cloud offerings. The hybrid platform is touted as offering "near-infinite" scaling while accounting for data sovereignty through local hosting.

Among Cisco's new Intercloud partners are British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, and NTT Data on the telco and hosting front, Equinix on the wholesale datacenter and colocation provider front.

Rob Lloyd, Cisco's president of development and sales, likened the Intercloud effort to the linking of local area networks two decades ago as the Internet exploded. "Now we are connecting islands of public clouds," Lloyd explained during a webcast. Lloyd also emphasized the "explosion" of app downloads via mobile devices that require the shifting of workloads among private and public clouds. Hence, the emphasis on a hybrid Intercloud.

Cisco and Equinix said they would partner to provide hosted private cloud services based on the Equinix Cloud Exchange announced earlier this year. The exchange is currently available in 19 markets to provide datacenter automation, orchestration and connectivity.

Once Intercloud is integrated into its cloud exchange, Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi said it could help customers move workloads "out of the basement" and into one of its 102 datacenters.

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Cisco said it plans to deploy Intercloud capabilities in 16 Equinix markets in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Equinix also plans to deploy Cisco technologies and services across its Cloud Exchange, including the high-end Nexus 9000 switches with their baked-in software-defined networking.

The British telecommunications carrier BT said it would use the Intercloud Fabric to develop hybrid cloud services that connect to other Cisco cloud offerings. BT's cloud compute infrastructure includes datacenters in 20 countries.

BT's move to the hybrid cloud via Intercloud would give CIOs the ability to "mix and match" cloud services in order to move workloads among it 45 datacenters, said Neil Lock, director of BT Compute. "We need a cloud of clouds."

Markus Hacke, senior vice president for telecommunications service at Deutsche Telecom, added that the Intercloud partnership would help boost data privacy and "drive customer transformation into the cloud."

The growing emphasis on data privacy and sovereignty, a particularly hot topic in Europe, "requires a new model of the cloud," Cisco's Lloyd added, indicating that the network equipment supplier sees additional opportunities in the European cloud market.

Cisco noted that Intercloud Fabric is only available on vSphere now, but it intends to support for additional hypervisors in the future.

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Lloyd and other Cisco executives provided few details on the $1 billion investment in Intercloud adoption other than to say that the funding announced today was "incremental" to an earlier capital investment in Intercloud. The company said in March it expects to invest over $1 billion to expand its cloud services business over the next two years. Today's announcement of new Intercloud Fabic partners represents the next step, company executives said.

Another component of Cisco's cloud infrastructure is its Unified Computing System rack and blade servers. The company announced a partnership with Red Hat to tune up OpenStack for the UCS iron.

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Cisco also is integrating recently acquired Metacloud into its Intercloud infrastructure as a way to scale it. The deal also is expected to accelerate Intercloud by allowing service providers to combine their public cloud deployments with remotely managed OpenStack private clouds, thereby linking separate cloud infrastructures.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).