Cisco today outlined its plans for delivering IT services over the web (aka cloud services), and as part of a conference call, showed off a great slide that illustrates exactly how many companies this former networking gear maker wants to take on. If I were to boil it all down, I’d say the company’s cloud strategy relies heavily on its hardware to make its WebEx-branded collaboration software run economically. Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s CTO, said the company sees the cloud as having four layers, with the bottommost layer being the hardware infrastructure provided by Cisco’s new servers. The top three are the more traditional infrastructure-as-a-service offerings, platforms as a service and software as a service (see slide).
The only area where Cisco doesn’t want to play (most likely because it’s where its service provider customers want to build their own businesses) will be the infrastructure-as-a-service layer. However, Cisco will host its own services, and will do so on the new UCS hardware.
Warrior said the company has seen a 30 percent reduction in capital expenditures and a 20 percent decrease in operating expenses tied to IT, thanks to hosting its WebEx platform on Cisco hardware. She also spent some time describing new features and how Cisco is building its PostPath and Jabber acquisitions into its WebEx brand to offer email and IM integrated with WebEx’s meeting capabilities.
However, as Cisco moves deeper into the cloud, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the questions that weren’t answered. I asked how Cisco plans to interoperate with Amazon’s computing and storage platform. Instead of giving an answer, Warrior started talking about how there will be a variety of clouds, including public and internal private, and how Cisco wants to provide an “inter-cloud” system for communications among the various clouds in five to six years. In order to do that, Warrior said, the technology world will have to work on open standards for naming, directories, and presence awareness, as well as protect corporations that don’t want to have such openness between clouds. But most folks want their clouds to interoperate today, not half a decade from now, so all of this is more hype than help.
Another tidbit from the call is that Cisco believes its hardware will likely win floor space inside enterprise data centers for running private clouds rather than among the larger public clouds built on commodity hardware. In a dig against such services, Warrior noted that the enterprise need for reliability and service level agreements will preclude companies from using commodity hardware to underpin their clouds.