UPDATED 11:43 EDT / MARCH 24 2014

Taking a page from IBM’s book, Cisco commits $1BN+ to growing cloud footprint

reading book cloud green tree parkCisco will spend more than $1 billion over the next two years to expand the scope of its public cloud services and bring the individual offerings together in a unified portfolio, the company revealed today. This is the latest in a series of massive investments by incumbent vendors to take the fight to Amazon, which is steadily chipping away at the sales of traditional data center equipment and enterprise software licenses.

It was Oracle that brought more attention to the industry spending spree last November with an announcement saying that it’s opening four new data centers across Canada and Germany to let local clients take advantage of cloud economics while keeping their data in their home jurisdictions. Two months later, IBM committed $1.2 billion to significantly expand its own cloud presence and add 15 facilities around the world in 2014.

Cisco is focused less on building out its physical infrastructure footprint and more on forging strategic alliances. The networking kingpin intends to provide its hosted services entirely through partners, an approach that aims to give customers a broad selection of solutions to choose from and thus enable a degree of customization not accommodated by the one-size-fits-all model of AWS.

The investment in Intercloud, as Cisco now refers to its services line up, marks the beginning of an entirely new chapter in the company’s long journey towards public computing. The move comes more than a year year after the firm dipped its toes in enterprise software-as-a-service with the release an online video recording capability for Videoscape Unity that allows cable operators to provide interactive functionality across multiple platforms.

The feature “takes your DVR out of the house, puts it in the cloud and provides access from any device,” detailed Cisco CTO Dave Ward in an interview on theCUBE at Open Networking Summit 2014. “How did we do it? Programmatic interfaces not only inside the home but also the networking devices it attaches to; programming out the cloud; orchestrating those virtualized network functions. Because of this technology, we went from zero to greater than two million customers in less than 90 days.”

Cisco is checking the same boxes with Intercloud. The suite is built on its software-defined ACI architecture and is described as capable of delivering “near infinite” scalability for resource-intensive and latency-sensitive workloads such as data analytics. The vendor is also touting full compliance with local data sovereignty laws and OpenStack interoperability, which means customers will be able to (at least in theory) seamlessly move workloads from their private clouds to Cisco’s data centers without sinking time and money into making modifications.

Intercloud features a “premium data delivery” solution dubbed Cisco Virtualized Mobile Internet and a set of compliance and configuration automation services as well as existing components of the company’s software portfolio. It also includes a wide range partner solutions, notably HANA and desktop virtualization software from VMware and Citrix.

photo: ~Matt LightJam {Mattia Merlo} via photopin cc

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