Cisco's Warrior strikes upon the cloud market

Cisco Systems' CTO Padmasree Warrior said cloud computing is the most over-used, over-hyped topic in IT in recent years, but that a genuine shift is taking place in the market and the network is a crucial piece of it.

SAN FRANCISCO – Cisco chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior sketched out the company's cloud computing strategy Monday night while acknowledging that the subject is one of the most "over-hyped topics in IT."

Nevertheless, she said there was a genuine shift occurring in the industry to separate applications and services from the underlying infrastructure so that IT departments can be more flexible in supporting the business.

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Speaking at the Cisco Live event, Warrior quoted commonly cited statistics that claim companies spend 70% of their IT budgets maintaining and upgrading their existing infrastructure and only 30% on building new applications and services to support the business. The hope is that a cloud computing architecture will reverse this ratio.

However, she said the barriers preventing enterprises from moving to the cloud, including a lack of "security, reliability and control", are tough to overcome. She also noted that there's an enormous investment in existing datacenter technology.

"We don't need a new architecture that makes this obsolete but a way to transition to the new cloud model," she said.

Cisco's pitch to support this transition is its new blade server, Unified Computing System (UCS). This "data center server" includes compute, storage, access and virtualization in a single system. With this product, Warrior said the company is "removing the barrier of integration from IT" without forcing companies to rip out their existing servers.

The true power of the flexibility [of cloud computing] comes only when you can allow workloads to move from one cloud to another, and that depends on the network.
Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco Systems,
As well as supplying to its traditional enterprise customers, Cisco also has its sights on service providers selling Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), with Amazon AWS being the 800lb gorilla there. In addition, Cisco is in the Software as a Service (SaaS) market with WebEx web conferencing service and PostPath products.

IDC forecasts the combined SaaS and IaaS markets will be worth $42 billion by 2012.

Warrior said the more immediate market for Cisco is selling to companies building internal clouds, which they own and control, or private clouds, which they control but do not own. She described private clouds as a secure area walled off at a hosting provider but controlled by the enterprise customer. Cisco's goal is to provide the federation between these three clouds, internal, private and public.

"The true power of the flexibility [of cloud computing] comes only when you can allow workloads to move from one cloud to another, and that depends on the network," Warrior said.

Cisco is working with three to four large service providers and three to four small services, which Warrior referred to as "lighthouse service providers", to build out the capabilities for "cloud internetworking". The "load balancing, orchestration of the workloads and the security will ride on our hardware or on software appliances," she said. Functionality like IP address mediation and peering are key issues Cisco is working on in this area.

Warrior believes internal and private cloud adoption will happen over the two years while public cloud computing and internetworking between public cloud service providers is a five to seven years shift.

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