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Cisco's latest round of partnerships and support highlight how important the company's channel will be in getting enterprise IT shops to see the networking giant as a cloud player.
Cisco added 35 independent software vendors to its Intercloud Marketplace, which is expected to be available in September. Most of the partnerships are centered on developer platforms, big data analytics and the Internet of Things, and partners include Apprenda, Docker, Chef, Citrix, CloudBerry Lab, Cloudera, Cloudify, F5 Networks, Inc., Hortonworks, Informatica, MongoDB, Panzura and others.
In addition to the moves higher up the stack, Cisco extended its ability to manage cloud infrastructure with support for KVM and Microsoft Hyper-V. It also extended its zone-based firewall services to support Microsoft Azure with Intercloud Fabric, the company's hybrid cloud management product, and customers can onboard and manage VMs from Amazon Virtual Private Cloud.
The slew of partnerships and added support doesn't include anything show-stopping or outside the realm of what other cloud vendors offer, but it is a positive step for Cisco's Intercloud strategy, analysts said.
"It's a piece of the puzzle and getting more support for developers is really good," said Paul Burns, principal analyst for Neovise LLC in Fort Collins, Colo. "In some ways, it's a little late to the party because you definitely want to have those kinds of integrations in place."
Cisco's strategy acknowledges that multiple clouds can benefit customers, Burns said. The potential downside, however, is that by connecting these disparate pieces, the customer could be stuck with the lowest common denominator in terms of capabilities across platforms. Still, it never hurts to tie in with the biggest cloud vendors.
"Their customers are going to use those two clouds anyway, so if they don't do it, it's going to be even more of an uphill battle," Burns said.
Cisco's strategy is unique, but it makes sense with so many different vendors and so few options to connect them, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, based in Westminster, Mass.
"In cloud, there are a lot of nodes, but they're just disconnected nodes. They're cloud islands," Kerravala said. "Tying all these cloud islands together, Cisco has added value exponentially more valuable to its customers and providers."
Intercloud gives customers more options and gives smaller players and even small resellers in emerging markets an opportunity to somewhat play on a level field with tier one cloud providers, Kerravala said. And for multi-national corporations concerned with data sovereignty issues, it helps to be able to navigate between providers that are based in different regions around the globe.
"With Cisco Intercloud you get a cloud network and I think that's a big difference when you can store your data where you want, migrate it if you want and how you want, and keep business continuity," Kerravala said.
Cisco 'stuck in the mud'
Cisco, much like EMC and some other legacy vendors, is "stuck in the mud" in many ways because storage and networking are pretty far down the list of priorities, said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research, based in New York.
"Because it's so big and so predictable on hardware sales, which are an area of interest people are rapidly losing interest in, they do have to take a different approach to how they go out and build their channel," Brooks said.
Cisco has taken what it does well -- ubiquitous networking and points of presence at every major telecom and enterprise on the planet -- to leverage that provider base and build out its cloud network and sales strategy, Brooks said.
Cisco's strategy represents the emergence of the channel in cloud services, and speaks to the maturity of the market and the fact that it's moved beyond just the biggest vendors.
"Cisco's challenge now is how to re-incentivize the channel to sell Cisco stuff in an age when it's less important than it ever has been," Brooks said.
Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at email@example.com.