Sheila McGee-Smith
Sheila McGee-Smith, who founded McGee-Smith Analytics in 2001, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the...
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Sheila McGee-Smith | July 31, 2014 |


Dimension Data: A Partner Perspective on Cisco Intercloud

Dimension Data: A Partner Perspective on Cisco Intercloud Partners will be able to offer hybrid cloud services based on IaaS and PaaS, but application services are farther away.

Partners will be able to offer hybrid cloud services based on IaaS and PaaS, but application services are farther away.

Cisco announced at its annual Partner Summit in March 2014 that it would invest $1 billion over the next two years to build an expanded cloud business. Described as "the first truly open, hybrid cloud," the effort is being called Cisco Intercloud. At CiscoLive in May, the company issued a press release expanding on the initial announcement. The release listed a slew of service providers, technology vendors and customers already working with Cisco on Intercloud, including Dimension Data, Telstra, Accenture, VCE, NetApp and the University of British Columbia.

The graphic above (and variants thereof) has been used by Cisco and partners to introduce and discuss Intercloud. As can be seen, the strategy seems to encompass everything from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) to very specific Cisco applications, e.g. WebEx collaboration and Meraki security applications.

Like many ambitious strategies, the specifics of how and when nirvana will be realized--where everything connects to everything else seamlessly--are hard to come by. In order to gain a perhaps more practical, medium-term understanding of what Cisco Intercloud will mean in the collaboration market, I recently spoke to Adam Pozniak, Channel Director of the Cloud Business Unit for Dimension Data, a key Intercloud participant.

Pozniak was quick to point out that his comments were based on his unique perspective as an Intercloud partner and might differ from the official Cisco view. With that caveat, below are some of my key takeaways from our conversation:

Initially, Cisco Intercloud is primarily an IaaS story. Think of IaaS here as computing, networking, and storage offered by a Cloud Provider as a Service (e.g., Dimension Data).

Hybrid is a term that's often kicked around in discussions of cloud versus CPE, but in practical use it has usually meant taking some services or applications to the cloud and leaving others on CPE, aka private clouds. Intercloud promises to allow the movement of enterprise workloads from private clouds through Cisco partner clouds with termination on far-end private clouds--globally and securely.

Intercloud is about letting operators better enable enterprises. There is noplace where a company will go "buy" Intercloud. Instead, companies will go to Intercloud participants and buy services, like additional computing capacity.

Pricing of Intercloud is not an issue Cisco is addressing. According to Pozniak, "Cisco is not working as a billing provider. They are only enabling movement of workloads." He went on to say, "If I offer my service up globally, I'd have to work with other partners globally to make it available." He added, "Lots of things need to be worked on bilaterally," meaning pairs of partners will have to mutually agree on a number of different elements of provisioning a service for a specific customer or market.

Application Services based on Cisco Intercloud are likely years away. While the graphic mentions "Collaboration and Video" and "Big Data and Analytics," don't think that you will be able to connect your CPE video infrastructure operating on a private network to cloud-provided counterparts across the globe on a per-minute basis anytime soon. In the short term, Intercloud seems to mean that companies could use Intercloud networks to better connect CPE and cloud resources with a single, manageable administrative interface across those domains.

Intercloud's speed of deployment and breadth of capability will depend on adoption. Pozniak says that Dimension Data will begin delivering Cisco-branded Intercloud services in September 2014. But how soon the full vision will be realized--if at all--will depend on how quickly other declared partners bring services to market. And that will depend on how quickly deals are identified that are best served by Intercloud services.

While there is certainly an element of "wait and see" what customers want, Pozniak (who's based in Australia) uses a surfing analogy to describe how he believes participants must invest in Intercloud ahead of demand. Paraphrasing, his comment was "If you want to catch a wave, you have to have the board waxed and be in the water."

There is no doubt that Cisco is uniquely positioned to launch the Intercloud effort, given its commanding market share in both the enterprise and service provider networking spaces. I liken it to earlier efforts around the Advanced Intelligent Network that failed because multiple networking vendors insisted on proprietary elements to their solutions that defeated the purpose of the effort. With a single vendor, in this case Cisco, there are still proprietary elements, but these will be a common denominator across Intercloud participants.

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