Cisco’s cloud computing ambitions

Cisco's interest in cloud computing doesn't involve becoming an IT services provider and selling its infrastructure capacity in the same way Amazon does with its EC2 service offering. Rather, Cisco is developing infrastructure tools to enable third-parties to offer cloud-based IT services, according to the company.

Cisco offers a software-as-a-service version of its WebEx collaboration software, called WebEx Connect, but it doesn't intend to build services on top of that, according to Doug Gourlay, senior director of marketing and product management for Cisco's data center business.

Cisco leaves that to its partners. But, the company will take what it has learned in providing WebEx Connect to help it build infrastructure tools to support cloud computing, says Gourlay, who was interviewed for Network World's Cisco News & Reviews podcast.

“We've learned a lot, about power density and the infrastructure necessary to support this business model. [We'll] apply those principles to other cloud-based service providers,” Gourlay says.

Cisco's strategy on cloud computing is somewhat clearer than it was a few months ago. Observers believe Cisco sees cloud computing as a driver for its wider data center virtualization and control ambitions, and an opportunity to showcase its VFrame virtual data center appliance.

In the podcast, Gourlay says the first wave of cloud computing involves delivering business services, such as sales force automation software. In the mid- to long-term cloud computing could enable “workload portability,” which Gourlay describes as “shifting my workload that's in a data center in a building next to me to another system run by a provider.”

There would be stateful handoff, he says. “If we could enable that, that would do to cloud computing what BGP and IP addressing did to the network. Go from the network to the Internet. You would go from the cloud to federated groups of systems exchanging workloads between them.”

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