This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

Cisco has significantly expanded its partner ecosystem, added new offerings and put some money up to help with the adoption of the services.

If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of 80s music. One of my favorite bands of that era was Split Enz, who performed a song called “One Step Ahead”. While the song was written in the 80s, it was very forward looking, as the song was about keeping ahead in the cloud race. In fact, if you listen carefully, there’s an alternate track that goes something like:

“One step ahead of you
Stay in motion, keep an open platform
Cloud is a race won by a multitude
Your service, my fabric”

To say cloud is hot is as gross an understatement as saying that Bears QB Jay Cutler is overpaid. The red hot cloud market has created a race, as every major IT vendor, systems integrator, network operator and cloud pure-play has been bolstering their cloud services and looking to get a leg up on the competition.

However, despite the rising interest, many customers have been slow to pull the trigger on shifting to the cloud. Sure, the majority of companies might be using a SaaS service here and a back up service there, but the strategy remains somewhat a “here a cloud, there a cloud,” without having a holistic cloud strategy. In other words, most organizations have augmented their current IT strategy with cloud, but have yet to make cloud the primary compute platform.

What holds businesses back? Well, security remains a huge barrier, and that’s where most of the media has focused, but there’s an equally big issue around finding a way to develop a hybrid cloud strategy. Every cloud service out there addresses public or private, but the majority of organizations want to leverage a hybrid cloud. In a survey I ran earlier this year, I asked whether customers preferred public, private or hybrid clouds. Over 60% chose hybrid; the majority of “public only” are small companies, and the proponents of “private only” are large organizations.

Six months ago, Cisco launched its Intercloud strategy as a way of solving many of the challenges associated with hybrid cloud. For those not familiar with Intercloud, think of it is a network of connected clouds. The cloud provider can be any company that wants to invest in the infrastructure to build a cloud service–not just network operators or pure play cloud providers.

Cisco launched Intercloud with a wide variety of services, including HCS-based collaboration; video; WebEx services; Meraki WiFi; security; analytics; SAP’s HANA as a service; desktop as a service; energy management and more–so there’s literally a cloud service for any type of partner. Intercloud enables the secure movement of data and workloads between cloud providers and between enterprise private clouds and Intercloud providers, enabling businesses to build out a scalable hybrid cloud. At time of launch, Cisco announced a handful of Intercloud partners including Telstra, Allstream, Logicalis, and WiPro.

Cisco recently held a web-based media event and provided an update as to how Intercloud has been progressing. Highlights of the event included:

• Cisco announced a number of new Intercloud partners, bringing the total to 40. There was a wide variety of partners, including network operators (BT, DT, PT); enterprise IT vendors (NetApp, RedHat, VCE); systems integrators (Accenture, Dimension Data, Presidio); an energy management company (Johnson Controls). There are also a few distributers such as TechData, Ingram Micro and Comstor that will be “Intercloud Aggregators” and offer consolidated billing for Intercloud services.

• Availability of the Intercloud fabric for workload portability. The fabric enables businesses to migrate workloads between a private cloud and a number of public cloud services including Amazon, Azure, and other Intercloud partners. Today the fabric supports only vSphere workloads, but Cisco plans to add Hyper-V, KVM and CloudStack (Citrix) support.

• Two new virtualized managed services specifically for SMBs: Cloud providers can offer either a cloud managed VPN or a managed security service specifically designed for SMBs. The services leverage Meraki management, and orchestrator from the recently acquired Tail-f.

• Cisco is committing $1 billion in financing towards cloud adoption through Cisco Capital. This is in addition to the initial $1 billion Cisco said it would devote to Intercloud. The new $1 billion is for financing to help Cisco customers and partners accelerate the migration to the cloud. The company has used Cisco Capital previously as a way of helping customers deploy technology without having to fork over a significant amount of money up front. This is a good move by Cisco, as my research has shown that customers that leverage financing options typically buy up to 20% more than they would have had they not financed the solution.

• An OpenStack-based private cloud service leveraging Metacloud. On the webcast, Cisco’s President of Development and Sales mentioned the company had officially closed on the acquisition of Metacloud. The addition of Metacloud enables Intercloud partners to offer OpenStack-based clouds. Over the past year, I’ve seen a significant rise in enterprise interest in OpenStack, so the service offering is well timed.

The update from Cisco showed good momentum for Intercloud. The company has significantly expanded its partner ecosystem, added new offerings and put some money up to help with the adoption of the services. In this battle for the cloud, Cisco’s Intercloud keeps the company a step ahead of much of its competition.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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