Mike Sapien, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Practice, Jens Butler, Principal Analyst, IT Services
Cisco has announced its creation of a global cloud platform, branded Intercloud. It has also named some of its initial partners, which include a variety of cloud infrastructure players: Telstra, Allstream, Canopy, Ingram Micro, Logicalis Group, MicroStrategy, OnX Managed Services, SunGard Availability Services and Wipro. Although it is not a large group, it does include a mix of telcos, managed services providers, IT services providers, distributors, and resellers. As you would expect, they all have longstanding relationships with Cisco and were developing cloud services independently prior to this announcement.
Cloud services will become part of the Cisco Powered program, and Cisco plans to sell them through its channel partners and directly to enterprise customers. These cloud services will be more complex than those that Cisco sells today. This is not Cisco’s first attempt at providing global cloud services or creating a cloud ecosystem, but it is one of the first to come with a big investment ($1bn over two years) and to bring together a large variety of cloud infrastructure players.
The intention is to provide an OpenStack-enabled cloud platform for all partners to use to provide private, public, and hybrid cloud solutions. Ovum expects to hear more about the solution’s global availability, the addition of more partners, and how Cisco will balance the go-to-market channel challenges with the open (versus Cisco Powered) elements of this platform.
Cisco has definitely placed a big global bet on moving from being a network infrastructure player to an IT and now cloud infrastructure player. This is an aggressive and ambitious program, and it is heavily dependent on the ability of Cisco’s partners to sell and manage complex IT services. It will be a long journey – and a stretch for many of the partners.
Cisco’s offer will test its partnerships
Many global systems integrators and telcos are already creating global cloud platforms with different sets of partners. Cisco’s Intercloud program will be an alternative approach, but it may be in conflict with global players that use Cisco’s products with a different mix of hardware, software, service, or cloud ecosystem partners. This will test some of Cisco’s strongest partnerships with global players, and may create pressure to use alternatives.
Global availability will take some time
The announcement of Intercloud emphasizes its global availability and use of partners’ data centers and facilities, but the initial partners will provide regional coverage and infrastructure, not global availability. Cisco will need to expand the partner program quickly, increase the number of data center locations, and/or invest in its own infrastructure to provide global availability. WebEx has become a global service, but it took some time to create the global infrastructure required.
There is no doubt that Cisco can make Intercloud available globally, but the question is how long it will take – especially because its competitors are also creating cloud ecosystem programs. Cisco will have to move quickly to establish the program’s global reach and provide the required support.
More partners will be needed to create scale and complete the offer
The list of initial Intercloud partners includes a wide array of partner types, but it will not be sufficient to achieve the goal of a scalable, global offer. Cisco will need to enhance and expand the list of partners to ensure the program’s global coverage, adding major regions and countries and a comprehensive service portfolio; it should approach data center operators that are already investing in cloud infrastructure.
Cisco will also need to recruit more partners to create a full service portfolio for private, public, and hybrid cloud services. Some of the program enhancements will require professional services and pre-sales support aimed at creating a compelling offer. Providing a global cloud platform and a cloud services suite will be much more difficult and competitive than Cisco’s entry into servers with UCS.
The cloud openness requirement might test the Cisco Powered program definition
The Cisco Powered program has been a key element of Cisco’s network-centric service and channel offerings, and Ovum believes that it has become part of Cisco’s value add as a major network infrastructure supplier. However, the move to more IT- and cloud-based services and related support will put this program to the test as Cisco promotes its OpenStack platform (with requirements for Cisco Powered certification).
Current cloud providers and potential partners will test Cisco’s definition of openness and compare it to the requirement for Cisco Powered certification. Cisco may have to work creatively on its Intercloud platform to achieve the openness that customers require.
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