Got a cloud? Want to connect to another? Cisco & NetApp are here to help

By | January 28, 2014

NetApp+CloudToday we talk of clouds as if they were something new, something dynamic and something trendy. But 20 years ago we used to draw X.25 networks as clouds on whiteboards and flip charts. Some data packets went into them and came out the other side somewhere else (that’s about as technical as I got in those days). So nothing new under the sun really? Well, no, delivering hybrid clouds is a level of complexity that would have been unimaginable back then. Passing network traffic from one router to another was pretty advanced of course, but today we are layering on workloads, we have a dizzying array of applications, there is a relentless focus on the economics of IT, and of course, we have mobile users with all the patience of a child on Christmas day. And now we have a new consumption and delivery model which has the potential to ease all these tensions. It is no surprise that the hybrid cloud has become the buzzword du jour in the IT industry.

Today here at Cisco Live in Milan, Cisco put more meat on their cloud bones and moved the hybrid cloud discussion from the aspirational to the implementable. Cisco clearly has the experience in networking and it is obvious that clouds are heavily dependent on fast, efficient and of course, secure networks, so Cisco has as much right to be at the forefront of the hybrid cloud wave as anyone. So what is the fuss about here?

Cisco announced significant enhancements to the Cisco Nexus 1000V InterCloud technology, specifically designed to boost their hybrid credentials. Read their announcement here. This is a software solution which allows virtual machines to be moved among private clouds in the data center and in external public clouds. It encompasses enterprises, service providers and the hyperscalars like AWS. As workloads are moved from private to public clouds and the other way, one of the problems is that security and credentials are usually not transferable from one cloud to the other.  Together with the complexity of implementing a hybrid cloud in the first place, it is this concern about the potentially inconsistent levels of security and access controls between clouds that is inhibiting a wild adoption of hybrid clouds. Cisco believes that with the Nexus 1000V InterCloud and the Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud and the UCS Director orchestration technology (single-pane-of-glass), they are solving this problem.

Where does NetApp fit in and what will be our part in Cisco’s anticipated success? To find out from a man who should know, please read Phil Brotherton’s 360 Blog at NetApp.com. Phil is the VP of our Cloud Solutions Group, and if anyone should know it is him.

However, here’s my rather less sophisticated take on it:

The software that Cisco is announcing is delivered at Layer 2 and is focused on the network aspects of a hybrid cloud, such as maintaining IP addresses and ACLs across clouds. However the data associated with the application or workload also needs to be considered. This is where NetApp comes in. Using FlexPods running Clustered Data ONTAP at both ends of the cloud connectivity (eg at the Enterprise’s private cloud and at a Service Provider’s public cloud) affords the data portability required to make this work. Using NetApp SnapMirror, the market leading data replication tool, data can be seamlessly moved from one cloud instance to another and be achieved with high levels of network compression and high bandwidth utilization. With over 3300 enterprise customers and service providers using NetApp & Cisco’s FlexPods, it is a fair bet that there will be many use cases where a hybrid cloud will be based on this converged infrastructure.

The integration of Clustered Data ONTAP with the Nexus 1000v InterCloud and the CIAC & UCS Director is a really significant step in driving adoption of hybrid cloud. NetApp announced its cloud strategy back in September last year and Cisco’s current announcement dovetails very nicely with it. The two companies have a common vision of how cloud computing will be instantiated and are delivering on it.

So yes, we’ve used the cloud metaphor for years and years, but we are now in a phase where it has moved from the metaphoric to the potentially meteoric.

Fasten your safety belts, Ladies and Gentlemen, the next few years are going to be quite a ride.

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