"They're not building up their own cloud, they're giving service providers a reference architecture so that all the clouds (within Intercloud) will be built to the same specs," says Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research. "Customers will have the ability to move workloads across these clouds. The common architecture gives the idea of interoperability a greater chance of actually working."
Another important feature of Intercloud is the focus on partners. Cisco was initially hesitant in the cloud market because it didn't want to disrupt partners. But Intercloud has a strong partner play, which Kerravala says will keeps partners happy while providing customers many entry-points to use Intercloud. Cisco executives have said they want to have 1,000 partners on Intercloud by 2018. Already Amazon and Microsoft support Intercloud workloads. Other public cloud providers will either host Cisco owned and operated gear in this data centers to become a node in Intercloud, or they will deploy Cisco gear to reference architecture specs to ensure compatibility.
Other providers, like VCE, will enable their on-premises products (like Vblock) to be compatible with Intercloud Fabric, providing a gateway for on-premises systems at customer sites to link up with Intercloud. Already Cisco says it has 45 partners signed up for Intercloud and 350 data centers compatible with the Intercloud Fabric. Expect that number to increase this year.
Cisco sees many applications for Intercloud Fabric. One is "capacity augmentation," which basically means when more computing resources are needed, they can be automatically spun up. This could be ideal in a test and development scenario, or for setting up a disaster recovery failover site, for example.
Still, Cisco has much work to do on Intercloud. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are far ahead of Cisco in terms of market presence for their cloud platforms. While Kerravala says it's still the early days in the cloud market, 2015 will be a big year for Cisco to prove it is serious about Intercloud.
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