What I’m doing at Cisco: unpacking CCS

Last December I joined Cisco, and over the last nine months I’ve frequently been asked what my role is here. I didn’t say much about it, mostly because I was still figuring things out. However at this point everything looks pretty stable, and I’m pretty happy about nailing my colors to the mast.

In one sentence: I’m the OpenStack architect in Cisco Cloud Services (CCS), which is a Federated, Multi-tenant, Intercloud Service. Let me unpack that mouthful, from right to left.

First, Service. I’m working in the Cisco Services organization, and CCS is first and foremost a service, built and operated by Cisco. Other parts of the company are working on cloud-related products, including our new joint initiative with Red Hat. Still others work on upstreaming OpenStack plugins and drivers for various Cisco networking products. Our group is laser-focussed on building and operating a service, not selling products.

Second, Intercloud. CCS is a cloud service, similar to that provided by other cloud service providers. It’s based on the OpenStack IaaS architecture, to which we are adding various capabilities and services to meet the Cisco Intercloud hybrid cloud vision described by Rob Lloyd and Faiyaz Sharpurwala earlier this year. We’re using Cisco’s UCS converged infrastructure together with the Application Centric Infrastructure fabric from Insieme. And we’re building a cloud application marketplace which will provide access to CCS, partner applications, and Cisco SaaS services for our partners.

Third, Multi-tenant. Originally CCS was developed to support Cisco SaaS applications such as WebEx and EnergyWise. This involved building out a private cloud service in several global data centers, with a shared backbone network, while leveraging Cisco IT services. In March, we pivoted, extending CCS to include a variety of non-Cisco partners. Some will use CCS to extend their own hybrid cloud operations; others plan to resell a “white label” CCS to their own customers. Some CCS regions will be deployed in Cisco data centers and others in the facilities of our partner, such as Telstra, but they will all be owned and operated by Cisco. Every region will be fully multi-tenant, hosting workloads from any of our partners. Virtual machines from Telstra and its customers will run side-by-side with VMs from WebEx, with full security and compliance.

Fourth, Federated. To make all of this work requires a deep integration with our partners. Hybrid operations are complex, especially in the areas of network integration, global scale, service assurance, capacity management, OSS/BSS and identity management. Cisco and its technology partners are investing heavily in delivering these capabilities, which go far beyond what a generic OpenStack cloud provides.

So we’re building a state-of-the-art cloud service. We’re using Cisco technologies, and collaborating with Cisco partners such as Red Hat and Citrix, but at the end of the day our goals is to deliver a world-class service as a “black box”. As the Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior, made clear 5 years ago, we are not going head to head with Amazon. You can’t go to cloud.cisco.com and sign up for public cloud services from Cisco. But almost everybody will wind up consuming CCS services through our partners, leveraging the global reach, federated integration, and network capabilities that we’ll bring to bear. And because of our business model, CCS has to deliver all of the capabilities of a public cloud, and then some.

Why are we doing this? Isn’t the global cloud business pretty much sewn up? I don’t believe so. True hybrid clouds – “Interclouds” – are challenging, and most of the complexity lies in the networking. I think that Cisco has a huge opportunity, because enterprises and service providers view us as a trusted partner who can help them to solve the problems of hybrid integration, and do so in ways that other cloud service providers cannot. In earlier blog posts, I came to the conclusion that the sweet spot for OpenStack was in supporting SaaS workloads. CCS starts with this and builds on it in a way that I think has compelling business value. So that’s what we’re doing. And it’s insanely exciting.

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