Cisco’s cloud strategy hits the mainstream

Now moved from incubation status to a regular business unit, Cisco’s cloud business is being counted on to deliver strong results.

Yvette Kanouff Cisco

Yvette Kanouff, SVP, Cisco’s Cloud Virtualization Group (CVG) and Cloud Infrastructure Services (CIS)

Cisco’s cloud strategy, which has been a reality for years, and which really took off from a partner perspective when the Intercloud initiative was first launched in 2014, has never been more critical to the company’s broader strategy. Accordingly, it has been prepped for growth, being moved from an incubation project to a line business unit expected to hit aggressive numbers. That in turn means much more opportunity for Cisco partners.

In Cisco’s strategy going forward, where everything they build is programmable, and where applications are converged with infrastructure to better provide security and analytics trough the network, the cloud is indispensable. Applications have to be available through public, private and hybrid clouds, so that they can always dynamically provision the assets they need.

“With cloud, we are focused on creating a flexible and easy way to provide both public and private cloud access,” said Yvette Kanouff, who recently came over from Cisco’s service provider video software and solutions organization to head up Cisco’s Cloud Virtualization Group (CVG) and Cloud Infrastructure Services (CIS) groups.

“She has done a remarkable job of bringing our video business to a new level and we are clearly hoping for her to take the cloud business to a new level now,” said Pankaj Patel, Cisco EVP and Chief Development Officer

“Customers want help with automating cloud, but there are regulatory issues and security parameters to consider, so they are really looking at a holistic picture, Kanouff said. “We are the number one network provider ain the world. We have taken the level of datacenter and are automating the network all the way up and down that chain. We can help our customers virtualize everything along the path. That is a true differentiator.”

The channel has also had a key role in the cloud at Cisco, dating back to Cisco Powered, where Cisco worked with MSP and cloud provider partners on both infrastructure buildout and with a whole suite of solutions where they could certify packaged applications.

“We have always been very consistent in terms of what we have been doing with the whole partner focus around cloud,” said Peder Ulander, VP Cloud Services at Cisco. “We have been focused on partners in cloud for a long time.”

The Intercloud initiative itself evolved as a consolidation of Cisco’s own cloud strategies.

“Meraki, Solidfire and WebEx all had their own cloud providers, so we built our own cloud platform as a delivery tool for our cloud assets,” Ulander said. “It was designed initially as a vehicle for our own stuff, but when we partners with companies to be our extension into other markets, they told us they could sell this to their customers. That’s where Intercloud came from, and when this was delivered to customers, the fulfillment and integration was entirely channel. We then capped it off with a private cloud offering. We can come in with our partners and give them a consistent platform that they can deliver to their customers.”

Ulander emphasized that Cisco is still very much building out their entire cloud ecosystem.

“ISVs are absolutely critical, and we have made a strong focus on recruiting cloud-native partners focused on Big Data like Pivotal, HortonWorks and MapR,” he said. “We were in the process of making Marketplace available to partners at Cisco Live, and we have 125 on it right now. We have added new developer partners, and we now have Intercloud partners delivering capabilities across 50 countries.”

While all this has been laying the groundwork, Ulander said they are now at a point where cloud is really ready to take off for Cisco.

“This is the foundation for where we are going, and this year will see a lot of exciting movement,” he said.

The driving force here isn’t just Cisco’s broader strategy itself, but the organizational changes that Robbins has made since becoming CEO.

“Under Rob Lloyd, Intercloud was very much an incubation project,” Ulander said. “Sales, product, services, everything, sat in a side of the company that wasn’t mainstream. This was because when we started cloud here, Cisco was good at building hardware and services around it, and making margins on that. They didn’t expect classic margins from a relatively new idea, so they created a mini-startup within the company to get around that.”

Ulander said that while this organization was helpful in cloud’s early stages of growth, it also tended to cap their initiatives.

“With Chuck’s reorganization, we moved into the mainstream of Cisco,” he said. Now the sales and engineering heads report directly to the heads of sales and engineering for the company.

“These are all moves which have been made in the last few months,” Ulander said. “Yvette Kanouff, who has just assumed this role, is pouring gas on the process, but it’s not a change in direction.

“We have pushed really hard to be able to be able to hit our metrics and get to this stage,” Ulander said. “The results will really be apparent going forward.