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When it comes to cloud services, one size does not fit all.
Differing security, regulatory and business requirements may lead a company to use a variety of cloud service providers (CSPs) to address any number of workloads. The result is a hodgepodge of services, each of which must be separately managed. Cisco Intercloud attempts to address this challenge while giving partners the opportunity to compete with larger providers and deliver added value to their customers. Last March Cisco debuted its Intercloud initiative, which provides products and services for building hybrid clouds. The company has carved out a number of Intercloud roles for channel partners.
"If you speak with any CIO, they are using all different types of cloud services," noted Peder Ulander, vice president of cloud services at Cisco. "It's a headache because they are managed incrementally, and none of them are consistent. That's where the vision came from for Intercloud: Why can't we take these islands of clouds, connect them together and create a cloud of clouds? Guarantee apps that enterprises want, guarantee SLAs [service-level agreements], guarantee that they can work across a group of providers to move workloads based on the reason to have it [in] one place versus another."
Dan Timko, president and CTO for Atlanta-based cloud service provider Cirrity, put it this way: "With the concept of Intercloud, Cisco is doing for the cloud what they did for networking and the creation of the Internet. They are networking together all these different clouds to come up with a common fabric to make them all interoperable."
Roles for solution providers
There are several ways solution providers can become involved with Intercloud. CSPs can enable their Cisco-powered cloud services for the Intercloud and sell those services to customers directly or through the channel. Solution providers may also build Intercloud-ready private clouds based on Cisco Intercloud Fabric, or they can manage and resell Cisco-based cloud services.
Dan Timkopresident and CTO, Cirrity
As a channel-only CSP, Cirrity offers its Intercloud-enabled services solely through resellers and solution providers.
"We work extensively with Cisco partners who go to market reselling our services as part of their own so they can go to the customer with a more complete on-premises [cloud] coupled with off-premises [cloud] to bring a more true hybrid offering to customers," Timko said.
Tiverity, a solution provider in Norcross, Ga., white-labels Cirrity's service and delivers managed services on top to help its customers realize the benefits of cloud computing. Jon Doyle, general manager for Tiverity, explained that moving customers off legacy servers and software requires upgrading the server and the software versions running on it.
"That's quite expensive," he said. "Going to the cloud helps reduce the overhead to manage that. It cuts the cost of the IT staff and frees up time."
According to Doyle, Cirrity is a go-to Intercloud partner.
"They are one of the top-vetted vendors. They have all of the certifications to prove that they have the security, and they are audited so that provides comfort to the customer making the transition to the cloud for the first time," Doyle said.
Benefits of Cisco Intercloud
Security is one of the benefits of being an Intercloud partner, Timko explained.
"The fabric creates an encrypted bubble that the customer workload fits in and is managed from the customer site," he said. "All communication -- even if it's traversing over a public link or internally in a cloud provider's network -- is private traffic. The security angle of Intercloud is really important because … it builds a seamless network fabric."
Being an Intercloud provider delivers a number of other benefits, as well.
"For us, it's a chance to be included in a much broader network, to compete with these massive-scale cloud operations," Timko said.
Cisco's Intercloud partner ecosystem includes more than 60 providers with a footprint of more than 350 data centers across 50 countries.
Even as they participate within the larger Intercloud ecosystem, partners like Cirrity can differentiate themselves.
"If you look at something like Amazon or any hyperscale provider, it's all about the economy of scale and standardization -- there's not a lot of room for customization," Timko said. "The difference with the Intercloud is that partner clouds can be highly specialized around certain industries, regulatory compliance, security requirements and sometimes just pure geographic location."
Partners can also enter into cloud brokering arrangements to support their customers, which could be other channel partners or enterprises.
"If a partner that we work with needs to put a customer in a location that isn't somewhere we already have a data center, and we decide it doesn't make sense to open a data center there, we have the ability to source capacity and services through other Intercloud partners," Timko said. "Our [channel] partner would be aware of where the services are coming from, but they would still only have to work with [Cirrity]."
A CSP such as Cirrity, when acting as a broker, can maintain a single point of contact for a channel partner and its end customer, "so they don't have to do due diligence on five providers, just the primary provider," Timko said.
Similarly, Cisco Intercloud offers partners an opportunity to deliver value-added services around the cloud.
"They can bring a lot of value by working with the customer and helping them identify the most appropriate location for a workload based on the requirements around it," Timko said.
Ultimately, it is this flexibility that Timko believes will lead to Intercloud's success.
Customers, he said, can pick and choose from dozens of providers in the Intercloud ecosystem to find services that suit their varied workloads.
"[Customers] can decide where the appropriate place is to put workloads and still manage them together in one way," Timko said.
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