Cisco enlists some help with its ingenious plan to dominate cloud computing

Cisco John ChambersAPCisco executive chairman John Chambers

Just over a year ago, Cisco unveiled its ambitious plan to spend $US1 billion creating a cloud computing platform that could compete with the $US6 billion juggernaut that is Amazon Web Services — a plan it calls Intercloud.

That plan took a big step forward today with some announcements out of Cisco Live, the company’s big annual conference.

The crux of the Intercloud gambit is that instead of offering this cloud itself, from its own data centres, Intercloud will unify smaller cloud service providers into one big happy family of products that are all compatible with each other.

Instead of taking Amazon on directly, Cisco is trying to unify all of the smaller guys into a competitive system. The idea is that those smaller players don’t lose their customers to Amazon, and Cisco can keep selling them networking hardware as they grow.

But any system is only as good as the things you can do with it. Which is why Cisco is opening an app store, called the Intercloud Marketplace, for its customers to get started with the tools, technologies, and software they need to quickly make use of their cloud.

For this marketplace, Cisco is partnering up with hot tech companies like big data software solution developer Hortonworks, red-hot software container startup Docker, and popular developer automation tool Chef, with 35 total apps available on the Marketplace.

The other big part of today’s announcement is around what the industry calls “hybrid cloud.” If your company has a data center, but you also want to take advantage of the scalable, flexible public cloud, a hybrid cloud model can connect the two.

Today, Cisco announced Intercloud Fabric, a new technology for controlling and managing your data centres and your Intercloud all at once.

Big cloud service providers like Datalink, Peak 10, and Sungard Availability Services have already signed on to support Intercloud Fabric, meaning that their customers have a theoretically easier way to get started with what can otherwise be a very tough technology to wrangle.

Cisco has always insisted that despite Amazon Web Services’ early lead, cloud computing is a market that still has a long way left to grow — an idea borne out by the fact that a recent Goldman Sachs report predicts that cloud computing will account for 5% of around $US400 billion of total IT spend this year, but 11% by 2018.

Cisco may be late, but it’s still anybody’s game.

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