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As Cisco Intercloud Turns One, Two of its Architects Reflect On How The Strategy Was Born

A Q&A with Cisco President Rob Lloyd and Cloud Senior Vice President Nick Earle

Rob Lloyd Nick Earle Cisco

 

 

 

 

 

One year ago this week, Cisco announced a plan and a billion dollar investment to build the world’s largest Intercloud – a globally connected network of clouds from Cisco and our partners. As we arrive at the one-year anniversary, I took a few minutes to chat with Cisco President Rob Lloyd and Cloud SVP Nick Earle – two of the ‘architects of the Intercloud’ – about how the idea came about, and what they have learned in the year since the vision was unveiled.

David McCulloch: Can you take us back to early 2014 and remind us why Cisco needed to evolve its cloud strategy?

Rob Lloyd: In late 2013, even as sales of Cisco’s SaaS and cloud enabling technologies continued to rise, we started to see demand for a new cloud model: a hybrid cloud model that took into account our customers’ current IT investments and augmented those with a choice of cloud providers, and access to local and national cloud options to more easily comply with data privacy and industry regulations. We realized that if we could deliver all of that with one holistic hybrid cloud strategy that gave customers a high degree of control over security, policy and application performance, we had a huge opportunity on our hands.

DM:  Enter Cisco Intercloud! How did the idea come about?

Rob: A few weeks before Cisco’s annual executive leadership team meeting, Nick Earle, Edzard Overbeek (head of Cisco Services), Jim Sherriff (chief of staff) and I met to brainstorm what it would take to deliver the hybrid cloud strategy our customers wanted.  We knew we had some valuable assets already: Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was capable of enabling consistent security and policy across clouds. Intercloud Fabric enabled portability of workloads between clouds. And our Integrated Architecture offers in the Data Center were already market leading.  But we realized we could go further still if we fully embraced our extensive global ecosystem of partners. If we could combine Cisco’s strengths together with those of our partners, and move quickly, we knew we could disrupt current cloud models and become the market leader in hybrid cloud solutions.

DM: Whiteboard, notebooks or napkin?

Nick Earle: White board! The four of us began drawing the current partner/technology/services ecosystem on a whiteboard in the ‘Bat Cave’, a meeting room that is full of mementos Rob has collected on his business travels. The first sketch centered on applications running in Cisco data centers with remote access provided to our partners and customers, but that posed serious scalability challenges. We realized no company – not even Cisco – could deliver the global reach and local scale our customers were asking for to meet the massive challenges and opportunities presented by the Internet of Everything.

DM: So what was plan B?

Nick: We restarted the design from scratch, this time taking ourselves temporarily out of the picture and drawing everything from the perspective of the customer. We asked: what would it take to deliver the seamless hybrid cloud experience they wanted – irrespective of vendor or cloud provider? This was the key breakthrough. We redrew the global cloud network diagram with a green dot inside each element in the ecosystem – the green dot representing a technology capability that was at once secure and open – that would enable cloud federation.  A pattern of green dots began to emerge and the lights went on – this was it! We had no name for the idea at the time so we began referring to it as the ‘Green Dot Strategy’.

The original 'Green Dot Strategy' sketch on the 'Bat Cave' whiteboard

The original ‘Green Dot Strategy’ sketch on the ‘Bat Cave’ whiteboard

DM: So how did the ‘Green Dot Strategy’ become the Cisco Intercloud strategy?

Rob: We wanted to make this strategy real for our customers as quickly as possible. So we compiled an inventory of all the capabilities we would need to pull it off: Secure hypervisor agnostic distribution of applications? Intercloud Fabric. Check! Application policy extensibility into other clouds? ACI. Check. Real time data analytics to billions of new devices and data at the edge of the network? Cisco Data Virtualization. Check!  An extensive partner ecosystem that could put data centers in every country to provide global data sovereignty and provide a huge go to market advantage? Check again. We realized we had a winning strategy on our hands and we needed to move quickly to launch the strategy – at ‘Dev Ops’ speed.

DM: And we did move quickly. Cisco unveiled its Intercloud strategy fifty-six days later at our Partner Summit in Las Vegas. But that was really just the beginning, wasn’t it?

Rob:  It all began with Telstra, our first Intercloud alliance partner, but once our ecosystem of partners had a chance to digest the concept, the feedback and uptake was off the charts! Now, one year after the unveiling, we’ve filled in a lot of the ‘green dots’ that we sketched on that whiteboard. We have amassed 60 Intercloud alliance, ecosystem and cloud provider partners with a footprint of 400 data centers across 50 countries, and the momentum continues.

Last week, I announced new Intercloud services together with DT at CeBit in Germany. This week I reviewed the revenues being generated by SunGard Availability Services that leverage their domain expertise in cloud recovery services, SAP and public cloud, and witnessed the faster time-to-market enabled by Intercloud.

When I see those advances, it’s clear to me that we have a created a big idea with the potential to truly be a game changer.  Consider this: within nine months we’ll have a service availability capability that matches what the best known player in this category has taken nine years to build.

DM: What’s next?

Nick: Ha! You ain’t seen nothing yet!  We’re really still at phase one of our strategy. In time, we’ll add hundreds of cloud service providers with thousands of services into the mix. That will arm our customers and crucially our partners with the industry’s best cloud service portfolio. The next phases are all about scaling out the availability of those services globally with alliance partners like Telstra, Deutsche Telekom, and others to be announced. Ultimately, we plan to create the world’s most compelling global cloud service exchange for business, where orchestration and management of services on Cisco and non-Cisco environments comes with world-class security, visibility, control and analytics. You can expect to hear more about that this summer!

How did your big idea come about? We’re curious to hear your innovation story! Post #innovativeideas.

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Putting Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence into High Gear: More Startup Innovations for the Internet of Everything

Cisco’s leadership in the emerging market for the Internet of Everything (IoE), Smart Cities and Big Data/analytics rests on our ability to harness the technologies and business models of our global partner ecosystem – especially those of early-stage startups who are building truly disruptive capabilities for the future. I previously shared my vision of Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) pioneering new ways for Cisco, already a successful innovator in the global IT space, to collaborate with innovative entrepreneurs in shaping the emerging technologies that will redefine our industry and change our lives. Since then, six startups joined our first incubation track last spring in Silicon Valley and began collaborating closely with Cisco business and engineering groups to co-create solutions for Cisco’s customers and partners. I shared various updates in the following months about the EIR program’s exciting milestones adding co-incubation partners across the US, taking the program to Europe and selecting the first startups to join our program there.

Today, I am pleased to share two more milestones marking the continued success of our open innovation strategy at Cisco, with Cisco EIR helping to lead the way.

Cisco EIR Demo Day 2014

On December 8th, 2014, we celebrated the successes of the startups in our inaugural cohort with our first Cisco EIR Demo Day (photos) a gathering of over 100 attendees, including Cisco business and technology leaders, VCs, partners and others from the Silicon Valley startup community.

Read More »

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Cisco Partner Summit Day 2: The Pace of Change

With day one of Cisco Partner Summit covering the Cisco Partner Ecosystem, day two opened with the Magnetic Poets and a performance that included the entire audience. Partners were able to open day two of the event by performing with the band, via their own mobile devices.

Bruce Klein, Cisco SVP of Worldwide Partner Organization, then took the stage and talked about the continuing level of excitement this week. He kept things brief, since he wanted partners prepared for a different format for the General Session on day two this year. This morning’s session featured five Cisco executives speaking for 15 minutes each, focusing on the subject to be covered in an afternoon business transformation sessions.

We were able to catch up with partners to hear their perspectives on the 15 minute talks from today’s General Session. Here’s what they had to say:

Read on for a full recap of day two of Cisco Partner Summit. Read More »

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Cisco Services and the Partners of Tomorrow

For Cisco partners, now is the time to get more deeply involved with Cisco Services.

If you caught Edzard Overbeek’s presentation at Cisco Partner Summit earlier this month, you’ll remember what he and other executives said: for every dollar of Cisco product sold, services can generate an additional $3-$7, dramatically increasing the size of deals and translating into profits. As Edzard, SVP, Cisco Services, explained, when you combine the opportunity presented by consulting services, industry services, platform and analytics services, professional services and technical services, Cisco partners are looking at about $162 billion in addressable market.

So how do partners get there? Edzard joined the Cisco Channels social media team at Partner Summit to talk through what it all means, watch below:

Read on to find out about special Cisco Services offers announced at Partner Summit.  Read More »

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Cisco Partner Summit Day 2: Simplicity, Flexibility, Agility

While Day 1 of Partner Summit was all about Cisco’s vision for the future, the partner ecosystem, and partner evolution, today the focus shifted toward technology and services. Day 2’s General Session brought to the stage Padmasree Warrior, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer, Rob Lloyd, President, Development and Sales, and Edzard Overbeek, Senior Vice President, Cisco Services, to talk through Cisco’s innovation and technology, our unique value proposition for customers, and why building a robust services practice around Cisco sales is key to partner profitability.

Partner impressions are some of the most valuable feedback we have here at Cisco. Like yesterday, we took to the halls of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center to get your perspectives. Here’s what you told us:

Read on for a full recap of Partner Summit Day 2.  Read More »

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