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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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Wendy Bahr to Lead Cisco’s Americas Partner Organization

Today, I’d like to thank an old friend and welcome back a familiar face.

Jim Sherriff, the leader of the Americas Partner Organization and previously the US and Canada Partner Organization for the past two years, has accepted a new role working with Rob Lloyd on the Worldwide Sales Operations team.

Among other responsibilities, Jim will lead our global efforts to bring greater capabilities and efficiency to our sales process by assuming sales leadership for ACT (Accelerated Cisco Transformation). ACT is Cisco’s multi-year program to fuel growth by enhancing our operating model, ensuring world-class execution, efficiency, and ease of doing business. Jim will report directly to Rob Lloyd.

The Americas Partner Organization has made great strides in driving partner profitability under Jim’s direction through three key areas of focus: enabling partners to capture new markets faster, increasing customer segment impact, and driving improved operational efficiency.

Jim and his team initiated and led the “the 1% solution,” a series of initiatives to improve operational efficiency with early successes including the Audit Certification team that helps partners reduce the cost of re-certification, and introduction of The SELL (Sales Enablement Learning Lifecycle), a valuable resource for our partners to help them on-board and develop their sales professionals.

I’d like to thank him for his exceptional leadership and many contributions. He will be a great advocate for The Americas sales organization in his new role.

With Jim’s move to Worldwide Operations, I’m pleased to announce Wendy Bahr as our new SVP, Americas Partner Organization.

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Know Before You Go: Cisco Partner Summit 2012

Finally! Partner Summit is just around the corner. The Cisco team is excited to see you in person, beginning on April 16 in sunny San Diego, California.

If you’re not going to be in San Diego, you can still attend virtually. Just tune in via Virtual Partner Summit (VPS), beginning on April 17. All you need to do is register.

So what are the big topics at Partner Summit? Cloud and Collaboration are definitely top of mind. There’ll also be some fantastic breakout sessions. Some of them include “The Virtualized Workspace—New Solutions and Programs” and “Get in the Driver’s Seat with Smart Services.” The smart services session is just one of Partner Summit’s business transformation sessions. Others feature Cisco’s evolving Partner Program portfolio and how to accelerate mid-market success.

You’ll hear keynotes and have the opportunity to participate in live chat with top executives and regional leaders such as John Chambers, Padmasree Warrior, Edison Peres, and Jim Sherriff,  to name a few. You can also join your regional theater breakouts covering topics for all the geographies.

Watch the video from our Roving Reporter to get all the details you need.

Keep reading to find out more about our Partner Summit Ambassadors, our new Roving Reporter, how to win an iPad or snag a t-shirt, the must-have checklist to help you navigate the event, and more. Read More »

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Virtual Tour of Cisco’s Virtual Partner Summit 2012

In less than three short weeks, Partner Summit 2012 begins and brings with it an entire host of news and program announcements, business transformation and technology sessions, and important updates from executives and geography leaders. Oh, and the prizes!  And did I mention it’s all for partners? Even those of you who can’t attend in person.

You heard right. All of the activity from the event in San Diego will come to you live via Virtual Partner Summit (VPS) on April 17-19, and participation is just a click away. All you have to do is register. It’s super easy and takes just a moment. Really.

For your effort, you’ll gain access to a dynamic, virtual community that lets you build your own agenda, join executive live chats, engage with fellow partner attendees, watch replays, and more. Did I mention the prizes?

This year’s event is focused on helping our partners maintain their competitive edge. And in today’s economic climate that’s more important than ever.

Nearly all of the sessions can be streamed live or viewed on demand via the Virtual Partner Summit environment. And the best part is that you don’t have to leave your workplace or home to hear the General Session keynote, which will be packed full of channel strategy and technology updates. Executives featured include:

  • John Chambers, Chairman and CEO
  • Keith Goodwin, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization
  • Edison Peres, SVP, Worldwide Channels

But that’s just part of the experience. Want to chat live with individual executives, win prizes, and engage with attendees? Read More »

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Evolving Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Organization

It’s no secret that Cisco has been on a journey to simplify and make it easier to work with us.

In May, we took a leap forward in this process and announced a series of changes across our global engineering, sales, and services teams to streamline our organizational structure and speed decision making.

Today I’d like to outline the next step in this process and how it affects partners. I also want you to know that many of the changes you’re seeing at Cisco are a result of what we’ve heard from you, so I encourage you to keep the feedback coming (via Twitter, by talking to your account manager, or by leaving a comment here on this blog).

Let’s take a closer look at the changes to the Worldwide Partner Organization, which fall into three main areas: Partner Led, Partner Marketing, and geographic alignment.

1) Partner Led

Our Partner organization will assume responsibility for building the global capabilities to support Partner-Led – one of two global go-to-market selling models. The Partner Led global sales model will increase Cisco’s reliance on partners to address the needs of customers across all market segments where Cisco will not have a high-touch sales presence.

Andrew Sage will take on the role of Vice President, Partner Led. A 12-year Cisco veteran, Andrew most recently spear-headed our Small Business Sales efforts and was instrumental in shaping our key strategies for the Partner-Led model.

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