In previous blog posts, my colleagues have written about Cisco’s leadership in cloud infrastructure (#1) and cloud professional services (#1). And as I’ve blogged about in the past, we have a growing portfolio of cloud and infrastructure management software solutions. Now Cisco is getting recognition as a strong performer in cloud software innovation and strategy.

Cisco was among the select companies that Forrester invited to participate in its new Forrester Wave report, The Forrester Wave: Private Cloud Solutions, Q4 2013. The report focuses on commercial software offerings for enterprise private cloud deployments, ranking the 10 most significant vendors (from an initial field of 27) based on 61 different criteria – with more than 100 customer interviews. You can download the full report here.

In this evaluation, Cisco received the highest score in strategy and is in the top three overall for our current offering.  The Cisco software products that Forrester evaluated in this report included: Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) and Cisco UCS Director.  The solution had to be available as of April 1, 2013 for this release – so the report is based on versions 3.1.1 and 3.4.1 respectively.

Cisco received the second highest score in cloud management and self-service access.  We were one of two vendors noted as delivering both end user and admin user experiences that are “intuitive, straightforward, and powerful”.  And in the strategy category, Cisco received top scores for private cloud strategic vision, planned enhancements, and partnerships “It is Cisco’s strong road map and strategic vision that earns it top marks for strategy.”

The Forrester report highlights the continued evolution in the private cloud market beyond IaaS to what they call “IaaS+” – for creating pre-configured application stacks that can be requested by developers through the self-service portal.  Having grown up in a Southern California beach town, I know waves always come in sets.  Along with hybrid cloud, the report describes IaaS+ as the next wave:

“Two things are driving the expansion of IaaS+: (1) a shift in focus on cloud value from the infrastructure to the application layer, and 2) the need to provide developers self-service access to immediately usable application templates.”

Cisco has seen this coming, as noted in previous blogs. We’ve been investing in new functionality and cloud management solution extensions that provide the ability to design, deploy, and provision these application stacks, with integrations to common configuration tools such as Puppet and Chef.  We’ve also added multi-cloud and hybrid cloud capabilities.  These are some great examples of our continued innovation in cloud management software.

Another key area where Cisco excels is in our ability to manage the provisioning of both virtual and physical infrastructure for a private cloud. The award-winning Cisco UCS Director provides this single-pane-of-glass management for virtual as well as physical infrastructure – across compute, storage, and network resources – with out-of-the-box support for UCS-based integrated infrastructure systems (including FlexPod, Vblock, and VSPEX) as well as third party infrastructure. This is one of the core capabilities that sets Cisco apart. And when combined with our new Application Centric Infrastructure, it’s truly a game changer.

In the next several weeks, we have two major upcoming product releases: Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud version 4.0 and Cisco UCS Director version 4.1.  Given the timing, the enhancements in these new software releases weren’t included in this evaluation – but they will set us even further apart from the competition.

That’s right: Cisco and software. Get used to it.