Cisco Blogs

Of Cloud Computing and Virtualization

October 13, 2009 - 6 Comments

There still continues to be an immense amount of confusion around what exactly constitutes cloud computing.  As an example, over the last few days, there has been a spirited debate whether the Sidekick service Microsoft/Danger offered was a cloud-based service or not (I am not going to dig into that here, but I do happen to agree with Chris Hoff’s viewpoint).

A common question I get is if virtualization is an inherent and mandatory component of any cloud solution.  I bounced this question up to our CTO’s office to get their take on things.  Their perspective:

Cloud computing delivers IT resources on-demand and elastically, and many organizations would like to leverage these capabilities today. Compute virtualization established itself as a way to improve resource utilization, but has other characteristics that make it more broadly relevant to cloud.

To expound on this a bit further, Glenn Dasmalchi, technical chief of staff in the office of the CTO at Cisco, provides a summary of how cloud computing and virtualization are related, and what advantages are afforded to customers.    He also touches on the network play with the cloud-virtualization linkage.


For more info on Cisco’s cloud computing strategy go here.

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  1. Cloud computing is inclusive of virtualization and a way to implement it. However cloud can be implemented without virtualization as well. Cloud and Virtualization both help deliver optimizated resources, on-demand utilization, flexibility and scalability. Areas of differentiation may be the areas of self-provisioning, granular billing/chargback and APIs. I guess cloud was implemented more of a outsourced/hosted model first and then slowly being adopted within the enterprise firewall as an architecture. Virtualization on the other hand was started within the boundaries of enterprise firewall and then was utilized in hosted environments. Even if there are differences and similarities...many in the industry use them interchangibly...Thanks Omar for this article :)

  2. I’m seeing a lot of cloud discussions start out the same way that virtualization discussions have often started out: cloud is about saving money. The real benefits to cloud are solving problems that can’t be solved in a traditional infrastructure, agility, flexibility, etc. Cloud discussions today are a lot like the client discussions I’ve had around virtualization a few years ago.

  3. Agreed with Glenn here. Virtualization is essentially a technological approach to more efficiently use or operate various IT components -- be it server CPU cycles (VM), network connections/bandwidth (VPN or VLAN noted above), or storage capacity (VSAN).Cloud computing/services/infrastructure [public clouds] is a fundamentally different architectural approach to achieving an IT (i.e. storage) or wholesale business process (CRM or other key app), vs. traditional uild it in-house"" IT projects/strategies."

  4. Thanks Rajeev and Bob for your comments. With respect to network virtualization, I think you can make a good case today that VLANs and VPNs have a role to play in helping to provide tenant isolation and secure connectivity to (and between) clouds. Not the same as the virtualization flavor that gave us VMs, but important nonetheless.

  5. Omar,Glenn makes some very interesting comments on the intersection of Networking and Virtualization. The role of virtualization will continue to evolve beyond the server virtualization to include both Network & Storage virtualization in the cloud. Virtualization is indeed an inherent and mandatory component of the cloud and one of the key technologies that will drive the adoption of cloud based services in the enterprise.Here is a link to a solution that Cisco –Vmware team developed and it describes some of Glenn’s observations in detail:

  6. Thanks, Omar. Glenn's summary is spot on. There are many similarities in terms of the benefits between cloud and Virtualization including elasticity & flexibility. However, compared to Virtualization, Cloud Computing is a much broader framework that includes delivering business applications using Internet-based technologies, on-demand and billed as a service or utility.