How Former Sun Exec Aims to Elevate Cisco's Cloud-Building Image

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-12-28

How Former Sun Exec Aims to Elevate Cisco's Cloud-Building Image

Lew Tucker, Cisco Systems' new vice-president and chief technical officer for cloud computing systems, has a pretty significant mission for his company, which rapidly has been reinventing itself in the last two or three years.

That would to be the "straw that stirs the drink" (a nod here to former baseball superstar Reggie Jackson, who made that line famous) for the world's No. 1 networking company when it comes to the deployment of cloud systems for its customers.

As such, Tucker will be sitting in on a lot of meetings, interacting with all business units at the $113 billion company, and working with many of its customers. He will be responsible for aggregating Cisco's corporate resources for cloud computing and bringing together the right ones to get a particular job out of theory and into production.

"This will be interesting, because it is a position that cuts across all the different product groups," Tucker told eWEEK. "I get to have a lot of fun, because I sit in on all our future product roadmaps, seeing where the networking speeds and feeds are going in the next three to five years, and looking at a lot of our different business decisions, partnership, and acquisitions. Everything that sort of touches cloud."

Tucker has more than 20 years of experience in IT, ranging from distributed systems and artificial intelligence to software development and systems architecture. Before joining San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco last spring, he served as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Cloud Computing at Sun Microsystems, where he led the development of its infrastructure-as-a-service offering and the development of Sun Cloud.

Tucker is one of a number of former Sun corporate leaders who chose not to stay with Oracle following its purchase of Sun in January 2010. Tucker also has run's AppExchange, the developer community, and the massively parallel Connection Machine. He is respected far and wide in the Java and cloud computing development communities.

Tucker holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell University, a master's degree in computer science with a specialization in artificial intelligence from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, and a doctorate in computer science from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

'Crisper' message may be needed

"One of the first things I'd like to face directly is that is seems to be that Cisco needs to be crisper in its message out to the world about what we're doing in cloud computing," Tucker said, getting an early jump on this with eWEEK.

And that message would be this: Cisco wants to be your cloud infrastructure provider, and it will use its longtime expertise in the network, its many partnerships, and a newfound sense of purpose as a baseline to do it.

Like Oracle [databases, enterprise software], EMC [storage and security], and Dell [personal computers], Cisco is becoming a full-blown IT systems company and is coming at cloud computing from its own corner of the world. Networking certainly is an appropriate corner to own.

Where the Internet Goes, so Goes Cisco

His new job starts with where the Internet is going, Tucker said.

"As we all know, the explosion of information is the main issue.  I love the size of these numbers: from 5 exabytes of data a couple of years ago to 21 exabytes today, to 56 exabytes in a couple of years," Tucker said. "This obviously represents an enormous opportunity for Cisco, since we're in the networking business."

The burgeoning number of devices being used to access all that data is just as interesting, Tucker said.

"Going from half a billion to 35 billion to 50 billion in just a few years -- IPv6 [Internet Protocol v6] is happening just in time to cover these devices," Tucker said.

IPv6 is a much improved -- meaning faster -- version of the Internet Protocol that is designed to succeed Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). IPv4 is the first publicly used Internet Protocol and has been in operation since 1981; IPv5 is being rolled out now but is considered only a bridge to v6.

All these devices are going to be connected to networks, which are going to be larger then we can imagine, Tucker said. "One of the reasons I decided to go to Cisco is because that's where the network is, and that's where the action is," he said.

A trillion devices in the offing?

Tucker agrees that cloud computing as we know it is changing IT big time, but he believes there's going to be an even larger cloud made up of all these current and soon-to-be-added new devices that must be taken into account.

"We're not just talking about mobile devices, smartphones, and everything else, but smart meters and the like. Every camera, every parking spot -- like they're starting to do in San Francisco -- is somehow communicating through the network," Tucker said.

This new cloudlike network of which Tucker speaks also extends out to the massive numbers of personal, business and military vehicles that are adding more IT with each new edition.

"I really want all these to have network connectivity," he said. "We'll be seeing a lot more peer-to-peer mesh computing, so that cars can communicate to each other, say, about the traffic light a half mile ahead -- or about what those the flashing lights in the rear view mirror are trying to tell me."

This is what Cisco will be about as the world moves toward a trillion connected devices, Tucker said -- making networking systems for all those levels.

"The explosion in applications that we're seeing now for platforms like the iPhone and iPad, and for our Cius Tablet PC (scheduled to be released in Q1 2011) and others, are needed to handle all this new content -- perhaps a billion new terabytes (over the next few years)," Tucker said.

"This will all involve how we will move that all around, how we will handle rights and access permissions, and more. This will be the background for all our product roadmaps," Tucker said.

"I'd really like to be at the forefront of each one of these things."

Rocket Fuel