Cisco Pushes Further Into the Cloud and Out to the Edge

The vendor is integrating its ACI intent-based networking platform with AWS and Microsoft Azure and bringing HyperFlex to the edge.

Cisco cloud

With data and applications increasingly being created and used outside the confines of the data center, Cisco Systems officials are pushing more of the company’s enterprise infrastructure and software into the cloud and out to the edge.

At the company’s Cisco Live event in Barcelona, Spain, this week, Cisco executives announced that they are extending the company’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which was first released in 2013 as a response to the growing network virtualization trend but has since become foundation to its intent-based networking efforts, into the public cloud, integrating it into Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

At the same time, the company is enabling enterprises to deploy the HyperFlex hyperconverged infrastructure offering into remote and branch offices as well as edge computing environments. Armed with Cisco’s Intersight cloud-based system-management platform, the latest HyperFlex systems will enable organizations to deploy the same levels of application performance and analytics found in their data centers in their remote locations.

‘Data Center Anywhere’

The moves, which are part of Cisco’s “data center anywhere” strategy, come as more data is being generated, processed and stored in distributed environments outside the data center, due in large part to such trends as the cloud, the proliferation of mobile devices, immersive technologies and the internet of things (IoT).

The movement of data and applications away from central data centers will only continue, according to Gartner analysts, who predict that by 2022, more than half of data generated by enterprises will be created and processed outside of data centers and outside of the cloud. By 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will move entirely away from on-premises data centers, instead moving their workloads to colocation and hosting sites or the cloud, the analysts said.

“The biggest takeaway from all of that change is that there's really nothing centered about data anymore,” Daniel McGinniss, senior director of data center marketing at Cisco, told eWEEK. “The data center isn't really a single center anymore. It's really evolved to go beyond that.”

That trend is driving Cisco and other tech vendors to adapt their products’ capabilities to the cloud as well as the network edge. The company made a significant move into the cloud in late 2017 when it announced a partnership with Google Cloud to develop a hybrid cloud platform that leverages technologies from both companies. Now Cisco is making its ACI offering available in AWS and Azure, the world’s top two public cloud companies.

Intent-Based Networking

The ACI Anywhere Initiative is the latest step in the evolution of the intent-based networking technology, which has included support for multisite and virtualization. With Virtual ACI, the platform already supports bare-metal clouds and remote edge locations. Extending ACI into the public cloud means it is integrated into the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environments of AWS and Azure. The integration with the public clouds will be available in the first half of this year. ACI now supports more public clouds as well as any hypervisor and container framework through which applications are deployed, according to officials.

“When ACI first came out, that was when SDN [software-defined networking] was the big hype,” McGinniss said. “I'd still say that software-defined is at the root of pretty much everything we're doing, but I think SDN is one tool of many when it comes to automation and even would say we've extended that to intent-based networking.”

Cisco officials in recent years have put a focus on hybrid- and multicloud environments as the company pushes to extend its products beyond the data center. A recent survey by networking analytics vendor Kentik illustrated the trend. In a survey of 310 executives and IT pros at the latest AWS re:Invent show, 58 percent of respondents said they not only use AWS for their applications, but also either Azure or Google Cloud. Forty percent said they use two of those public clouds; 18 percent said they use all three.

Cisco also is now using its HyperFlex hyperconverged infrastructure to grow its presence at the computing edge. As with ACI, the vendor has evolved HyperFlex over the past few years in terms of applications it supports. In addition, the solution also runs in multicloud environments. With its remote and edge capabilities, HyperFlex now has a presence in all places where data is being generated and processed, according to Todd Brannon, senior director of data center marketing at Cisco.

“We're really showing how our entire data center portfolio comes together [and] how it works in concert with Cisco's broader portfolio,” Brannon told eWEEK. “We really believe the edge is the next frontier for hyperconverged infrastructure. … When you combine this with what we've already done, that's really what we mean by HyperFlex Anywhere.”

Cisco’s enhanced CloudCenter Suite is designed to offer full application lifecycle management, improve automation and enhance cost optimization, officials said. The suite includes tiered, feature-based pricing and a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Cisco also is making it easier for customers to buy and manage its data center architecture products through a single Enterprise Agreement.