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Cisco & Friends Debate Cloud Future

Cloud computing is evolving to the point where unique clouds will be developed for specific industry verticals, such as healthcare, government and financial services, predicts a Cisco Systems executive speaking at the CloudConnect 2012 conference this week in Silicon Valley. This runs contrary to what some have called the Coke versus Pepsi rule--that companies would not want to be in multitenant cloud environments with their competitors.

"Banks would very much like to go to service providers and have financial services-based clouds, and they are fine with sharing the multitenant environment with other banks," says Lew Tucker, VP and CTO for Cisco's cloud computing business. He was one of the keynote speakers at CloudConnect, held in Santa Clara, Calif., and hosted by United Business Media, which publishes Network Computing and other publications.

The vertical cloud was just one of the topics discussed at the conference, although most of the attention was paid to the many technology initiatives designed to virtualize the network to ease cloud computing.

Vertical clouds make sense, Tucker states, because enterprises in the same industry will have the same compliance issues to contend with and they would be more easily managed in one cloud dedicated to that vertical. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) places unique requirements on enterprises in the healthcare industry to protect the confidentiality of patient records and would be well-served by a healthcare vertical cloud, he says.

Already, Amazon Web Services (AWS), a major cloud services provider, offers a separate cloud for government agencies called AWS GovCloud, which it introduced in August 2011. "So, I think we're going to start to see the evolution of that," Tucker says.

His keynote, as well as other CloudConnect presentations and discussions, focused on the notion of network virtualization. Virtualization, which is essential for cloud computing, has been achieved in the server and storage environments, but the physical network has been a roadblock, limiting the scalability of virtualization in data centers, states analyst Eric Hanselman, research director for networks at The 451 Group. "There is such a desperate need to be able to get networking up to speed with cloud capabilities," he says "We've gotten really good in the virtualized world in dealing with all of the compute and storage pieces. What's happened is that when we hit scale, suddenly everybody realized the big stumbling block was the network."

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