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.

February 16, 2012

3 Min Read
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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."

There are any number of companies offering a piece of the virtual networking pie, including Nicira, which introduced its Network Virtualization Platform product Feb. 6.

Hanselman points to F5 Networks' Viprion virtual application delivery controller, announced last May. Application delivery control is just one of the many services that network operators "have really stuffed down into the networking layer," he says, along with load balancing, tunneling, firewalls and various security tools.

Another approach to virtual networking is the Quantum service plug-in architecture from OpenStack.org, an industry group developing an open source software platform to deliver cloud computing. Quantum helps abstract networking, allowing users to create multiple private networks, or subnets, in their virtual data centers, Tucker explained in his keynote. Cisco is one of a number of well-known tech companies that are members of OpenStack.

Yet another industry initiative is the OpenFlow protocol to enable software-defined networking, in which a controller would make decisions about how the network operates, along with the intelligence built into today's switches and routers. Nicira, Big Switch and HP are among the networking vendors developing or already offering OpenFlow-enabled products.

Hanselman also mentions the load-balancing capabilities in Brocade Networks' ADX 12.4 application delivery controller, which was introduced last month. "There's really been this cascade of virtualized capabilities to manage [the network]," he says. "It's all these network service capabilities that are adapting to the need to automate all of the provisioning of a virtualized or cloud environment."

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