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Interop: Cisco Pushes Private Clouds

The emergence of virtualization and cloud computing are driving an explosive growth in demand for networking equipment of the same order of magnitude as seen during the early days of the public Internet

Marie Hattar, VP of network systems and security solutions marketing, said in a keynote address at Interop New York on Wednesday, that Cisco has begun working with companies to help them build "their own clouds."

Though Hattar said Cisco had begun working with companies to help them build private clouds, it wasn't clear from her talk what this work actually entails and whether she was referring to existing services or consulting offerings for companies venturing down data center automation and virtualization paths, or something more.

Of course, Cisco pushed the network as the central element to both the virtualization ad cloud computing trends.

"All of these changes are having a huge impact on the network," she said. "Most of you think that where you should start with virtualization is servers and storage, and that's really important, but it is the network that really connects everything."

Though virtualization and cloud computing are in a period of sweeping early stage growth, Hattar noted that they can be confusing trends to navigate. Even their definitions are elusive. "Do we all mean the same thing" by virtualization, she asked, before showing a video of several people giving widely different definitions of the term.

Hattar said that one of the only common denominators of the many different definitions for virtualization is "about breaking the bonds with physical reality," whether separating nodes and networks or applications and hardware or operating systems. In a stretch, she even defined telecommuting a form of virtualization because it represents companies "breaking free from physical locations."

Cloud computing has similar disparate definitions, but it also suffers from a lack of standards and reliance on other emergent technologies like virtualization and data center automation, Hattar said. Standards for dynamically moving data from local data centers to the cloud or among cloud services simply don't exist today in any real way. And though cloud computing relies on virtualization and data center automation, few companies have ventured far down these paths. To help understand how companies large and small use cloud computing, InformationWeek has published an independent report on the subject. Download the report here (registration required).

The other major concern that Hattar said too many companies still haven't taken enough care to resolve is security. "Those hackers, they haven't gone away," she said. When Cisco began virtualizing servers and storage, it found risks for hypervisor attacks, malicious virtual systems, malware that found it was in a virtual environment and adapt to that environment. Without offering any real specifics, Hattar said that Cisco could provide some mitigation of security risks in a virtual environment because networks can provide some renewed visibility into virtual resources.

Hattar also mentioned that virtualization and cloud computing will have profound effects on the role of IT in business.

"You're going to spend more time focusing on strategy and much less on infrastructure," she said, and noted that for virtualization strategies to be successful, companies will have to work to break down traditional walls between IT pros working on security, servers, network and storage "because the whole concept of virtualization relies on shared resources."