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Issue 20 Articles

Cisco logoCisco Cloud Computing

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Public sector and federal government agencies are looking for better vehicles to tame IT budgets, and at the same time provide agile IT services to organizations, citizens and constituents. The paradigm of cloud computing, which has been recently introduced and developed, offers means for public managers and government executives to address issues of budget constraints and agility of service. Simultaneously, new cloud computing-based business models and vehicles are being debated, defined, and implemented in the industry. If adopted and implemented, these business models would require not only new architectures, but also new ways to acquire and procure IT services. These requirements imply that governments need to carefully evaluate how to adopt cloud computing.

A few companies in the marketplace recognize this market transition, and are prepared with a strategy and solutions to bring this paradigm to reality. Cisco is well positioned to provide public sector and federal government agencies with strategy, architecture, and solutions for cloud computing. Cisco defines cloud computing as a means to deliver IT resources and services in an abstract fashion from underlying components, with traits of at-scale, on-demand and multitenancy. These traits directly contribute to the cost savings (both the operating expenses [OpEx] and the capital expenses [CapEx] sides of the equation) and the flexibility of IT service delivery. Consequently, Cisco’s cloud computing strategy and solutions are based directly on these fundament traits.

Cisco takes a collective point of view on cloud computing, and envisions that there will be different types of clouds (public, private, virtual, and inter-clouds), and many different services (software, platform, and infrastructure) would be delivered via the cloud marketplace. Cisco also believes that virtualization and the network will be the underpinnings for all cloud types and architectures. This premise positions Cisco to provide normalization, utilization, and mobility of cloud services in a comprehensive fashion. In the Cisco vision, there would be a vibrant marketplace of clouds in the not-too-distant future. Cisco also realizes that one of its eventual goals is to provide federation and interoperability via network enablement among several marketplace clouds.

Cisco brings key frameworks and unified technology building blocks, which will initially enable adoption of cloud computing internally to an IT organization, via private cloud data centers. These private cloud data centers would eventually extend externally to acquire and expand IT services. Cisco’s next-generation cloud data architecture is based on a unique, unified, and integrated approach, which addresses these specific facets of cloud computing.

Moreover, Cisco clearly understands the challenges in adoption of cloud computing, namely issues of trust, security, standardization, and ecosystems. Thus Cisco brings not only concepts and technologies, but also key standards and partnerships to tackle these challenges. Finally, Cisco provides a coordinated approach, from both a technology and an IT strategy point of view, to adopting cloud computing.

This paper seeks to help in the above process. It provides a high-level overview of cloud computing, outlines some of its key benefits, reviews frameworks and data center technologies developed by Cisco, looks at some of the most important challenges of cloud computing, and finally, suggests some early steps that can be taken toward its adoption.

This paper will discuss the strategy, architecture, and solution details that Cisco brings to the industry and governments. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on the data center aspects of cloud computing. The intended audience for this paper includes public managers, government executives, IT decision makers, and IT professionals who are evaluating cloud computing strategy and cloud data center solutions.

Cloud computing is changing the way that IT resources are utilized and consumed. Public sector and federal government entities want the ability to access infrastructure how and when they choose. IT teams are being asked to accommodate this shift in the consumption model and explore initial use cases. Although the field is in its infancy, the model is taking the IT world by storm. It is clearly the direction that governments are adopting to be more agile and White Paper efficient. Cloud computing can be provided using an enterprise’s data center, or by a cloud provider or a government cloud.

If we review the legacy of computing and data centers, we can see an interesting phenomenon currently in the marketplace. Data center computing began with the mainframe in the 1960s, which gave way to minicomputers; both were aggregated models of data center computing. This phase was followed by the distributed computing model of client/server computing, and subsequently the emergence of the Internet and web. Until recently, history has witnessed a market with compromises between scale and complexity. These compromises are addressed, with the emergence of virtualization, which is a disrupting force because it enables abstraction of services and applications from the underlying IT infrastructure. Virtualization within the network is the foundation of the evolution of cloud computing architecture.

Cisco has the vision, strategy, and solutions to become the preeminent provider of infrastructure to the upcoming cloud computing market.

Cisco Definition of Cloud Computing

Cisco defines cloud computing as follows:

IT resources and services that are abstracted from the underlying infrastructure and provided “on-demand” and “at scale” in a multitenant environment.

The Cisco definition of cloud computing is general; however, three key attributes of the definition include:

  • “On-demand” means that resources can be provisioned immediately when needed, released when no longer required, and billed only when used.
  • “At-scale” means the service provides the illusion of infinite resource availability in order to meet whatever demands are made of it.
  • “Multitenant environment” means that the resources are provided to many consumers from a single implementation, saving the provider significant costs.

In the Cisco point of view, all three attributes are required to be considered as a cloud service. One interesting point to note is that the physical location of resources (On-premise or off-premise) is not a part of the definition.

Benefits of the Cloud

Cloud computing fundamentally changes the way that IT services are delivered to organizations. Instead of both owning and managing IT services for themselves, or using an outsourcing approach built around dedicated hardware, software, and support services, organizations can use cloud computing to meet their IT requirements using a flexible, on-demand, and rapidly scalable model that requires neither ownership on their part, nor provision of dedicated resources.

Some of the benefits that cloud computing brings are as follows:

Reduced Cost: Cost is a clear benefit of cloud computing, both in terms of CapEx and OpEx. The reduction in CapEx is obvious because an organization can spend in increments of required capacity and does not need to build infrastructure for maximum (or burst) capacity. For most enterprises, OpEx constitutes the majority of spending; therefore, by utilizing a cloud provider or adopting cloud paradigms internally, organizations can save operational and maintenance budgets.

Flexibility: Flexibility benefits derive from rapid provisioning of new capacity and rapid relocation or migration of workloads. In public sector settings, cloud computing provides agility in terms of procurement and acquisition process and timelines.

Improved Automation: Cloud computing is based on the premise that services can not only be provisioned, but also de-provisioned in a highly automated fashion. This specific attribute offers significant efficiencies to enterprises.

Focus on Core Competency: Government agencies can reap the benefits of cloud computing in order to focus on its core mission and core objectives and leverage IT resources as a means to provide services to citizens.

Sustainability: The poor energy efficiency of most existing data centers, due to poor design or poor asset utilization, is now understood to be environmentally and economically unsustainable. Through leveraging economies of scale and the capacity to manage assets more efficiently, cloud computing consumes far less energy and other resources than a traditional IT data center.

This is an extract from Cisco Cloud Computing - Data Center Strategy, Architecture, and Solutions Point of View White Paper for U.S. Public Sector, by Kapil Bakshi, Chief Solutions Architect for Cisco Federal’s Data Center Practice.

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