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Q&A: What is Cisco’s cloud computing strategy?

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Global networking company, Cisco Systems held a media briefing in Muldesdrift, South Africa on 30 September 2011 to discuss the company’s cloud computing strategy.

Val Moodley, Cisco Systems Regional Manager for Data Centres and Virtualisation for Africa (image source: Cisco South Africa)

According to Cisco, the company, together with its eco system partners and system integration partners are well positioned to help customers build their own cloud computing platforms.

ITNewsAfrica spoke to Val Moodley, Cisco Systems Regional Manager for Data Centres and Virtualisation for Africa regarding Cisco’s cloud computing offerings and future business prospects.

Do you firmly believe that cloud computing can resolve Africa’s current technology challenges?

It can. I think if you look at where virtualisation is going, where consolidation is, where automation is – they are the steps to cloud. It can definitely alleviate some of the challenges.

The one thing about Africa is it provides us with an opportunity to leapfrog, so we don’t necessarily have to go through the steps that the more developed countries have to go through. We can leapfrog some of the infrastructural challenges that we’ve had.

I think the biggest challenge we have from an African perspective is people feeling a bit safe and secure regarding what they’re purchasing and the pricing. That is the value proposition that the service providers working in Africa have to respond to.

How many Africa businesses are currently cloud computing enabled?

A lot of enterprises are investigating cloud services and they’re thinking about cloud. Other than the key service providers, they’re very few enterprises that are necessarily cloud enabled right now.

The steps to cloud computing start with consolidation. A lot of our customers are thinking about how do they consolidate, how do they automate and how do they virtualise.

A lot of our customers are in the early stages. One they get into a fully virtualised environment, then they can think about making their business fully cloud enabled.

Do you firmly believe Africa is in the midst of a cloud computing revolution?

I think we’re at the very early stages of cloud computing. Enterprises are still trying to figure out what it means for them. There isn’t a stock standard definition of cloud and Cisco doesn’t believe there will be one in the near future. Everyone has got their own take or their own description of what cloud is.

Is compliance and security a major cloud computing barrier?

I think when it comes to private cloud, there are none of those barriers because you’re keeping everything internally. It is about consumers and enterprises understanding what it is they really mean about cloud. I think it’s more about an understanding and a strategy about what they want to do around cloud.

I think when it comes to hybrid and a public cloud, security is a consideration. Security depends on what it is you’re trying to get out of a public environment. Right now everyone can access the public environment, the Internet is public. Security is relative to how you configure your business.

How can businesses extract real value from cloud computing?

Enterprises need to consider what it is they want to deliver and understand the steps to get there. That initial assessment and analysis phase will be critical for the success of cloud. Look at how much you have can be virtualised. Cloud is very much based on virtualisation. It is the ability to move resources around. To dynamically allocate resources, that’s a key characteristic of cloud.

If you don’t have the ability to virtualise, then take a step back and look at how you can consolidate. The consolidation component is about creating cloud ready infrastructure.

What is Cisco’s current business strategy? Are you moving away from being a networking company?

No. Our strategy is multilayed when it comes to cloud. We will not become a cloud service provider, which means we won’t compete with service providers at all in offering any cloud services. What we will do is help enterprises build private clouds. We will help them to architect it, we will give them guidance on how to build their automation and orchestration services around cloud, and how to operationally manage those clouds.

When it comes to the service providers, we will help them to build public clouds, we will help them again to build orchestration services and automation building so they can offer those services to other enterprises or consumers.

Fundamentally we believe that networking is the platform for cloud. Networking being a strength of Cisco is that we’re very well positioned to be able to create that platform for cloud services to our consumers and enterprise customers.

What are the main factors currently driving cloud computing?

Operational efficiencies for both enterprises and consumers but specifically enterprises are looking at how they can decrease that opex and capex costs. They’re looking at what’s core to their business and what is not.

If something is not core to their business and they can source those services outside their business at a cheaper price operationally, that’s the route that they will go.

Operational efficiency and operational effectiveness and cost are a huge driver for cloud. The other component around cloud is a little bit more consumer driven (BYOD – Bring Your Own Device).

The proliferation of devices, data increase in applications, the increase in demand from consumers are elements that are driving cloud.

What is Cisco’s approach to cloud computing?

We will help enterprises build cloud together with our partners. We have system integration partners who’ve been doing system integration for decades. Together with our partners, we will help our enterprises build private clouds, We will help them with architecture, infrastructure and integration, in order for them to build a private cloud. We will help our service provider customers to build public clouds that they can offer other businesses.

What are the key challenges facing CIOs with regards to cloud computing?

Some of the key challenges, generally for CIOs is security and operational efficiencies. Accessibility is a challenge and helping businesses to innovate. Right now businesses are demanding CIOs do more with less. The one thing that virtualisation does is to give them the ability to spend less time and effort in resources, operationally manage the business and spend more time on innovation and strategy.

Are most CIOs under tremendous pressure to deploy cloud computing services? Will the future CIO role ultimately become redundant?

No I don’t believe so. I think there’s a key role for CIOs. I think in both private and hybrid type clouds. The measurement component, the automation, the orchestration and the billing are key components of operationally managing a cloud environment. CIOs and their teams and skills are critical for an enterprise to work and operate effectively.

Will Cisco target SMEs or major enterprises for cloud services?

Cisco plays across the board. We go from very large enterprises for example Fortune 100 companies to the SME space. We believe that in the SME space, cloud is something that is huge. We estimate that SMEs will use a larger portion of public cloud services.

Bontle Moeng

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