Cisco’s Cloud CTO Clarifies Strategy, Describes Datacenters of the Future

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 24, 2011

Lew Tucker discusses the datacenter of the future, sheds light on the “many clouds” theory, and describes the perfect storm in computing that is leading to new paradigms in IT.

Although Cisco has a viable stake in the future of cloud computing, its position has been difficult to pin down, despite the fact that their Unified Computing System (UCS) server architecture and network commitments present a solid chance for them to have an impact on the market.

Other than a few scattered announcements and the publicized positioning of Lew Tucker (of Sun and Salesforce fame) as Cloud CTO nearly six months ago, Cisco has been reluctant to announce a full-blown strategy around how it plans to stake its claim in the arena. The relative silence was broken this past week, when the company finally revealed its approach somewhat formally in a video interview with Tucker.

In something of a “coming out party” for Cisco’s cloud roadmap for the future, Lew Tucker chatted at length about what role the company might play in a space that is still shaking out its winners and losers on the cloud computing front.

At the beginning of his tenure, Tucker restated the value of the network as the heart of cloud—a fact that he claims is overlooked in all of the hype and excitement over cloud computing. In the strategy interview, however, he expands on the role of the network in securely delivering applications and gives us a glimpse into his view of the datacenter of the future.

A World of Many Clouds

When asked about the vendor shakeout that is inevitable as the cloud market matures in coming years, Tucker stated that instead of seeing the mega-providers who stake a claim in all verticals, there will be a development of industry-specific clouds.

He notes that clouds will form around needs and communities, thus for example within the healthcare industry there will be a small throng of HIPPA-compliant clouds as well as similarly fine-tuned offerings with a keen eye on the regulatory and security needs of government, financial services and others.

In light of this concept of specialized clouds, Tucker stated that some of Cisco’s enterprise-class customers are looking at what types of enterprise-class private clouds can be hosted by service providers now.

Despite this focus on “many clouds” serving disparate needs-based communities, Lew Tucker feels that in the future there is a “much larger cloud on the horizon” that is visible when we step back and look at the breadth of connected devices that are available at the present—a number that is sure to grow. From automobiles to sensors to mobile devices of all shapes and sizes, this complexity and range provides “the greatest example for why networking is so critical to the cloud” and how security is now an even more pressing issue.

In Tucker’s view, “if we look at the growing number of connected devices, whether mobile devices or even sensors with electrical power meters or even in the automobile itself, those devices are increasingly connected to the internet. So now you have in essence a  mini-cloud driving around on the highway—this is the greatest example for why networking is so critical to the cloud, now we need to have the security associated with these networked devices”

The Datacenter of the Future

Revealing Cisco’s general strategy in cloud computing over the coming years, Tucker emphasized the dual, complimentary roles of networking and system architecture as key to changing the way datacenters are built.

In addition to providing a rough approach to helping new customers build clouds using a “building blocks” approach wherein the essential infrastructure components are provided as well as looking at the broad range of devices to see the diverse array of end users and needs, one of the most striking elements of Tucker’s talk was his vision of how datacenters, based on the cloud model, are set to change.

In Lew Tucker’s opinion, there are certain points of dramatic inefficiency in the way datacenters are built and managed. As he described:

“When you build out internal architectures where you put an application on a server with an operating system, and then you move to the next application—as you add more and more applications into the datacenter, each with their own individual architectures, you don’t get economies of scale, you get very low utilization, and you get enormous complexity because you’ve tied the applications to the infrastructure.

Instead, what we’re doing with cloud is we’re saying build a cloud over the infrastructure…turn the infrastructure itself into a service—in which now the applications become virtualized so they can pick whatever operating system they need, they’re running on a virtual machine, they can be turned on or off—they are essentially being provided on-demand.

This means that the IT organization at these future datacenters can scale large to get efficiencies that way and can become totally automated since the infrastructure’s main goal is simply to provide a pool of resources to be used by the applications. This is a much more efficient way to build out datacenters and drive down cost as well as increase agility.”

Tucker also explained the concept of the network as a platform, which in essence means “creating a network platform driven by programmatic APIs we can do things like automate and build systems like UCS which is driven by APIs. Now software itself can do all the provisioning. It’s no longer the individual switch or router, it’s the system that comprises the network that drives it.”

While it is not difficult to see the position of Cisco’s UCS in the cloud strategy-wise, Tucker explains that part of the strategy is to actually build APIs into any networkable product the company sells that will touch the cloud.

A Perfect Storm in Computing

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tucker sees the cloud as the product of a natural course in computing evolution, all with the network at the heart of progress.  He briefly tracks the crescendo in network and architecture innovation that has led to cloud computing on a ten-year graph, beginning in the 1960s with mainframes, the minicomputer in the 70s, the client server to web transition that took place from the 80s into the 90s, followed by virtualization in 2000—and into this new decade that is defined by cloud.

This progression on a decade-long chart is, in Tucker’s view, a movement that is simply the manifestation of the new internet, a natural extension of a movement that has been building and compounding, just as it has with other technological paradigm shifts.
 
In addition to faster, more ubiquitous access to networked devices that are providing this next opportunity in computing, Tucker describes the “perfect storm” that is brewing. These storm clouds are “forming between the continued advance of Moore’s Law, which is driving down the cost of computing, coupled with the explosive growth of the Internet, as well as technology advances like virtualization.” While he acknowledges that this new era is still dawning, there are signs that cloud computing is the next major shift in IT by pointing to cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Tucker argues that AWS is at the forefront of making it possible for web developers and small companies to get into cloud computing—and that this is changing the economics of computing in yet another way.

As Cisco’s Cloud CTO claims, “If you’re going to Sandhill Road to get money as a startup they’re not going to give you money for infrastructure; they’re going to say you go and buy it from the cloud—that way they lower their risk and there’s the pay-as-you-go model.”

In addition to seeing public cloud resources as driving business forward, Tucker also sees rapid movement in enterprise adoption of private clouds as companies see this trend, which is driven by economies of scale, and seek to take advantage of it.

The problem is, until this more refined model of datacenter innovation takes place as described, it will be difficult for enterprise datacenters to achieve the same cost benefit. This is where Cisco is making its play—in refining datacenter architecture to look more like the large cloud service providers versus the traditional model of infrastructure as the carrier of applications.

You can view the full interview with Tucker here.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

And So It Begins…Again – The FY19 Exascale Budget Rollout (and things look good)

February 23, 2018

On February 12, 2018, the Trump administration submitted its Fiscal Year 2019 (FY-19) budget to Congress. The good news for the U.S. exascale program is that the numbers look very good and the support appears to be stron Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with partner Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Germany. The ser Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Start-up Aims AI at Automated Tuning of Complex Systems

February 22, 2018

Today’s bigger, more complex, connected and intelligent systems have an exponentially higher number of connections, dependencies, interfaces, protocols and processing architectures that, if not optimized, will hamstrin Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Experience Memory & Storage Solutions that will Transform Your Data Performance

High performance computing (HPC) has revolutionized the way we harness insight, leading to a dramatic increase in both the size and complexity of HPC systems. Read more…

Do Cryptocurrencies Have a Part to Play in HPC?

February 22, 2018

It’s easy to be distracted by news from the US, China, and now the EU on the state of various exascale projects, but behind the vinyl-wrapped cabinets and well-groomed sales execs are an army of Excel-wielding PMO and Read more…

By Chris Downing

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Start-up Aims AI at Automated Tuning of Complex Systems

February 22, 2018

Today’s bigger, more complex, connected and intelligent systems have an exponentially higher number of connections, dependencies, interfaces, protocols and pr Read more…

By Doug Black

HOKUSAI’s BigWaterfall Cluster Extends RIKEN’s Supercomputing Performance

February 21, 2018

RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, recently expanded the capacity and capabilities of its HOKUSAI supercomputer, a key resource manage Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Neural Networking Shows Promise in Earthquake Monitoring

February 21, 2018

A team of Harvard University and MIT researchers report their new neural networking method for monitoring earthquakes is more accurate and orders of magnitude faster than traditional approaches. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fluid HPC: How Extreme-Scale Computing Should Respond to Meltdown and Spectre

February 15, 2018

The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are proving difficult to fix, and initial experiments suggest security patches will cause significant performance penal Read more…

By Pete Beckman

Brookhaven Ramps Up Computing for National Security Effort

February 14, 2018

Last week, Dan Coats, the director of Director of National Intelligence for the U.S., warned the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was likely to meddle in the 2018 mid-term U.S. elections, much as it stands accused of doing in the 2016 Presidential election. Read more…

By John Russell

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

SC17: Singularity Preps Version 3.0, Nears 1M Containers Served Daily

November 1, 2017

Just a few months ago about half a million jobs were being run daily using Singularity containers, the LBNL-founded container platform intended for HPC. That wa Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This