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!

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Object Storage is the Ideal Storage Method for CME Companies

The communications, media, and entertainment (CME) sector is experiencing a massive paradigm shift driven by rising data volumes and the demand for high-performance data analytics. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 16, 2017)

February 16, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Alexander Named Dep. Dir. of Brookhaven Computational Initiative

February 15, 2017

Francis Alexander, a physicist with extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research, has been named Deputy Director of the Computational Science Initiative at the U.S. Read more…

Here’s What a Neural Net Looks Like On the Inside

February 15, 2017

Ever wonder what the inside of a machine learning model looks like? Today Graphcore released fascinating images that show how the computational graph concept maps to a new graph processor and graph programming framework it’s creating. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Cray Posts Best-Ever Quarter, Visibility Still Limited

February 10, 2017

On its Wednesday earnings call, Cray announced the largest revenue quarter in the company’s history and the second-highest revenue year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Cloud Startup Launches ‘App Store’ for HPC Workflows

February 9, 2017

“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

KNUPATH Hermosa-based Commercial Boards Expected in Q1 2017

December 15, 2016

Last June tech start-up KnuEdge emerged from stealth mode to begin spreading the word about its new processor and fabric technology that’s been roughly a decade in the making. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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