Cisco, Cloud Computing and Open Source Software

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Jan 4, 2011


The move to cloud-based infrastructure is one that is set to dominate networking discussions in 2011. One of the leaders in the move to cloud is networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), which provides servers, routing and switching infrastructure that enables cloud computing deployments. What do Cisco, the cloud and open source software have in common? Much more than you might think.

At this stage of cloud development and deployment, standards are still emerging, which is where open source software may be able to help.

"We are interested in working a lot more with different open source communities as that's where a lot of the cloud activity is happening," Lew Tucker, Cisco CTO for Cloud Computing told InternetNews.com. "Open source is contributing a lot of technology to the cloud computing arena today."

Tucker noted that Cisco is taking an interest in a number of different open source cloud initiatives. One of the open source efforts he's watching is the Rackspace and NASA led OpenStack effort.

The OpenStack project is an initiative to build an open source cloud computing platform and was announced in July 2010. The first OpenStack release came out at the end of October, after benefitting from the contributions of over 35 technology vendors.

To date, Tucker said that Cisco hasn't yet contributed code to OpenStack, though Cisco has attended OpenStack development meetings.

Finding a Partner in Red Hat

One key open source vendor Cisco has been actively involved with is Red Hat. Tucker noted that Cisco runs Red Hat Enterprise Linux with KVM virtualization on its Unified Computing System (UCS). Red Hat was among the vendors that joined Cisco for the original UCS launch in March 2009.

Beyond just a business partnership with Red Hat, Cisco is actually contributing open source code as well.

"We have also contributed back to the Fedora project the drivers associated with the virtual NIC (network interface card) that we have for UCS," Tucker said. "So we can tap the network directly and avoid inefficiency and we have worked closely with Red Hat on that."

Tucker is also interested in other open source cloud efforts that Red Hat leads, beyond just the KVM hypervisor. One area of particular interest for Cisco is the Deltacloud project. Deltacloud is an effort to provide an abstraction layer that enables applications to be deployed and moved across cloud technologies and vendors.

"At the language binding level you can have libraries like Deltacloud that allow you to target your application to different underlying APIs," Tucker said.

Moving forward, it's likely Cisco will continue to participate in existing open source projects, rather than start its own.

"I've worked with a lot of open source communities in my career, and I believe the greatest impact is when you join larger projects and contribute that way," Tucker said.

Prior to joining Cisco, Tucker had been a veteran of Sun Microsystems, which he left after it was acquired by Oracle.

"One of the things we don't like to do in open source is fork projects," Tucker said. "It's much better to try and get things into the mainline projects that are out there, but I'm very interested through my office to drive open source activity at Cisco."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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