Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Action behind Clouds: Cisco's Acquisition of LineSider.

Clouds are good for cloud subscribers, but how can cloud providers offer on-the-fly provisioning such as is expected by the subscribers? Clearly, requests1 for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) at a subscriber level — a certain combination of CPU, networking and storage — must be translated down to device-level, actionable, commands to both physical and virtual devices. And, these commands need to be effected as a single transaction in the cloud provider system. Cisco's intent last week, to acquire LineSider Technologies, brings this matter to the fore.

LineSider's white paper on Network Services Virtualization elaborates on the challenges by bringing out the limitations of point2 products of the following types:
  1. Configuration Management and Automation Engines
  2. Inventory and Capacity Management
  3. Network Alarm and Correlation Management
Their OverDrive product "... automatically initiates the creation of the required virtual machines (VMs). As the VMs are coming online the OverDrive virtualization engine defines and deploys the network access and security models across all required infrastructure devices (routers, switches, firewalls) as needed, to deliver the Cloud service to the defined end-users. The entire process is completed in seconds ...". Moreover, "Once the Business Policy is implemented and the Cloud service is active, the access and security models are bound to the end-point resources and persisted in the OverDrive engine."

What is the moral of the story? While it is important to create point technologies for the cloud, it is also important to think about their manageability in an 'end-to-end' scenario: The cloud subscriber is one of the ends, and the cloud provider is the other end, with all the devices in between — physical or virtual — associated with the cloud service in a persistent, auditable, manner.

1Requests for cloud services are equally well applicable to both private enterprise cloud subscribers and public cloud subscribers.
2What were once 'end-to-end' solutions become 'point' solutions in an evolving system.

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