Cisco's Intercloud, a new global network of cloud systems, combines cloud solutions from multiple vendors in a hybrid network that's all supported by Cisco. As more companies learn about the service and more money is invested in its future, Intercloud continues to grow in popularity. In September 2014, Cisco announced it would be investing $1 billion into Intercloud services in order to bolster services like hybrid cloud solutions and the functionality of the Internet of Things, according to Network World's Jim Duffy. In June 2015, the company also solidified deals with 35 new independent software vendors to help boost its cloud service offerings.

What does Cisco's investment mean for enterprises that use a cloud infrastructure to host some or all of their data? It demonstrates a shift in attention from traditional on-premises services to more open, hybrid solutions. Cloud service providers need to make sure they allow enterprises to leverage the best from multiple solutions, as a combination of offerings instead of a siloed, overarching approach is where the industry is likely headed.

Intercloud benefits
A useful analogy for the Intercloud would be to call it a "cloud of clouds" – essentially, a group of virtually connected networks that can include public, private and hybrid cloud offerings. Cisco's Intercloud Fabric allows users to pick and choose which benefits they receive because they can create a hybrid solution of multiple providers, which means they can still reap all the benefits of cloud computing. For instance, by utilizing various cloud services providers, different security, regulatory and business requirements can be addressed and dealt with successfully. In the past, such an arrangement would require an organization to pick multiple vendors.

Another important advantage of Intercloud is the interoperability it allows. In traditional models, each cloud service used by an enterprise must be separately managed. However, with Intercloud, companies can benefit from a seamless framework of cloud providers because separate management is no longer necessary.

Peder Ulander, vice president of cloud services at Cisco, told TechTarget that the goal of Intercloud is to "[g]uarantee apps that enterprises want, guarantee service-level agreements, guarantee that they can work across a group of providers to move workloads based on the reason to have it [in] one place versus another." In other words, organizations want to be able to move easily among multiple service providers using this hybrid framework.

There are a few challenges faced by enterprises that utilize Intercloud. An enterprise needs to make sure its cloud services provider allows flexible workload placement within the Intercloud architecture. Consistency in network and security policies across all the cloud services within the hybrid network is also an important aspect of managing the Intercloud. Cisco and its partner companies are looking to address these challenges by ensuring communication along the network is easy and immediate, according to Network World.

A cloud service provider should also offer good security management to its customers. The Intercloud provides better security because of the private nature of the cloud network. Companies can access their outsourced critical applications through this end-to-end private network instead of hosting data and applications on the Internet.

The bottom line
That a company like Cisco, which made its name in the on-premises IT architecture space, is now going all-in on the cloud is very telling. This shows just how prevalent and necessary cloud computing has become for organizations everywhere. The unique nature of Intercloud also points to the rise of hybrid cloud architectures, although organizations may still be better off opting for a vendor that has more experience with the cloud than Cisco.