Maybe you heard a strange clanging sound earlier today. If so, that was the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down. Cisco Systems (CSCO) is entering the cloud services market along with its partners, taking aim at the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) by announcing a $1 billion investment in cloud services over the next two years.

Included in the announcement are both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, but the big news is how Cisco will be taking these services to market. Basically, Cisco is building a global "Intercloud," which it described as a network of clouds run by partners. The partner-driven initiative will also have $1 billion in funding from Cisco over the next two years as Cisco and its partners build out the infrastructure needed to make it work.

It's an interesting take on the IaaS/PaaS market, and one that could put Cisco in a position to become one of the big players in the space. But the disparate nature of the Intercloud also could be a weight to drag the cloud services initiative down if Cisco can't guarantee consistent performance.

"Customers, providers and channel partners alike are turning to Cisco to create open and highly secure hybrid cloud environments, and they want to rapidly deploy valuable enterprise-class cloud experiences for key customers—all while mitigating the risk of capital investment," said Robert Lloyd, president of Development and Sales at Cisco, in a prepared statement. "The timing is right for Cisco and its partners to invest in a groundbreaking, application-centric global Intercloud to provide broader reach and faster time to market. Together, we have the capability to enable a seamless world of many clouds in which our customers have the choice to enable the right, highly secure cloud for the right workload, while creating strategic advantages for rapid innovation, and ultimately, business growth."

The entire play fits into Cisco's Internet of Everything strategy and marketing, which the company has been talking about for some time. But there's a lot that goes into this strategy, including:

  • PaaS/IaaS offerings.
  • Cisco Cloud Services powered by SAP HANA.
  • Collaboration via Cisco WebEx.
  • Cisco Scansafe security.
  • Cisco Meraki for cloud-managed networks.
  • Partner-branded Cisco Hosted Collaboration Services.
  • Cisco Videoscape Cloud DVR.
  • Cisco Virtualized Mobile Internet.
  • Virtualized managed services.
  • Remote management services.
  • IT service management services via ServiceGrid.
  • Energy management services via Energywise.
  • Collaboration-as-a-service for voice and contact center in the cloud.

Most of those items aren't new to Cisco's product line, but they do fit in with what Cisco has planned for taking on the big boys in the cloud services space.

If any big networking vendor has a chance to make a move into the IaaS and PaaS space, it's probably Cisco, but it's the details that will make or break this venture.