What is Cisco Telling Customers? by J. Metzler

Given Cisco’s dominance of the networking market combined with the amazing volatility of the environment that we all work in, it is both interesting and important to understand what Cisco is telling it customers. I personally use that information to guide my thinking about where the IT industry is going in general and what that means to my job in particular.

One of the best ways to understand what Cisco is telling its customers is to attend the Cisco Live conference. The recent Cisco Live conference in Orlando, FL, set a new attendance record. More than 20,000 people attended in person and over 250,000 watched parts or all of the conference online. In addition, the conference featured an exhibit area referred to as the World of Solutions. This year, the World of Solutions featured booths from hundreds of Cisco’s partners and consumed roughly 250,000 square feet. I spent a couple of hours at the World of Solutions and one observation I made was that a very high percentage of the vendors who exhibited at Cisco Live were management vendors. To me that says that while Cisco has made great strides relative to the management functionality that they provide themselves, there is still a large need for additional management functionality.

One of the in-your-face themes of Cisco Live this year was the Internet of Everything (IoE). In his keynote, Chambers declared that the IoE was the next wave of the Internet and that it would have more impact that all of the previous waves combined. That’s a pretty strong statement. To understand what Cisco is saying about the next wave of the Internet you have to be able to distinguish the IoE from the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Cisco, the IoT is the connection of all machines, devices, sensors, automobiles, cameras, and other things to help customers improve operations and save resources. In contrast, Cisco defines the IoE as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before. Having listened to many Cisco speakers discuss the IoE, I think that Cisco may be right that this concept is beginning to impact how companies do business. I don’t, however, think that IoE will impact my job this year.

Additional new features include Path Analysis, MultiPort Statistics and more for enhanced troubleshooting and management. At last year’s Cisco Live conference in San Diego, CA, Cisco got a lot of attention with their Open Networking Environment (ONE) announcement. While Cisco’s ONE is broader than just SDN, a lot of the Cisco ONE initiative involves an SDN-like three-tier architecture consisting of applications and network functions running either on top of, or in a controller and that controller interfaces with an array of network elements.

There certainly was a lot of discussion of Cisco ONE at the recent Orlando conference. However, there were two aspects of the discussion of Cisco ONE in Orlando that I found particularly insightful. One of those aspects was that in each presentation that I attended, the slides that the Cisco speaker used depicted the previously discussed three-tier architecture accompanied by the need for services to pull it all together. The other aspect of the Cisco ONE discussion in Orlando that I found insightful is that none of the Cisco speakers that I listened to said a single work about either the management functionality that is required to manage a Cisco ONE nor did they mention what management functionality Cisco would be providing.

As I drove home from the Cisco Live conference, one conclusion that I drew is that while Cisco has not yet shipped V1.0 of its SDN controller, the basic SDN concepts are being applied pervasively inside of Cisco. Another conclusion that I drew was that, as is so often the case with any new technology or way of delivering technology, the management of SDN in general and of Cisco ONE in particular is not getting the attention it needs. I believe that both of these conclusions will impact all of us starting immediately.

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