Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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6/24/2010
01:00 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Cisco Quad Exec Talks Enterprise 2.0

Part of the first crop of serious Enterprise 2.0 products, Cisco Quad is the networking powerhouse's ambitious attempt to surge to the head of the pack. (My more holistic market take is that Quad is yet another piece of the pie -- alongside Flip and Borderless Networks -- through which Cisco is expanding itself to ultimately become the world's most important technology company; an Intel of the 2010's if you will.) I sat down recently with Murali Sitaram, the Cisco vice president in charge of

Part of the first crop of serious Enterprise 2.0 products, Cisco Quad is the networking powerhouse's ambitious attempt to surge to the head of the pack. (My more holistic market take is that Quad is yet another piece of the pie -- alongside Flip and Borderless Networks -- through which Cisco is expanding itself to ultimately become the world's most important technology company; an Intel of the 2010's if you will.) I sat down recently with Murali Sitaram, the Cisco vice president in charge of Quad, to chat.Sitaram was on my CIO panel at the recent Enterprise 2.0 Boston conference. (See Top 5 Enterprise 2.0 Roadblocks.) We sat down afterwards to talk a bit more about Quad, which is just one of a slew of enterprise collaboration products attempting to gain traction in this nascent market. Other offerings are IBM's Lotus Live, Microsoft's SharePoint, SAP's StreamWork, Jive Software's Clearspace platform, and Google Wave (though Wave is perhaps less of an enterprise-centric play than the others). I haven't even mentioned the smaller players -- like SocialText -- who were out in force at Enterprise 2.0.

Clearly, Cisco is making a big bet on Quad. "If we succeed, this platform will become the glue for social behavior in the enterprise," says Sitaram. "We think the confluence of real-time communications, asynchronous communications and an open architecture approach -- driven by Web apps and a multiplicity of end-point mobile devices -- gives us a very strong chance."

Cisco realizes that it has to work and play well with the folks in Redmond, given their hefty installed base. "We want to integrate with Microsoft's offerings -- our customers demand that," says Sitaram, referring to Exchange, Open Communications Server (for IM), Sharepoint, Microsoft Fast (for search), and Active Directory.

One big Quad differentiator is Cisco's intense focus on video. Cisco has expended a huge amount of effort branding itself as a video provider -- I should more properly write that they're positioning themselves a videoconferencing enabler. That's been hung off of the public-facing "Welcome to the Human Network" branding effort, with the Ellen Page television commercials. (It's interesting that the actress will soon be more famous for her Cisco ads than for her role in "Juno.")

I see "The Human Network" branding as somewhat chameleon-like. I initially thought it referred only to Cisco's huge -- and hugely expensive -- telepresence systems. Actually, it also encompasses the lighter weight WebEx videoconferencing. WebEx is supported in Quad, as is IM, as well as voice and video calling.

The cynic in me -- see again Top 5 Enterprise 2.0 Roadblocks -- says that Quad's video-connectivity push is of a piece with Cisco's imperative to drive up customer bandwidth usage, the better to sell more networking gear. Realistically, though, video is something that's bubbling up everywhere as a solution in search of a serious enterprise usage rationale. As in, if people are going to collaborate, they have to see each other, right?

Eventually, this stuff is going to catch fire, even if, right now, I can't fathom exactly why. As Sitaram puts it, "Video is the river that runs through it."

For Further Reading

Branding Brilliance Behind Cisco's Borderless Networks;

Cisco Video Thrust Telegraphs Bandwidth-Bandit Strategy;

Cisco's Quad page;

Cisco Community Central.

Leave a comment below or e-mail me directly at alex@alexwolfe.net.

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Alex Wolfe is editor-in-chief of InformationWeek.com.

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