Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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11/15/2013
08:00 AM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
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Cisco's Chambers: Rival White Box Model 'Fatally Flawed'

In a wide-ranging interview, the Cisco CEO acknowledges an industry battle ahead but insists his company's architectural approach will prevail.

Chambers: 'This is the biggest move we've made and will have the most industry impact.'
Chambers: "This is the biggest move we've made and will have the most industry impact."

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RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 8:45:06 AM
Don't Underestimate Cisco
People have underestimated Cisco before, and almost always its vision and execution prevail. It has certainly made mistakes (like the Flip dalliance), but it realizes its mistakes and moves on better than most big IT vendors.  
David F. Carr
IW Pick
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 10:50:40 AM
SDN intriguing but challenging
He may have a point that the wave of open technologies for SDN and network architectures will require more effort to implement and more "being your own systems integrator" than most organizations want to take on. Google, Facebook, and major financial services firms may be willing to put the effort into defining a custom network architecture that gives them a few extra percentage points of efficiency. How much of the rest of industry will go that far?
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 10:57:18 AM
Re: Don't Underestimate Cisco
Insightful piece. Cisco has done remarkably well keeping ahead of the game, especially when you consider the dramatic technology changes and economic challenges of the last decade. I think Chambers may be underestimating the importance of software here, however. It's interesting that Cisco pooh-poohed the concept of overlay networks, but then included them in ACI anyway. Customers will be slow to go fully SDN, and I think overlays and white boxes will be fairly popular to try it out.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 12:06:26 PM
CEOs Vs. Politicians
At some point, do you feel that a CEO on the level of Chambers (or Ellison, or Meyer) is ever going to go off script? Often listening to them reminds me forcibly of the politicians on Meet the Press who cannot be lured awy from their talking points. Essentially you're getting a summary of the company's press releases, delivered in a smooth and practiced way. They could deploy a robot to do the same thing.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
11/15/2013 | 3:46:50 PM
It's Cisco versus the cloud
Cisco keeps coming up with sophisticated hardware to solve another layer of the problem. The Application Policy Infrastructure Controller is a software controller for the hardware of a UCS system, which combines compute and networking for a given, virtualized UCS rack. This is an evolutionary step when we appear to be in the midst of a revolution. We're building cloud systems out of components, then we're treating compute, storage and networking as flexible parts of a single whole. The single whole Cisco is talking about, hardware constrained as it is, is the largest unit of UCS it can produce. Theoretically, with a cloud architecture, hardware isn't allowed to impose that constraint and we can assign the appropriate network to as many applications as we need to.(We're not there yet but stay tuned.)
Tom Murphy
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Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 4:22:42 PM
Re: CEOs Vs. Politicians
I'm with you, Lorna. I'll give Chambers an Academy Award for most consistent performance by a CEO.  But out in the real world, where savvy tech-sector analysts are betting trillions of dollars of our retirement savings, Cisco has a tough audience. Sure, the stock is up about 50% from it's 2010 low, but that's not exactly a rocketship in the tech sector.  And, besides, it has only climbed back to the low 20s -- about where it was in late 2009.  In the markets, that's called "dead money" and the company's Nov. 13 admission that revenue is soft isn't helping. 
Tom Murphy
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Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 4:25:13 PM
Re: Don't Underestimate Cisco
SueNWC:  I hear you. The way Chambers downplays SDN by saying Cisco has already tried that reminds me of the way Kodak said digital cameras would never undermine its film business (after EK invented the digital camera.) 

Hey, Mr. Chambers, have you tried to buy a roll of Kodachrome lately?
Tom Murphy
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Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 4:35:18 PM
Re: Don't Underestimate Cisco
Hey, don't knock the Flip! Not only did it inspire a lot of imitators and phone cams (I have a remarkably good Flip-lookalike made by Kodak. Yep, that Kodak.), but it cudda-shudda been a contender for the explosion in video networking.  That revolution is still rising, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Cisco back in the Flip business before long. 

Flips work in ways that phones can't, and they are in hot demand among indy media devotees. Here, for example, is an aging Flip selling for $120 on Craigslist. What would you pay for, say, an iPhone 2? Nothing)  That's not bad considering an iPhone 5 fetches about $100.

What do others think: was Cisco's vision for video conferencing just ahead of its time?
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 5:33:50 PM
Re: Don't Underestimate Cisco
Tom, everything you say about the Flip is true. It's a great device and I still use mine, both for work and home. However, I don't think it fit into Cisco's overall strategic plan or helped enterprise videoconferencing. Telepresence, now that's another matter...
Tom Murphy
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Tom Murphy,
User Rank: Author
11/15/2013 | 5:57:27 PM
Re: Don't Underestimate Cisco
Sue (why do I feel like we should be teleconferencing?),  I think we're on the same wavelength.  Any form of networked video shows the power of Cisco's systems -- something they must have realized years ago when designing the first Flips.  And until further notice, video starts with a video camera.

It reminds me of when Sun started playing around with PDAs, many many years before the first iPod prototype was built by Apple.  They were on the right track, just a decade or so too soon.
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