Cisco CEO John Chambers used his Gartner conference keynote to talk about Cisco's bet on video, and how IT pros can best justify costs to CEOs.
ORLANDO, Fla.-During his Oct. 20 keynote talk at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo
2010, Cisco CEO John Chambers told the assembled
IT pros and executives that video will soon be entering their
businesses-whether they want it to or not.
"We believe that video is the next voice, the next data. We started with
that premise seven years ago," Chambers said. "The market transition is going
to take place whether we want it to, or not." He characterized Cisco's bet on
video-centric networking as a potentially substantial risk-one that he was not only more than
willing to take, but whose underlying technology had been under development
within Cisco for years.
He added: "I think one of the important things to remember as an IT
administrator or business leader is that transitions wait for no one."
Cisco's current strategy involves expanding into high-growth sectors such as
cloud, virtualization and data centers. But during his talk, Chambers also
focused on businesses' need to incorporate a wide variety of consumer devices
within IT infrastructure-and to wrestle with the resulting security and
Cisco itself has "tried to limit devices," Chambers said, but "it became
very obvious four years ago that we wouldn't be able to do that." That
apparently helped to develop Cisco's current vision of providing network
intelligence and tools capable of delivering content to users anywhere on any
device, anywhere in the world. Deploying that network, in turn, involves
advances in cloud, virtualization and other technology.
Echoing the previous day's keynote comments by Salesforce.com CEO
Marc Benioff, who suggested that large IT vendors have an interest in
maintaining outdated paradigms, Chambers said that the transition to the cloud
was something resisted by "the incumbent players" who "have very little
interest in having this occur, because you sell [fewer] servers, less storage."
Chambers also took issue with the idea that a network could be run on a
system of "dumb pipes" guided by a localized, server-centric intelligence. "I
think intelligence will be spread throughout the entire fabric of the network,"
he said. "A server separate from the network [and] separate from storage ... is
not the right way to approach it. I would never enter the server business as
stand-alone; I'd enter it connected to the network and applications and software."
For the CIOs and other IT pros listening, however, the bigger question may
be how to sell their CEO on the concept of an intelligent network-and the costs
that go with it. Pressed by Gartner analysts, Chambers insisted that his
company's products contribute to customers' productivity.
"You talk to [a CEO] about clouds and
network and video," here he made a snoring sound. "It's about revenue per
employee." Video, virtualized collaboration and other tools can supposedly make
those employees more productive and fatten a company's bottom line.
For CEOs, he added, the first question is "How can I use my assets more
productively?" The second is, "What are my new revenue streams?" Technology can
contribute to both of those goals: "I think we're going to see an inflection
point where CEOs start to talk about ... evolving technology as a constant
Meanwhile, Cisco continues to push its products for both businesses and
consumers. The company reported record numbers for its fiscal 2010 fourth
quarter, with $10.8 billion in revenue and $1.9 billion in net income.
During an Aug. 11 earnings call to discuss those numbers, Chambers predicted
that first-quarter 2011 revenues would grow 18 to 20 percent year-over-year,
but also that the broader economic outlook remained uncertain: "The economy
continues to be the wild card in many of our customers' minds."
Cisco's quarterly numbers also came in slightly below analysts'
expectations. However, the company's product lines generally experienced
growth, to the tune of 12 percent in switching, 4 percent in routers, 20
percent in unified communications, 90 percent in UCS (Unified Computing System)
and 30 percent in wireless.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.