Chambers Touts Cisco's Shift to Applications in Interop Keynote

NEWS ANALYSIS: Cisco will become more of an applications company to keep up with fundamental changes in network technology, CEO John Chambers said in his Interop Keynote.

While Cisco was founded to build the routers and switches powering corporate networks, and it recently moved to embrace the server hardware business, the future for Cisco is as an applications company, according to CEO John Chambers.

In his keynote presentation Oct. 2 at this year’s Interop New York, Chambers said the next step for Cisco is to enable the “application-centric infrastructure.” The company will detail its embrace of the application environment in November, Chambers said. But he made it clear in his keynote that application centricity will become the company’s main theme.

“We compete against market transitions, not competitors,” Chambers said. “There will be a brutal consolidation in this industry,” he said, adding that the concept of the application economy will provide a road map for the whole technology industry.

The ability to create an infrastructure that is agile, simplified, automatically programmable and able to scale on demand is critical to enabling the application model, said Chambers. These products have to be designed for simplified integration rather than lengthy systems integration.

“You are not systems integrators,” Chambers told the audience. Cisco currently offers a range of application services, including an application network manager and its videoconference products. But the company has not positioned itself as primarily an applications vendor.

As an example of this application orientation, Cisco demonstrated a connected series of health applications that accompany a patient from checking in via Facebook, through reserving a room at the medical facility, allocating patient records and providing follow-up information. In a diagram of the ability to allocate resources and program the patient and medical facility interaction, the diagram showed an all-Cisco hardware environment as underpinning the application.

In his keynote, Chambers displayed his signature presentation mode of leaving the stage and walking amid the audience while talking about higher-level business and technology topics rather than getting into specific product details.

His focus on the rise of the Internet of Things and his expectations for growth from thousands to millions and then billions of connected devices buttressed his remarks highlighting the increasingly complex networks and increased network connectivity that will be associated with the vast sensor and mobile-based network access.

Notably absent from Chambers’ keynote was discussion of some ongoing network trends at this event that is traditionally focused on the nuts and bolts of network technology.

A previous speaker, Stephen Alexander, the CTO of Ciena, described the advent of the software-defined network as “actually under-hyped,” considering the potential for companies to potentially add connectivity on demand in a manner similar to the present compute and storage on demand capabilities now available.