Cisco Officials Push Online Collaboration, Video

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers and other officials at the Cisco Live event are pushing an aggressive plan to expand the company's reach beyond its networking roots and deeper into myriad spaces, from the data center to online collaboration to video to power distribution. Chambers pointed to 30 sectors that Cisco either will enter or grow in over the next 12 to 18 months. The moves promise to bring Cisco into even greater competition with the likes of HP and IBM.

Cisco Systems is using the platform of its Cisco Live show in San Francisco to push its aggressive expansion into spaces beyond its traditional networking business.

During his keynote speech June 30, Cisco CEO John Chambers talked about the 30 new "market adjacencies" that the company is continuing to grow into, from video and sports and entertainment to digital signatures, Smart Grid, and the virtual data center, which includes Cisco's new UCS (Unified Computing System).

Cisco also plans to touch on all business sectors, from health care to education, and to fuel how business is done in the future, from telecommuting to online collaboration.

The company will continue to build on its core networking business, Chambers said, but the global recession is helping to fuel a transition in business into such areas as virtualization, online collaboration and video, all of which can be made use of to help businesses work better and more efficiently. And Cisco wants to be in on that, he said.

Such moves are bound to bring Cisco into tighter competition with other vendors, including many that also are valuable partners. That happened in March, when Cisco rolled out its UCS strategy, which includes Cisco-branded blade servers, bringing it into direct competition with such vendors as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, two companies that buy billions of dollars' worth of Cisco networking technology every year.

However, Chambers said he doesn't look at the competition, but rather at whether what Cisco is offering can help businesses.

Other Cisco officials have recently talked about areas into which the company will grow. In a briefing June 29, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior outlined how Cisco will expand its reach in the burgeoning cloud computing realm. Warrior pointed to Cisco's UCS and virtualization as the key drivers for the new virtualized data center, and said Cisco will sell the various infrastructure pieces that businesses will need for cloud computing. The company also will offer SAAS (software as a service), as it does already with its WebEx collaboration technology, she said.

However, Warrior said Cisco won't try to take on or Google by offering its own public cloud infrastructure.

In addition, in a briefing June 30, Doug Dennerline, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Software Group, reportedly said the company-as Google and others already have-may offer software online that would rival Microsoft's Office applications and would be accessed via Cisco's WebEx technology.

Such comments backed up what Chambers said during his keynote. As he has in prior speeches this year, Chambers pointed to the Flip video camera as a key communications tool. Cisco bought Pure Digital, the maker of the Flip, earlier in 2009.

"Video is the communication vehicle that changes how business will be done," he said.

Online collaboration will continue growing, Chambers said. Cisco has migrated many of its own corporate meetings-which in the past would have meant bringing people from all over the world to a central location-into the online world, saving millions of dollars in expenses and boosting productivity, he said.

Cisco also has done the same thing with launches of new products and, as evidenced by its user conference this week, with how it reaches out to customers and the media on other levels.

"It hasn't just changed how we communicate as a company, but how we work, how we learn," Chambers said.

News coming out of Cisco continues to illustrate how the company is using its combined product portfolio to expand its reach. For example, at the National Educational Computing Conference June 29 in Washington, Cisco officials outlined ways that its online collaboration, networking, security, wireless and media systems offerings can be used by school systems to increase efficiency, save money, improve security and teach students about the global economy.