Cisco Systems Inc.s senior vice president of data center, switching, security technology and application networking services, Jayshree Ullal, has seen a quick succession of new responsibilities added to her plate in the last six months.
The 11-year Cisco veteran (22 years in the networking industry) last July took on data center and switching responsibilities when her mentor, Chief Development Officer Mario Mazzola, and colleague Luca Cafiero retired. ANS (Application Network Services) was added in December when Cisco launched the unit. Ullal presided over Ciscos rise as the hot (LAN switching) box vendor when she took the Catalyst LAN switching business from nothing in 1993 to $7 billion and the No. 1 spot in 2000.
But guiding Ciscos efforts to move beyond being a networking box provider for network engineers and administrators to become a trusted IT partner in the eyes of CIOs and IT vice presidents could be her biggest challenge yet. She spoke this week in Ciscos brand-new DNA (Data Center Networked Application) Lab with eWEEK Senior Editor Paula Musich. The DNA Lab will open next month to Cisco customers as a showcase for demonstrating to IT executives how a range of Cisco technology fits into the data center.
Cisco, as a company thats historically sold networking hardware to the network operations side of IT, doesnt have a lot of credibility in the data center. What is Ciscos plan to try to become a trusted partner of IT executives whose main concern is about business applications?
Ciscos roots started at the data center as a multiprotocol vendor, connecting mainframes to [distributed] networks. Now connecting storage and Fibre Channel is our foundation. So weve always been a data center player. The data center is evolving to provide infrastructure to connect storage, servers and applications. We see ourselves as the networked application vendor. We have huge responsibilities in networking application resources—i.e., how to connect machines, applications and users. The treatment is different for each of those. With our new DNA Lab, we will continue that journey.
How do you convince CIOs, who still look at the network as the plumbing, that greater intelligence in the network will help them meet their goals?
The good news is that CIOs and Cisco share the same vision: to enhance productivity and spend less on IT. In 1999, I [told an audience of IT executives] that voice, video and data would be integrated into the same infrastructure. Half of them said they wouldnt see that before they retired. The other half were open to it. The biggest obstacle was connecting new [voice over IP] infrastructure with legacy PBX equipment. Bridging the two worlds takes time. The reality of execution for customers takes time. Three years ago there was no security integration. Today its in 40 percent of the equipment we sell.
But wont you be competing with well-entrenched incumbents like Microsoft and IBM?
The data center wont be monolithic. Who owns the data center today? There are a myriad of players there now. Whats unique to Cisco is that we are in a position to connect to all of them without competing. Were in the business of enabling the productivity of their products. We wont be the only data center player, but we will be the most vendor-neutral player. Data centers have resources at one level, applications at another. Were the intelligent fabric in between.
How well is Ciscos Intelligent Information Network vision being received by IT executives among Ciscos base of customers?
On a scale of 1 to 10 [with 10 the most favorable], its between 8 and 10 with CIOs. But were only a third of the way there with execution. We will demonstrate more proof points with areas such as wireless and storage. With ANS, we have a three- to five-year journey for execution.
Cisco rival Juniper Networks seems to keep raising the stakes across the board with Cisco product lines—security, switching, application acceleration and WAN optimization. How is Cisco dealing with that competitive threat?
We didnt need to pay $4 billion to get into security. Netscreens market share [since Juniper acquired it] has stayed between 8 and 9 percent. Our last quarter was 37 percent. While their initial focus was service provider, theyve validated our IIN strategy. Time will tell if they are successful or not.
The ANS initiative was launched with a lot of fanfare, but no real deliverables. Some would argue that Cisco is late to this fast-growing market. How will Cisco catch up?
Ciscos execution in this space can be much better. When the content [networking] market escalated in 2000, there was a lot of fervor and then it went south. Cisco and Nortel didnt spend much on it. F5 [Networks] did, and they are a very tough competitor. Cisco was a pioneer with Local Director when it came out. More recently we are investing internally, and we bought Actona for File and Fine Ground for Web acceleration. We havent been as focused, but we are looking to restore the luster. Stay tuned.
Is Cisco targeting vertical markets with a more applications-focused set of offerings? If so, how is Cisco doing that, and how does that affect discrete areas like security, switching, storage, etc.? What initiatives have been launched to date, and how broad are they?
In general we do focus a lot on applications. The Protego [Networks Network Access Control] appliances have been a real success in the education environment. NAC is well-embraced in universities. Also with financial environments, they want to do multicast and high availability. For customizing applications there are a lot of features that we can apply to improve response time. With link optimizations we can minimize round trips for file transfers with smart caching. At the application level with Actona and Fine Ground we did specific [Web application] optimizations and some optimizations on video for service providers. We may need XML interfaces to work with application vendors. We can improve the performance of Siebel, SAP, Oracle and others by 30 to 300 percent. Above that, we can do more AON integration customizations.
How is the wireless unit being integrated into the rest of Cisco? Is it the Rodney Dangerfield among Cisco business units—gets no respect?
If you remember, the switching business unit used to be the Rodney Dangerfield [of Cisco]. Wireless does get a lot of respect. We think wireless can be a $1 billion business in the next one to three years. We have to build best-of-breed wireless access systems, but its too important to do it just as stand-alone [appliances]. The security team works closely with wireless; voice integrates with it. We like to think of it as giving the business unit the autonomy it needs to be successful. The wireless team is in the throes of innovation, but with the ties to integration of wireless and wireline. We started with the Aironet acquisition, complemented that with Airespace for wireless controllers. Well solve this for commercial and large enterprises.
What is the status of the work that Cisco and Microsoft are conducting to ensure that Ciscos Network Access Control architecture works with Microsofts Network Access Protection architecture? And what concrete milestones can you point to as evidence of real progress in that effort?
The history of it is that we started the NAC concept as being network-centric. NAP is Windows-centric. We learned the customer wanted both. So we came up with a consistent implementation: We both use the same client, we use the 802.1X Linksec protocol, and Microsoft does NAP on the servers. We do NAC on the network. Weve been sharing NAC for six months and done internal testing with Microsoft. Now were waiting for Microsoft to introduce NAP in the mainstream with Vista. We will start another suite of activities [once Vista ships].
The next step is real-world deployments. We have more experience because we have it in the field. Weve deployed it in our own IT organization. We found out we have 1,000 [Apple Computer] Macs at Cisco. IT wanted NAC for Macs. We found a way to treat them as part of NAC, and we are working with Apple on a potential client. But for now we have a solution without one. NAC is like house cleaning. Youre never done. We started with Unix, Linux and Windows, and well expand it over time. We have 60 partners now for NAC, with half of them shipping products. Among those partners are Symantec, McAfee, Trend [Micro]. We have a healthy motive to make sure everything is more secure. Universities have the biggest NAC deployments. The biggest is over 50,000 nodes.
How much longer do you think selling stand-alone firewalls is a viable business?
Itll be a long time for those. First, its a healthy business for small and medium-sized businesses. Second, in the enterprise, its hard to define a perimeter. Firewalls have evolved to be the universal threat defense. Third, data center or application firewalls with flow-based inspections are a class in itself. Then there are specialized firewalls. The reality is its a $2 billion market that is segmenting.
How well has the market accepted the multifunction Adaptive Security Appliance 5500 series since its launch last May?
Its now being adopted well, but it had a slow start. At the launch we also introduced Pix 7.0. The ASA 5500 after two quarters did well. Pix 7.0 took off right away. New customers are looking at the ASA 5500 for unified threat defense not just one function.
Do you think that the departure of your mentor—Mario Mazzola—along with your colleagues Luca Cafiero and Prem Jain will hurt Cisco?
I personally miss Mario very much. I would like to believe that [for Cisco] its about cultivating depth in your leadership. Cisco is not the same without them, but it wont miss a beat. They will always have a special place in Cisco.
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