Video, Software Enhancements Mark Cisco Conference

Reporter's Notebook: At its recent C-Scape analyst conference, Cisco opened the lid on new products it is developing to improve video technology, software and its VPN client.

Cisco Systems at its recent C-Scape analyst conference opened the kimono on a handful of new products it is developing across its different business units.

Much of that centers around video, which had the highest volume of buzz at the conference. One of the new video technologies it showed off was a digital signage system, which Cisco acquired on Dec. 15 when it bought Tivella.

Tivellas family of digital media players and its administrative servers had already been integrated with Ciscos ACNS and IP TV platforms through an earlier partnership agreement.

Ciscos aim with the Tivella acquisition, which is expected to close in Ciscos second fiscal quarter of 2007, is to offer customers live video, video-on-demand and other types of rich media content that can be delivered to desktops or digital sign displays via IP.

Applications for the technology include advertising, training and other targeted communications. Cisco did not disclose the price that it paid for Tivella, which has 10 employees.

In addition to new digital signage offerings, Cisco also intends to broaden its video surveillance offerings.

What was interesting about the video buzz was the fact that Cisco did not spend much time touting the synergies it gained with its acquisition of Scientific Atlanta.

Cisco has yet to publicly describe a roadmap for integration of Scientific Atlanta, which is unlike any other Cisco acquisition, due to its size.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read more about the C-Scape conference, click here.

Chief Development Officer Charlie Giancarlo said at the conference that "it will take another year to convert projects started [between Cisco and Scientific Atlanta] into deliveries."

One such project includes an IP set top box with DSL connectivity, which he said "is off to a good start."

Ciscos Linksys business unit, led by Giancarlo, is also working with Scientific Atlanta on a modem that includes voice ports. Cisco intends to detail that offering in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he said.

At CES, Cisco will also launch a new branding campaign associated with Scientific Atlanta and Linksys, according to Sue Bostrom, Ciscos chief marketing officer.

That branding campaign could signal an expansion of Ciscos consumer strategy, based on hints that CEO John Chambers dropped in his talks at the analyst conference.

In a different vein, Cisco also revealed work it has undertaken to transform its software.

Intended to help users more easily plug in the services they want to add into the network without disrupting existing operations, the effort aims to change the way customers buy software from Cisco.

The first deliverables from the software transformation project will debut in mid-January when Cisco introduces a new software activation capability for IOS and the new Cisco License Manager, according to Marie Hattar, senior director of network systems at Cisco.

Today Cisco has eight different levels of IOS which offer different services, and often in customer networks its impossible to track which network devices are running what level of IOS.

Cisco intends to consolidate that down to three main "buckets" which will be shipped in Cisco routers and switches starting early next year, Hattar said.

When customers want to move to another level, the new software activation capability will allow them to automatically activate the desired level across the network, rather than having to install a new software release in each network device.

And the new Cisco License Manager, which has a discovery capability that can detect which IOS version each network devices is running, aims to help customers better track what they already have and maintain a consistent level of IOS in the network.

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read more about Ciscos software transformation initiative, click here.

"Customers dont know whats in their network, and they want to be more operationally efficient [in conducting] compliance audits," said Hattar.

Giancarlo emphasized that the motivation for the software transformation is "not to charge more money to our customers for the same functionality, but to create a more flexible environment and one that has entitlement associated with it," he said.

In fact, Giancarlo believes that the move could "allow us to charge less."

Meltzer said that customers want to start with less investment and pay as the business grows, and that Cisco needs to make it easy for them to get started.

"Some customers like predictable funding, some want site-wide licenses. We need more flexibility for customers to purchase software," said Meltzer, who believes it will take some time for customers to get their arms around a new way of doing business with Cisco.

Another news tidbit gleaned from the conference includes an update Cisco is planning for its VPN client. Cisco plans to add WAN optimization capabilities to that PC-based client in the second half of 2007, according to George Kurian, general manager of Ciscos application delivery unit.

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