Cisco’s fires warning shots at Google, Microsoft, …

Over the years, we have watched Cisco launch new products with a marketing panache that few companies could match.  However, this week Cisco quietly launched 61 products centered on their ever expanding portfolio of collaboration technologies.  The importance of these announcements cannot be overstated, as we are watching Cisco’s long term strategy unfold before our very eyes.

What do WebEX, PostPath, Scientific Atlanta, Pure Digital Technologies, Unified Communications, and perhaps Tandberg have in common?  They spell out a strategy of collaboration and social networking centered on video and its delivery.  Whether the video, photo, or recordings take place on a hand-held device, a TelePresence conference, or a web camera, or a HD TV, Cisco is providing not only the transport but also the platform (aka software) or portal destination (WebEx).

While WebEx Mail is interesting as it demonstrates Cisco’s commitment to cloud based applications, I am far more interested in Cisco’s other new products namely; Cisco Show and Share, Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform, and Cisco Pulse.  Why?  While some have prematurely crowned Google Wave as the collaboration platform of the future, many Enterprises would rather maintain security, control, and freedom from using their employees as a giant pool for advertisement revenue. 

As Google continues to fight for legitimacy in the Enterprise, Cisco is clearly already a dominant force.  Furthermore, WebEx may be the perfect launching and test bed for these new ways of collaborating as it is trusted, reliable, and well refined.  Perhaps Cisco should consider expanding the WebEx brand allowing for a WebEx-I built within an internal cloud?  Perhaps creating a pre-packaged WebEx, Show and Share, and Enterprise Collaboration Platform conveniently hosted with VMs residing in a UCS-B platform, attached to a Nexus via a Unified Fabric, and on and on…

Of particular interest to me is Cisco Pulse as it combines the power of the network with the advantages of search.  Imagine being able to dynamically tag content as it passes through the network allowing users to actually find the information they are looking for at a later time.  If Cisco can add structure and classification to the tagged data, then they certainly have a winner.

Any discussion of the Enterprise is not complete without mentioning Microsoft.  While they have taken steps to shore up their Enterprise products, are they too focused on taking down Google?  Microsoft has the ability to not only innovate but to rapidly deploy those innovations within the largest Enterprises in the world.  In-the-end, Microsoft needs a way to shed the “Evil Empire” crown while articulating a vision that is exciting, bold, and fresh. 

Whether it is by acquisition or internal development, Cisco has never been afraid to disrupt or innovate across multiple markets.  How far will they go to own the next decade?  Will they pursue mobile devices?  Will they truly escape “the innovators dilemma?”

Traditional or Next Generation Software/Application Vendors beware; here comes Cisco.


Cisco UCS: A Let Down; All eyes on Big Blue

Today Cisco launched the third piece to their datacenter 3.0 strategy by unveiling Unified Computing System (UCS). UCS is a essentially a fancy name for a blade server built upon Intel’s new Nedhalem processor platform. Cisco believes by wrapping the datacenter in a web of UCS, Unified Fabric, and good old fashioned networking all managed by the UCS manager will redefine scalability, flexibility, and TCO within a a datacenter and beyond.

Perhaps the innovator’s dilemma has finally caught up with Cisco because I expected more from them then simply launching a blade system with the Cisco badge on the bezel. Why not truly unify switching, routing, server, and storage under a single chassis? Why not unify the backplane for speed and efficiency while offering breath-taking performance and value on a per square foot basis?

Instead it looks as if the old one-stop-shopping theory of purchasing is in full effect. Of course, you’ll be able to manage everything from the UCS Manager. If that was the case, why is BMC in the picture? As Cisco doesn’t have a great track record of software, is this any different?

Cisco is an amazing company with an extremely talented executive management and engineering teams. They are in a truly unique position to change the world as networking, storage, servers, applications, and transport all become one. However, the challenge is how to make this transformation without opening the door for their competitors as they move from the Catalyst to the Nexus. This announcement and product launch is too cautious for the risk taking Chambers we’ve all come to love or hate.

Now, let’s wait and see what IBM’s got up their sleeve to combat his new entrant to the blade market. Do they have another SNA up their sleeve?

Cisco: No Shaking in these Boots

Over the past three weeks Cisco has watched Juniper announce stellar earnings, Brocade purchase Foundry, and now Siemens and Enterasys form a Joint Venture.  From the countless analyst reports, news articles, and blog entries, you would think that Cisco was on the verge of a complete collapse.

When Juniper announced stellar earnings, people wrote “it’s a two horse race.”  After Brocade made their move the headlines read, “Brocade gunning for Cisco.”  Finally, now that Enterasys and Siemens have joined forces, the headlines read, “Watch out Cisco.”  

Does anyone believe that these moves came as a surprise to Cisco?  Did John Chambers wake up to the San Jose News only to call an emergency meeting of his top executives?  Did Chambers lament about not buying Foundry’s problems, Enterasys’ flat-line revenue growth, or worry about Juniper’s identity crisis?

Perhaps human nature predisposes us to root for the underdog and loath the leaders.  However, this phenomenon seems to be particularly strong within the technology sector.   After all, does anyone loath Boeing or GE?  What feelings are invoked when I mention Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, IBM, or HP?  Even Google has found that being the leader (by a wide margin) conjures images of evil and ulterior motives. 

Whether you can admit it or not, Cisco is a well oiled machine.  They have revenues of over $34 Billion, have over 60,000 employees, have a robust network of channel partners, and have a legion of certified Cisco engineers.  They understand that evolutionary technology changes come from within while revolutionary technology changes come from acquisition.

This week we are talking about Enterasys, next week we’ll be talking about Extreme Networks, and then someone will write how networking and Cisco have to change to meet the demands of “cloud computing.”   In the end, it’s all simply noise.  No one needs to wake the sleeping giant, because under Chamber’s leadership Cisco is not sleeping.

Save the sensational headlines and predictions for politics.  Cisco’s not shaking in their boots but the same may not be true for their competition.

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