Archive for November 2011

Merriam-Webster defines the word “borderless” to be simply “being without a border”.  By definition, Cisco’s Borderless Network Architecture means a network with no borders.  It’s a simple statement but from the conversations I’ve had with decision makers, it’s not the simplest concept to grasp.  Some I’ve talked to think of “borderless” to mean a network with no firewalls or a big, flat network.   A network without borders can have a number of different meanings (according to Merriam) but in Cisco’s case it’s actually referring to the boundaries that prevent us from doing what it is we are trying to accomplish. 

The easiest way that I know to describe what Borderless Networks can do is to get companies to think about the vision of any worker being able to accomplish any task, on any device from wherever they are.  Now think about the borders that currently prevent the company from accomplishing this goal.  Cisco’s Borderless Networks is an architecture that will allow companies to remove those borders and fulfill on this any, any, any vision.

This is an area where Cisco has really struggled over the past decade, but the company is at least talking the right talk right now.

Earlier this month Cisco held its annual Collaboration Summit and made sure the Cius tablet was front and center at the event. Many of the Cisco employees were carrying the tablet and many of the partners that were in the expo hall used the Cius as a method of demonstrating their products. While I think Cisco has done a good job with the design and positioning of the corporate first tablet, its ultimate success will be determined by the applications that can run on it. This requires building a quality developer program that makes it easy and worthwhile for developers to build applications for the tablet. This is an area where Cisco has really struggled over the past decade, but it appears now that Cisco Developer Network (CDN) is headed in the right direction.

The concept of the developer network isn’t foreign to Cisco. It’s something they’ve tried for years in a number of product categories. Cisco’s first attempt at a developer program was something called CTDP (Cisco Technology Developer Program) that was started when Cisco acquired a company called Metreos. Metreos can be thought of as a middleware development layer that sat above the VoIP infrastructure and allowed third party software companies and in house developers to build applications to run on Cisco IP phones. The concept was right but the execution was poor. Many of the developers I interviewed at the time wanted to work with Cisco because of the company’s market leading share in IP telephony, but complained about how Cisco continually changed APIs without any warning to the developers, had inconsistent testing methodology which was also expensive, and didn’t really do much to help the ISVs promote their software products. So this limited the appeal of CTDP to a few niche ISVs and in house developers.

The appeal has nothing to do with VoIP, but has to do with video interoperability.

Earlier today Cisco posted a blog that indicated the company is appealing the European Commission’s approval of the Microsoft/Skype merger to the General Court of the European Union. The blog also indicated that Messagenet, an Italian Service Provider, has joined Cisco in the appeal.

Contrary to what one might think, the appeal has nothing to do with VoIP, but has to do with video interoperability. As Cisco stated in their blog, their goal is to “make video calling as easy and seamless as an email is today. Making a video-to-video call should be as easy as dialing a phone number.”

Frankly, this should be the goal for the entire video industry yet, despite advancements in this area in the last couple of years, we’re still light years away from achieving this. Solving this problem would be greatly beneficial to the entire video industry and would create a “rising tide” that would lift all the boats. Metcalf’s Law states the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected end points. More connected end points means more value. The video industry has many end points but they’re all in independent islands, so the value remains limited.

This distinction between portable and mobile was at the heart of the demo that Cisco gave. The demo showed people working on any collaboration tool over any device from anywhere to anyone.

This morning kicked off the first day of Cisco’s annual collaboration summit. The keynote was given by Barry O’Sullivan, who gave us a nice history of innovation followed by a demo with Barry and Sean Curtis (*gasp* not Jim Grubb!!) where they showed what collaboration in a post PC world looks like. It was a slick demo where Cisco showed workers collaborating over a variety of Cisco and non Cisco devices (I didn’t see any Microsoft devices…hmmm ) using a combination of tools such as video, web conferencing, chat, presence, etc. This demo was one of the better ones that I’ve seen in a while and is being driven by a shift to true mobility–not just portability (and I’ll explain the difference).

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