Archive for 2012

All eyes were on Cisco last Friday, December 7th as the company held its annual Financial Analyst conference in New York. Cisco, the undisputed 800-pound gorilla in networking, has been rapidly transforming itself into a broader IT company. At the event, CEO John Chambers made the bold claim that the company’s goal is to not just be an IT company, but indeed the No. 1 IT Company. Chambers did clarify that this would be accomplished by improving overall value as an IT partner versus total revenue. Chambers also re-affirmed to investors that the long-term growth target remains 5%-7% and that gross margins would remain constant during that timeframe. So summarizing the “Cisco plan” – No. 1 IT company, long-term growth of 5%-7% off the already massive $46B or so in revenue, and steady margins – makes it a pretty bold statement to throw out there.

I do, however, think Cisco has a good shot at reaching these goals, for the following reasons:

A couple of years ago, there was great debate as to whether Tom Brady-led Patriots or the Peyton Manning-led Colts were the “team of the decade” for the decade ending in 2010. In tech, though, we have no ESPN or JT the Brick to pose such questions, but if we were to give an award to the “technology of the decade” for that same time period, there would be no question as to what the winner is.

Virtualization, without a doubt, was the single-most disruptive technology that we’ve seen in IT a long time, maybe ever. Continuing with the sports analogies, it could be looked at as the Bobby Orr of IT, in that the game significantly changed because of it and set the future direction for years to come. 

It’s the holiday season and soon we’ll all hear the Bing Crosby or Perry Como song “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” over and over again. You can tell it’s looking like Christmas, at least in Massachusetts. The malls are over-crowded; I have bags of ice melt in the garage; the usual rudeness you see on the roadways has been escalated; I have pine needles all over my house and the Patriots are running rough shot over the rest of the AFC East (you poor Jets fans).

Well, the same thing is happening with wireless LAN, as it’s starting to look a lot more like wired. Over the past few years or so we’ve seen better failover times with controllers, better connection resiliency, and today Aruba announced the first wireless LAN platform with optimized application delivery.

Plivo’s cloud-based API service is another step in the direction of moving communications to a true software model.

It’s December and that means “tis the season” to give and receive, and receive is what startup Plivo did this week. The company announced on Monday that it had closed a $1.75M seed round financing from the investment firms Andreesen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, Qualcomm and SV Angel. Plivo has a Unified Communications platform that’s delivered as a service and, if executed upon, could disrupt the (already disruptive) hosted telephony space.

Founded in December 2011, and live now for several months, Plivo claims to have dozens of enterprise class customers. Considering that they’ve managed to acquire these customers a single year after launching the company (not the service), it makes sense that high-profile investors would be eager to take a chance on Plivo.

There’s no hotter IT initiative today than “bring your own device.” A recent survey ZK Research conducted shows that 82% of organizations now  in some way support the use of consumer devices in the workplace. This is a marked difference from just a couple of years ago, when very few organizations supported it. For those companies that do not support it yet, get ready because the heat’s going to come from above your pay grade and it will be your CEO who says “I don’t care what our corporate policy is, make this iPad work.”

This is one of the reasons mobile device management (MDM) has been such a hot market over the past few years. MDM enables the safe on-boarding of devices into the corporate workplace. It ensures that the device adheres to corporate security policies, drops certificates onto the device and configures the device automatically. Generally, a good MDM solution can reduce provisioning time from hours to mere minutes.

There may be nothing more mystical or intimidating in corporate IT than the Cisco CLI used to configure and manage the company’s switches and routers. Those who have mastered it use a combination of shortcuts, homegrown tools, scripts and other techniques to complete even the simplest of tasks. Those who haven’t struggle for hours looking through Cisco Press books and scouring Cisco’s support web page for configuration help. This is one of the reasons the CCIE is maybe the most revered industry certification. These are the gurus who make Cisco networks go.

Prior to being an analyst, this was my life. I’ve personally deployed and configured thousands of Cisco devices over the years and lived and died with the CLI. I had a laptop filled with configurations that I could take, tweak and paste into a router or a switch and get a network up and running quickly. However, troubleshooting in this type of environment was tough. We were often fighting multiple fires, would try and make changes on the fly, and if we couldn’t figure it out, we’d just type “reload” and start over.

This week’s announcement extends the vision to full automation and real-time tuning to optimize application performance.

It seems like a weekly event now to have some vendor issue a press release about something related to software-defined networks (SDNs). This week was Alcatel-Lucent’s turn as they unveiled their SDN strategy, and I thought this announcement had some teeth to it.

ALU’s SDN vision is an extension of its Application Fluent Network strategy that was rolled out in 2010 to be the company’s network fabric vision. The original idea behind “Application Fluency” was to have the network be able to detect certain traffic types and then automatically configure itself accordingly. The low-hanging fruit for the company was real time applications such as VoIP and video, where they already have an embedded base of business.



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