Archive for May 2014

Cisco held its annual user conference, Cisco Live, last week under the cool but sunny skies of San Francisco. This Live was the 25th Cisco user event (formerly know as Networks) and the largest to date with an estimated 25,000 in attendance and hundreds of thousands attending over the web. Before I was an analyst, I attended Networkers as a way of sharing experiences with other network professionals, as well as learning about what’s new in the world of Cisco and how it might benefit my company as well as my own career. As an analyst, I look at the company through a different lens, but the interaction with the audience was just as or more valuable when I was an IT professional.

As is the case with all large tech vendors, there’s no single point to take away from an event like this, but rather a number highlights based on what you’re looking for. To me, here were my key takeaways.

Newly-announced endpoints are designed to extend the “ease of use” for Cisco collaboration to the desktop and mobile endpoints.

The last time we heard from Cisco’s Collaboration Business Unit, GM and SVP Rowan Trollope was showing off a number of enhancements to the company’s room based portfolio at Enterprise Connect 2014. The updates to the MX line and even the SX10 Quick Set were designed for fast deployments in conference rooms. If you recall, Trollope talked at length about building systems that were easier to deploy and easier for workers to use, following up on the promise he had made at Cisco’s Collaboration Summit in 2013.

Enterprise Connect is now in the rear view mirror and it’s now nearing the end May, which means people with a life are planning for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. For those of us in tech though, it’s time for Cisco Live–the company’s user conference and a time to look at what’s new in the world of Cisco.

This week, Cisco Live! kicks off in San Francisco. Live! is Cisco’s annual global user conference and it’s the place to be for anyone who wants to learn more about Cisco, or just networking trends in general. Formerly known as Networkers, the show has steadily increased in size as Cisco has grown from a small network pure-play to a massive vendor that now deals in many adjacent markets, such as servers, collaboration, cloud, security and mobility.

Recently though, Cisco’s business model and CEO have come under attack as the threat of SDNs loom large on the horizon. It seems not a week goes by that I don’t hear the chatter of how SDNs will commoditize the traditional network since the perception is that the world is embracing pure software solutions on commodity infrastructure.

My opinion is that this fear is highly over-rated. In fact, the commoditization of the network is something that’s been rumored and discussed for the past 20 years, but it’s never happened. My thesis is that most of the struggles that Cisco has faced over the past few years have been more product transition and global macro-oriented than anything, and this past quarter seems to have supported that.

In the movie “Back to the Future,” Dr. Emmet Brown changed the world when he fell off his toilet and hit his head on the sink and the vision of the “flux capacitor” came to him. The flux capacitor was the technology that allowed Emmet Brown to build his DeLorean-based time machine that skewed the existing space-time continuum.

For Juniper’s new CEO, Shaygan Kheradpir, a similar skewing of the space-time continuum was required when he was hired. In the past few years, the company’s stock price had jumped around and the momentum of many of Juniper’s products had been inconsistent. A change was certainly needed.

Luckily for Shaygan, no fall off the toilet was required for his inspiration. Instead, he took a look back at what made the company successful in the past and is trying to resurrect that culture. This week, Juniper held its annual industry analyst conference, and it was the first time Mr. Kheradpir addressed the analyst community and articulated his vision of where the company is going. During the Q&A portion of the event, Shaygan discussed bringing back a culture of co-creation with Juniper’s customers to do some unique things with the network.

A big systems integrator makes a big bet on video-as-a-service. Will others now jump in?

It seems like over the past two decades we’ve been hit over the head almost every year with the proclamation that this is now “the year of video”. Then the year comes and goes and we’re no closer to having video becoming a mainstream collaboration tool than we were at the start of the year. In fact, I’ve heard many end users describe video as a “solution in search of a problem”.

Sure, we’ve had some M&A activity within the vendor world, a few startups pop up, and a tremendous amount of innovation with new products from the more traditional video vendors. Despite that though, it’s hard to say that video has finally hit that inflection point.

However, I looked at yesterday’s acquisition of Teliris by Dimension Data as a signal that this might actually be the year video goes mainstream. Why? Well, Dimension Data is one of the world’s largest systems integrators and, like most SIs, DiData tends to augment its portfolio based on what customers are asking for. Five years ago there were lots of cloud UC solutions available but the customer interest was low, so the SIs stayed out of the market. Today it’s hard to find an SI that doesn’t have a cloud business. Similarly, I expect to see more SIs and VARs look to build out cloud or managed video services now that one of the largest global SIs has jumped into the market.

Over the years, a number of companies have become synonymous with certain technology markets. These are companies that have been the primary evangelists for a market and are typically the technology and/or share leaders. Examples of this are F5 with Application Delivery Controllers and Aruba Networks in wireless LAN. In the WAN optimization, Riverbed is that vendor. The company has had its way with WAN optimization for over a decade now, has over 50% market share and has been a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WAN optimization for seven years running now.

However, while being a de facto standard has many advantages, it often makes it a challenge to move into adjacent markets. Blue Coat is a great example of a company that become known as a great security specialist, but struggled to establish itself in the WAN optimization market. This has been Riverbed’s struggle over the past few years. The company has acquired companies like Mazu, Opnet and, my favorite, Zeus, to move into new markets, but has struggled to grow its share in these areas.

This week, FireEye acquired nPulse technologies to strengthen its security platform. FireEye’s security platform is built on the concept that securing a business cannot be done at singular points, as is the case with legacy security platforms. FireEye’s approach is to gather as much information as it can, from sources such as Web, email, mobile devices, and the network, and analyze the data to more accurately find and analyze threats and intrusions.

The accuracy of FireEye’s platform is based on the data that it has to analyze. The more you can see, the more accurate the security. Given that the company ponied up about $70 million ($60 million in cash and $10 million in stock based on milestones) for one of its partners, nPulse technologies is intended to allow FireEye to see more. nPulse was actually a partner of FireEye’s prior to the acquisition, and I’m guessing the value that nPulse provided as a partner led to the purchase.

The product from nPulse processes and indexes network packet data very quickly, as well as providing the capability to query the information to gain visibility into what happened during any kind of breach or intrusion. Without nPulse, customers would have to sift through reams and reams of data and log files and somehow manually correlate the data with the intrusion. Unless you’re Mr. Spock, manual analysis and correlation is almost impossible unless it’s the full-time job of a team of people. Personally, I’d prefer having Spock on staff (the Leonard Nimoy version; no offense to Zachary Quinto) but a tool like nPulse is almost as good.

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