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‘From: No Jitter’

With Cisco planning to shutter Intercloud, what does the future
hold for the company’s other cloud platforms, HCS and Spark?

Earlier this month several news outlets reported that Cisco was discontinuing Intercloud at the end of March 2017 and moving the workloads to yet-to-be-named cloud providers (most likely Amazon Web Services and/or Microsoft Azure).

Is this a shock? It shouldn’t be. Cisco has been non-committal regarding any questions about Intercloud for a while now, so it was just a matter of time before it put the final nail in its coffin.

I did like the original vision of Intercloud, which was to create a world of interconnected, federated clouds where workloads could be free to move between them. This might have made sense a few years ago, but the market has changed.

I believe the infrastructure cloud wars are over. Amazon and Microsoft Azure have won. Building a competitive cloud offering is enormously expensive and just not practical. Microsoft had to build out a global, cloud-scale platform for Bing, and Amazon for its e-commerce business. The incremental cost of turning the underlying platform into one that can be used for business cloud services is nominal compared to building it out from scratch. Google should have been a big player as well but it has bumbled its way around the cloud for so long that I think it missed its window.

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Mitel’s divestiture of its mobile business, announced
today, puts the company in a better position to
make other acquisitions in the future.

At the Mitel Analyst Event held last month in Dallas, I had compared Mitel CEO Rich McBee to J.R. Ewing of the ’80s TV drama Dallas, as they are both wheelers and dealers in their respective businesses (see, “Mitel You’re Up — What’s Your Next Move?“). About a year and half ago, Mitel acquired Mavenir to move the company into the 4G/5G market. This week the company announced it was divesting itself of the business now known as Mitel Mobile, by selling it to Xura for $350 million. Ironically, Xura was taken private earlier this year by Siris Capital, the private equity firm that scuttled Mitel’s plans earlier this year to acquire videoconferencing market leader, Polycom.

[For more on the nuts and bolts of this deal, see related coverage, “Mitel Selling Mobility Division” and “Mavenir, We Hardly Knew You.”]

When Mitel acquired Mavenir, many financial and communications industry analysts scratched their heads with confusion, as the two companies didn’t fit together neatly. McBee explained the Mavenir acquisition as allowing Mitel entrance to an adjacent market, with the best yet to come as mobile networks evolve to 5G. So what’s changed? The 5G opportunities still loom large and its best days are certainly ahead, so why sell now? I believe there are a few reasons that Mitel made this decision:

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Following a one on one with CEO Rich McBee, I have
some ideas on what sorts of companies Mitel would
and wouldn’t be interested in acquiring.

Sit down with Mitel CEO Rich McBee for more than five minutes and you’ll get a pretty clear understanding of his strategy for the company.

His thesis, and I most wholeheartedly agree with it, is that the unified communications industry needs a strong third vendor to compete with the two front-runners, Cisco and Microsoft. His strategy is to roll up industry players into a larger solution provider — meaning, Mitel — and turn a two-horse race into one with three contenders.

Over the last half-dozen years or so, McBee has made a few strides to close the gap — namely with the acquisitions of Inter-Tel and Aastra Technologies. But, he came out the loser when chasing a couple of larger companies that would have fit into this “roll-up” strategy — ShoreTel said “thanks, but no thanks” to Mitel’s acquisition bid of two years ago, and private equity firm Siris Capital Group swooped in at the 11th hour and grabbed Polycom before Mitel could close on its acquisition. So now the big question for McBee is where to look next?

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As long as partners are able to evolve to meet
the demands of customers’ digitization initiatives

Cisco held its annual Partners Summit earlier this month in San Francisco, a city known for many things, among which the Gold Rush of 1848 that led to its founding. To me, this makes San Francisco a particularly fitting venue for the event, as Cisco partners now have a Gold Rush opportunity of their own as the world shifts to digital. Digitization should be of keen interesting to Cisco resellers as most of the building blocks of digital transformation are network centric in nature, raising the value of the network, something that was once considered “plumbing.”

The theme of Partners Summit was “full speed,” indicating it was time for Cisco and its channel to step on the gas and go after a number of new opportunities in front of them. However, capturing these opportunities requires a change with Cisco’s partners, as the selling motion around digital trends is quite different than selling boxes and making money racking and stacking equipment. Let’s look at some of the biggest opportunities that lie ahead for Cisco’s channel and what needs to change to capitalize on them.

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Provides a way to assign individual passwords and
unique identifiers to Internet of Things devices,
affording better protection for the corporate network.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a wonderful development. Thanks to IoT mania we have smart buildings, smart cars, smart appliances… smart anything you can think up. Over the next five years we will literally see billions of new devices connected to our networks, allowing us to work, live, and learn in ways previously unimaginable. IoT makes everyone’s life better — unless you’re a network manager.

A recent ZK Research survey found that 50% of network professionals have little to no confidence that they know all of the IoT devices connected to their company networks. I suspect many of the other 50% think they know what devices are network-attached, but actually don’t. Why is this? While IT runs the network, the operational technology (OT) group handles IoT endpoint deployment (see related post, “Don’t Leave IoT to IT“).

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