Posts Tagged ‘Cisco’

It’s interesting how the tech industry works. In late 2011, Cisco was in the midst of revamping itself, its stock was a shade under $14/share, and its investors calling for CEO John Chambers to resign. Today, as Mike Reno from Loverboy used to sing, “The kid is hot tonight, whoa, so hot tonight.” Indeed, Mr. Chambers is on quite a roll, Cisco stock is a shade under $26/share, investors are happy, the entire network product line has been revamped in the past year, and the company is creating some distance between itself and its network completion.

However, despite the momentum by Cisco, it’s hard to say the company has been firing on all cylinders. One of the cylinders that hasn’t been firing well is security. Last year, in a hot market, Cisco security sales fell 4% year-over-year. Over the past couple of years, companies like Palo Alto Networks, Imperva, and Fortinet have grabbed the media headlines in security and made Cisco security look old. In fact, on past earnings calls, Chambers actually called out security as an area that needed to be fixed and something that would be addressed in the future.

It’s late June and school is almost out. High school seniors are getting ready for college, younger kids are planning end-of-year parties, and families are getting ready to head to Disney and other fun spots. However, fun isn’t just limited to kids – network managers are getting ready for their own fun in Florida sun, as Cisco Live this year heads to the heart of Disney, Orlando, Florida.

So, what should we expect to hear about at Cisco Live? I believe at this year’s conference, network administrators will get a big dose of simplification and automation as Cisco strives to make it easier for customers to turn on intelligent networks services and improve performance on converged networks.

This theme was actually a big part of Cisco Live London, and were a couple of the core principals behind the release of Cisco’s 3850 Unified Access Switch. The coming together of wired and wireless technologies means that customers no longer have to deploy a wired network with a wireless overlay and manage network services in parallel.

This morning, Cisco agreed to acquire JouleX, a software company that helps IT organizations power the management capabilities of their IT infrastructure from the data center to the desktop and everywhere in between. The purchase price is reported to be $107 million, which is just a drop in the hat for the cash-rich company that has acquired a veritable cornucopia of software companies this year.

The first and most obvious fit for JouleX is complementing Cisco’s “EnergyWise” initiative. EnergyWise has been increasingly important for Cisco as it raises the value of the Cisco network and opens up new buying centers. Earlier this year, after Cisco Live Europe, I posed this slideshow looking at some of the more interesting Cisco partners at the event and several of the vendors were specifically related to energy management.

It feels like Cisco has been retooling the Cisco Developer Network (CDN) for the better part of a decade now. The program got life when the company acquired Metreos and Cisco put together a program called Cisco Technology Developer Program (CTDP) to build applications for the IP phone. There may be some of you chuckling at that notion, but many have thought (myself included) that there was indeed a market for such applications. Well, that never materialized, and CTDP evolved into what’s now known as CDN. The collaboration group at Cisco is focused not on IP phone apps but business apps with video, Jabber and VoIP integration.

However, CDN isn’t just related to collaboration – it’s supposed to be Cisco-wide. One of the biggest questions I’ve always had with CDN, and I’ve been a critic of it in the past, is what value the program has to the company outside of the collaboration space, particularly to the network. Cisco’s network infrastructure does have many building blocks for third parties, such as NBAR, PfR and flexible Netflow, but they haven’t been as widely utilized by third parties as I would have thought by now.

The data center is where all the action has been in networking over the past few years. We saw the introduction of the network fabric, the rise of software defined networks (SDN), a number of startups emerge, and we’ve seen a fair bit of M&A activity as well. Because of the rapid evolution, we’ve seen almost every major network vendor – Cisco, Brocade, Juniper, Extreme, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent and others – revamp the data center portfolio.

The one vendor that I thought was noticeably absent from the data center networking wars was HP. The company outlined its FlexFabric vision last year, but the only products it had to support the related architecture was the 10K, which is a campus switch, and the 12,500, which was great when H3C first released it, but was getting a bit old even when HP acquired H3C. Now, it’s clearly past its prime. The company has positioned the 12,500 as a data center switch and has beefed up the features set accordingly. The 12,500 now supports Ethernet Virtual Interface, SPB and other data center features. As of now, it’s limited to 10 Gig-E, but HP has stated that 40/100 Gig-E will be available later this year. Despite the added features, though, HP is the vendor I get the least amount of inquiry on regarding data center networking.

Last week, Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) held its annual Industry Analyst conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Unified Communications has historically been the primary focus for ALU’s go-to-market strategy, but the company has spent the last few years beefing up its OmniSwitch data networking portfolio as well. In fact, if you recall, ALU was the focal point of this Network World Article where the company beat out Cisco for a network project in its own home state.

Like every other network vendor, ALU has been trying to jump on the market opportunity created by the rise and complexity of server virtualization. I recently did some research that pointed out that a small amount of server virtualization saves both capex and opex. However, highly virtualized environments, meaning those that are more than 50% virtualized, have actually seen operational costs rise by as much as 20%. High amounts of server virtualization create unpredictable traffic flows that can wreak havoc on the network.

Normally, when a vendor is the undisputed king of a market, there’s a risk of the company taking their eye off the ball and letting markets slip away. BlackBerry in the smartphone market, 3Com with NIC cards and switches, and Nortel with almost everything they made are some examples of this. However, every once in a while vendors do surprise by trying to change the very market they dominate. Sure, it has risk, but generally markets need to be shaken up once in a while to make sure they don’t stagnate.

On March 25, Brocade, the clear market leader with north of 70% share in storage networks, announced its “Fabric Vision” strategy to make the generational upgrades to Fibre Channel technology about more than just raw speeds. Currently, whenever someone refers to a SAN switch, it’s referred to as “Brocade’s 16GB Switch” or “Cisco’s 8GB Switch,” which in some ways indicates the switches’ only differentiated value is speed. Juxtapose this with the wireless industry, where the generational leaps are referred to as “3G” and “4G.” Sure, buyers know that 4G is faster than 3G, but there are also other benefits that come along with it.

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