Posts Tagged ‘Cisco’

This week is the annual Enterprise Connect (formerly VoiceCon) conference in Orlando, FL.  One of the many panels I’m on and moderating at the conference is titled “UC? Mobility? FMC? BYOD? SIP Trunking? Video? WebRTC? It’s time to take control.”

The theme of taking control of the UC environment is a good one as it’s my belief that Unified Communications is getting more and more complex as the vendor community expands the definition and functionality of UC. 

At one time, telephony was simple: a PBX, a phone and cable.  Connect them up and you’ve got voice.  Troubleshooting meant checking the phone, cable or PBX.  However, that legacy solution was as inflexible as it was simple. 

It seems we’ve been talking about the rise of hosted communications services for years now, but adoption has been rather light. I think one of the main reasons is that the features and functions available from the hosted providers historically weren’t even close to what was available from the premise-based vendors.

Over the past year or so, though, this gap has closed significantly. In most cases, hosted UC solutions are on par with what one could get from a premise-based solution. As someone who used to run the phone system at a company, I can honestly say that it’s a pain in neck, and I’m not sure why anyone would want to run their own phone system when you can get most of what you need in the cloud. Sure, the biggest of the big companies will always want the control and security of doing it themselves, but most small-to-midsized companies would benefit greatly from shifting to a hosted solution.

Remember this blog post?

It’s my now infamous “Bell tolls for thee” blog that I authored just after VMworld last year. This was the blog for which I was so soundly flogged by the VMware community in the comments section, and even received a few nasty emails. (By the way, I do want to thank all of the people who comment on my blogs. Whether you agree or disagree with me, it’s always good to have the feedback. 

– BACKGROUND: VMware, the bell tolls for thee, and Microsoft is ringing it

Well, it appears the bell has indeed rung for VMware. Late last month, VMware held its most recent quarterly call to go over financial numbers, and all appeared well. After announcing a record December quarter and great earnings, VMware management lowered the boom. The outlook for the current quarter and the current year were both substantially lower than consensus estimates, marking several consecutive years of slowing revenue growth. 

With the hype around software-defined networks (SDNs) having grown as high as it has, almost every vendor is looking for an angle to capitalize on the opportunity. I’ve noticed recently that many of the vendors, particularly the big-box vendors, are focused on the concept of “network programmability.” While I agree that programmability is a component of SDN, it shouldn’t be the sole focus of the technology. As an example, Cisco has been pushing the Python-based ONE (Open Networking Environment), Juniper has JunosV App Engine and HP has its own programming environments. Like I said, I think these are important parts of the overall SDN solution, but it’s not aligned with where buyers are today.

I recently ran a survey with TechTarget and one of the questions asked was “How do you think SDNs can help your company?” The number one response, at 50% of the respondent base, was “simplify network architecture.” The No. 2 response (46.9%) was “reduce network hardware costs.” The third most popular response (45.4%) was to enable network management. Way down on the list, at 7.7%, was to “provide a more programmable network.”

Programmability could be used to improve network management, but it really doesn’t have any impact on the first two options: simplification of architecture and reduction of hardware costs. Those problems are solved through the use of low-cost, standards-based switching hardware that is simple to deploy and manage. I’m not saying that the big box vendors are trying to slow innovation or aren’t taking SDNs seriously. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The mainstream vendors do want to offer a credible SDN story, but they do need some level of vertical integration to keep the “end-to-end” value proposition intact.

For most mainstream companies, the limitations of a vertically integrated solution will probably be fine, at least in the near term. In fact, I’m not sure most mainstream companies would even know where to procure low-cost, non-brand-name network hardware. However, for those organizations with hyper-scale data centers where the network is the business, being able to cut the cost of switching through the use of low-cost, simplified network infrastructure can be significant. In a sense, it’s the same market where SeaMicro thrived by offering simpler, lower-cost rack servers.

While much of the industry will focus on the programmability of the network, the companies that want to leverage the cost benefit of SDNs now should think “open” first, and then look to leverage programmability once the architecture has been simplified and the overall network has become more manageable.

Well, it’s hard to believe but the year is almost up and there are only a mere couple of weeks until we ring in the New Year. So that makes it prediction time for us industry analysts and I’d like to share mine with you. So, drum roll please…

  • 2013 will not be the year of Software Defined Networks. The media hype around SDNs is at an all-time high. However, contrary to some of the predictions I’ve seen, 2013 will not be the year of the SDN as most enterprise network managers are trying to figure out what exactly SDNs are and how they can leverage them. The notion that a technology with such a big architectural difference from the status quo could have rapid uptake is as ridiculous as thinking that Mark Sanchez might actually make a good QB one day. I predict that 2013 will be the year of SDN research, and we’ll start to see some best practices developed and some case studies created.
  • The Application Delivery Controller (ADC) will become part of SDN architecture. I’ve never really liked the term “software” defined networks because software shouldn’t define anything. Software can reconfigure the network, but applications should define it. If that’s the case, what network device has the most knowledge of applications? The ADC does and that’s why the ADC either needs to pass along application information to the controller or actually take on controller functionality. Either way, we’ll see market leader F5 and its band of competitors become relevant to SDNs.

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:

This week Avaya held its reseller event, the Avaya Executive Partner Forum, in Cancun, Mexico. During the event the company highlighted some positive changes to its channel program and addressed some of the more controversial issues head on. Considering the number of new products that have come out of Avaya over the past couple of years, including new versions of Aura, IP Office, video, VSP 9000 to support the VENA architecture, wireless, collaboration pod, I really don’t believe product is an issue for Avaya anymore. The company must execute on its channel plans for growth, which will put it in a better position for an IPO in the future.

The most pressing issue Avaya and its channel partners face is growing network share. With all due respect to the excitement around video, cloud services and other hot markets, good old fashion networking is the key. If you look at the big buckets of IT spending, Avaya already owns about a quarter of the telephony share (give or take, depending on whose numbers you use), so gaining significant share there isn’t likely. Looking at the exciting video market, that market isn’t more than a couple of billion if you include infrastructure, end points and related items. If Avaya somehow miraculously took 20% share in that market, that’s equivalent to about $300M-$400M in revenue. However, just 5% of the $20 billion Ethernet switch market is $1 billion in revenue.



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