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Last week, Facebook announced a new product that’s supposed to have the networking industry trembling. There were many news stories about Facebook’s new homegrown SDN switch, known by the codename “Wedge” that’s supposed to be the next big threat to Cisco and the traditional networking vendors. The operating system on the product runs Facebook’s proprietary version of Linux called FBOSS.

Facebook Credit: REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Facebook plans to put the switch into the Open Compute Project, an open-source development community that Facebook has been active in. In many ways, Wedge isn’t so much a switch as it is a reference design. Everything in the switch is open source – software, processors, etc. – so anyone can build their own switch from the design. Now, for customers that are interested in this product, there’s no “Facebook Store” to buy this from. Nor can organizations pick up the phone and call the friendly, neighborhood VAR. Instead, businesses would need to order it from a custom manufacturer.

Riverbed, the company known best for its Steelhead WAN Optimization product, has beefed up its Application Performance Management (APM) suite. In 2012, Riverbed acquired OPNET for a cool billion to complement the network performance management (NPM) suite it inherited when it purchased Mazu. The product formerly known as OPNET, AppInternals Xpert was rebranded to SteelCentral AppInternals, and this week the company released version 9.0 of the suite.

The SteelCentral product consists of several components. Collector agents are deployed on the end points to gather information. The data generated is then passed to a collector that aggregates the information from the agents. The collector then passes the information to the SteelCentral AppInternals console as the “single pane of glass” for the system. All of the historical information is then stored in a centralized repository known as AppInternals Big Data. This enables customers to then go back and reply information or use the data for historical analysis.

The big value for something like AppInternals is helping customers find where problems are occurring faster. My research has shown that 90% of the time taken to solve problems is simply isolating the problem. Once the problem is found, IT can take whatever action to remediate the issue, but finding that proverbial needle in a haystack is very difficult with legacy management tools. This becomes a significantly bigger problem as businesses start to leverage the IP network for voice and video traffic. All of a sudden network problems that may not have been noticeable stick out like a huge sore thumb. I’ve talked to a number of Riverbed/OPNET customers over the years and AppInternals reduces the time to find problems by an order of magnitude in some cases.

It seems every couple of years the chatter of John Chambers retirement as the CEO of Cisco comes up. Recently, there has been a flood of articles speculating when he might retire, including this one from the esteemed Jim Duffy. There seems to be no basis for this other than a report from Scott Raynovich, who cites a bunch of unnamed sources.

Cisco CEO John Chambers in 2009. Credit: IDGNS San Francisco

The other factor fueling the chatter is timing. Almost two years ago, Chambers stated that he would look to retire in two to four years, and we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of his CEO-ship of Cisco. Very few tech CEOs ever hold a tenure that long, so the 20-year mark seems like the right time for Mr. Chambers to end his reign at the helm of the company. Additionally, Chambers turns 65 later this year. 20 years, 65th birthday, 2 years after his statement – it all fits together nicely.

This morning, Cisco announced its intention to purchase Sweden-based Tail-f Systems for about $175 million in cash and retention-based incentives. That seems reasonable for a software company that did about $30 million last year and is well aligned with the emerging SDN/NFV markets. Additionally, being headquartered in Sweden means Cisco can pay for this out of its foreign war chest instead of tapping into domestic cash.

Cisco CEO John Chambers gestures to the audience during his keynote speech at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas

While Tail-f does have some enterprise relevance, it’s really more of a service provider product. The company is well known for managing and orchestrating multi-vendor environments and has many service providers as customers, including AT&T and Deutsche Telekcom AG. Having AT&T as a customer is of particular interest given all the news around Domain 2.0 and Cisco being left out of the initial six. Now Cisco has a foot in the door of Domain 2.0.

If you’re in my age demographic, you probably spent way too much time watching cheesy TV shows like “The Brady Bunch.” In the episode titled “The Wheeler-Dealer,” Greg Brady passed his driver’s test and then bought a car from his friend, Eddie. Unfortunately, Eddie tricked him into a bad transaction as the car turned out to be a lemon. The lesson for young Mr. Brady was “Caveat Emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.” Why am I telling you this? Because oftentimes things aren’t always as they seem and buyers should make purchases fully aware of all the facts.

What do 'The Brady Bunch' and new gTLDs have in common? Buyer beware!

This is the case with the new generic Top Level Domain (gTLDs) names. If you have read some of my other blogs, you are aware that I maintain a healthy skepticism about the view that these new gTLDs are viable alternatives to more established gTLDs, such as .com and .org.

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