Light Reading

Cisco Drops the S-Bomb

Mitch Wagner

SAN FRANCISCO -- Cisco Live -- A top Cisco executive dropped the S-bomb at Cisco Live Sunday, touting the company's SDN message. David Ward, Cisco's SVP engineering, CTO and chief architect, also said "shit" a few times, which is not something I've heard before at an opening keynote of a customer conference for a $49 billion multinational corporation.

Ward even included the word in a slide. ("Shit," that is. Not SDN. Although "SDN" came up a lot too.)

A metric boatload is much less confusing than imperial measurements.
A metric boatload is much less confusing than imperial measurements.

Ward, resplendent in no shoes, brightly colored socks, and faded jeans, along with other Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) executives, talked up network automation, virtualization, SDN, and NFV.

"We know that what you are being asked to do is to deliver services and capabilities to these demanding clients, these enterprises, and these consumers. We've seen how quickly this industry changes. You know, the iPhone was announced in this building seven years ago," Kit Beall, VP, Cisco global service provider segment, said on stage at the Moscone Center. "The iPhone is only seven years old." Innovation is happening fast -- but not fast enough.

Beall added, "So when the boss comes back -- and this has happened to all of us -- and says, 'Tell me about SDN. Tell me abut virtualization. What's going on with NFV?' we stop and we say, 'Hold on a second, there are some challenges here.'" Networks today are difficult to configure. "Innovation costs are pretty high." Integrating with billing systems, provisioning systems, and other back-office systems takes time.

Virtualization can streamline innovation, Ward said. "The point of what we're trying to build is to orchestrate the entire network and make it go faster. We've virtualized as much of the catalog as we possibly can, and we're going to continue to virtualize it: Mobility, security, video, collab[oration], voice-over-IP." He added, "Network functions virtualization is directly in our target zone and it's a pillar of our architecture.”

Virtualization can help companies find unused capacity on the network and manage network resources, which include the data center and cloud. Automated tools can find resources available in the data center to determine where workloads should be placed. And making more efficient use of the network can cut capex by about half, Ward said.

These are problems Cisco has been working to solve and releasing code to solve the problems in open source, Ward said.

Ward had the socks, but Kelly Ahuja, SVP/GM mobility business group, had the catchphrases. "The world of virtualization is very green. It is a greenfield network. But unfortunately none of us live in that kind of environment." We have existing technology to manage as well as build the new generation of virtualized networks, he said.

SDN can help manage the mix of existing and new equipment. "SDN does not stand for 'Still Does Nothing' -- it actually does a lot now," Ahuja said. SDN makes the network programmable and automated.

Virtualization can help service providers save 65% on opex and increase revenue 15%, while service providers' enterprise customers save 70% on operations, Ahuja added.

Cisco got an early start on its Cisco Live, with announcements in the days leading up to the event. Cisco introduced its WAN Automation Engine Sunday and tools for integrating virtual and physical networks on Friday. (See: Cisco Intros Automated WAN Management and Cisco Integrates Virtual, Physical Networks.)

We'll have more coverage of Cisco Live -- including photos of Ward's socks -- later this week.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

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User Rank: Light Beer
5/26/2014 | 12:12:53 PM
Cisco, Service Providers, SMBs & socks
Greg is spot on with his comment about Dave - he's been wearing socks since I met him when we both worked at Juniper. It's more common than not - even in team offsite meetings :).

Also, we started the "Cool Sh!t" mantra back at Cisco Live in Milan this past winter - I think people are just starting to pick up on that (good, because it's true and it's time to have some fun).

Regarding SDN, NfV & other comments the need to orchestrate cross infra (both existing & new infra and virtual and physical) is essential moving forward and will be across all markets, not just SP but also data center, enterprise and segments such as SME/SMB. There will be more coming here soon especially on the SME/SMB front. Also when you look at what we're doing with delivering data into applications at different layers one thing to consider is how much easier orchestration makes this for network engineers & developers alike as they can supply application developers the workloads needed/traffic paths required, etc faster than before (read: minutes vs weeks). It's a huge leap and we're really moving this ball forward quickly over here. With new solutions that implement open source, more interoperability and much more flexible and agile integrations via APIs and hooks into "SDN" protocols there's a lot moving forward and we're more than happy to chat with anyone about this.

Bottom line here is that Cisco is shifting and what Dave, Kelly & Kit talked about was an overview. We have multiple deep-dives if you didn't catch this in sessions or weren't able to attend the show & I can work with the marketing teams to get these posted to Slideshares or do post-event webcasts.

FYI - I do work for Cisco & for Dave running software strategy, business development and new initiatives in the CTO office for Development at Cisco - and feel free to ping me on Twitter or other with questions/comments/suggestions - always happy to help.


Lauren Cooney
Sr. Director, Chief Technology & Architecture Office, Cisco Systems
Twitter: @lcooney
User Rank: Light Beer
5/21/2014 | 8:53:26 AM
If You've Met Dave Ward
If you have meet and spoken with Dave Ward then none of this would surprise you. He hasn't work shoes on stage for years. He likes a direct and blunt conversation so the language is quite natural. 

More importantly, he is retaining service provider customers since his return from Juniper. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/20/2014 | 11:36:06 AM
Re: Wonder if this might catch on....
David Ward has been dressing and talking like this for many many years and doesn't really change based on the audience.  
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/19/2014 | 8:14:35 PM
Re: Wonder if this might catch on....
You will have to have hardware, but it might be a lot simpler and far more generic.   Just a wire and a buffer into memory in theory I imagine.

User Rank: Blogger
5/19/2014 | 8:14:17 PM
Re: Wonder if this might catch on....
Yeah, I think no shoes = trying too hard, though I also don't think that Legere invented irreverence. He seemed to resort to it at a time when everyone had spent the last decade with furrowed brows and tight non-smiles.
User Rank: Blogger
5/19/2014 | 5:25:03 PM
Re: Wonder if this might catch on....
What exactly is a metric boatload anyway (besides a mixed metaphor...)?

Sounds like something God may have mentioned to Noah...
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/19/2014 | 5:01:15 PM
Re: Wonder if this might catch on....
I think that this idea of networking and application services wrapped all in one is interesting. 

Still, I find that even if everything is able to be wrapped in software, won't that be problematic for remote sites? What aboue SMB? I believe that SDN is the future, but I'm pretty confident we'll still need hardware.

You can't have software without hardware. And Cisco is still going to want to sell hardware, too.  
User Rank: Lightning
5/19/2014 | 4:33:23 PM
Cisco and SDN
Cisco had its service provider packet-optical conference last week, and one of the things I noticed is that Cisco is becoming much more comfortable talking about SDN as well as becoming much more more specific about products and technologies. As some of the original hype around SDN is wearing off, it's becoming apparent that the sky isn't falling on the incumbent telecom suppliers (including Cisco).

The task, as mentioned in this article, is to integrate the new technologies with the old.

User Rank: Light Sabre
5/19/2014 | 3:29:27 PM
Re: Wonder if this might catch on....
If everyone goes SDN, then I wonder if the Cloud Conglomerates (Amazon, Google, ...) are in position to deliver both networking and application services, more than a company that came up delivering just the hardware components like Cisco.

Seems like Amazon at least will have been facing SDN type issues in its cloud management and it wouldn't be a far cry to go all the way and build it themsevles.

User Rank: Blogger
5/19/2014 | 11:48:23 AM
Wonder if this might catch on....
if this trend catches on, I can't wait to see what might await us at TM Forum Live in France in a few weeks' time.....

I suspect not, though. Probably a Cisco Live thing. Though is anyone describves their service or product as "sick" during the next few weeks, we'll know something's up...  
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