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Cisco's One Big Architecture

The merging of new technologies, like Web 2.0 and video, is going to create one large architecture, much as the combining of disparate network devices did in the '90s, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CEO John Chambers told analysts this morning.

Opening C-Scape 2008, the company's annual analyst event, Chambers gave his usual spiel about how Cisco has predicted the major market transitions in recent history, using that evidence to back up the company's vision of the network's future.

Specifically, Chambers sees an opportunity to knit together the islands of Web 2.0 activity -- applications from Facebook , Twitter Inc. , Cisco's own WebEx Communications , and so on -- into one architecture.

Ideally, the user wouldn't necessarily know which application is doing what function, much the way a network runs without anyone paying attention to whether it's a router or a switch doing a particular task.

"We're going to attempt to do an instant replay, architecturally, of what we did before," Chambers said.

"Before" refers to Cisco's overtaking of the entire network, from the decision to sell switches and routers up to today's efforts to combine routers, security, video, and other functions into what's often called an end-to-end offering. (See Cisco's Video Transformation and Cisco Pumps Up the Edge.)

What Cisco gets out of this, of course, is higher network utilization, driving a greater need for routers and for whatever architecture it makes out of Web 2.0. The company itself, in using all these collaboration and video tools, saw its internal network loads increase 400 percent this year. "I think that's 600 percent next year," Chambers predicted.

Collaborative tools, he said, are helping Cisco employees understand their roles in the company's efforts -- especially now that the company wants to cut $1 billion in expenses in fiscal 2009, which ends in July. (See Cisco Predicts Q2 Plunge.)

No major Cisco event is complete without a demo, and today's involved looking at the possibilities of corporate communities on the Web. For example, groups can post their own videos explaining projects and goals, and share them with the rest of the company.

Cisco's most visible use of collaborative ideas was the creation of a council in place of a single chief development officer (CDO), giving Chambers a cross-technology group of executives acting as a combined second-in-command. (See Changes Run Deep at Cisco.) It took time, he said, but the CDO Council is now functioning smoothly.

"I have almost no friction at the top in Cisco, for the first time in my career," Chambers said. Of course, this comes several months after a couple of key players at the top departed. (See Giancarlo Quits Cisco, Paddles to Silver Lake, Ullal Calls It Quits at Cisco, Is Nuova Needling Cisco's Brass?, and Ullal Lands in the Cloud.)

The architecture concept extends to Cisco's ambitions for consumer markets -- an area that will get a lot of attention from Cisco in the coming year, Chambers noted briefly.

One example here is Cisco's plans for sports. Cisco is putting its name on the the future stadium of the Oakland A's, potentially opening in 2012, and is pushing hard to wire up other stadiums with technology. (See Cisco Field Update and Cisco's Field of Dreams.)

The goal isn't just to show off at the ballpark, but to meld together elements of home viewing and the ballpark experience. (Presumably that doesn't include getting a beer spilled on you at home.)

"We've already got the top two franchises in [U.S.] sports. The Yankees have signed with us. The Cowboys have signed with us. That was no accident," Chambers said.

Chambers, a self-professed A's fan, also noted: "I caught unbelievable grief being in New York and in a Yankees uniform" at the photo-op announcing the Cisco/Yankees partnership.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:25:29 PM
re: Cisco's One Big Architecture 'Course, this raises the same question Cisco (or Microsoft) usually raises: Even if Web 2.0 needs to be knit together, is Cisco the right company to be doing that?

Same for your home network, although it's going to be interesting seeing what Cisco tries to accomplish there.
Frank 12/5/2012 | 3:25:27 PM
re: Cisco's One Big Architecture Ideally, no single entity would mold the future architecture of Internet. During a much simpler time, going back ten years or so, the company came out with its "New World Network" architecture, mainly for large institutions and enterprises in particular, to address the proliferation of IP growth stemming from the unification of many disparate network overlays and disparate topologies. Kinda like what we're seeing now in the case of socialnets and cloud constructs. You may recall that the prescription back then called for the hierarchical ordering of network elements in virtually every large office complex, specifying switching/routing elements for the access --> distribution --> aggregation --> core (and then back again, i.e., core --> aggregation --> distribution --> access levels), whether all of those hop$ were actually needed or not. It's taken many years for some IT departments to recognize (and many of them still don't get) the fact that they would have been just as well off, and very likely incurred much less cost, had they gone with a relatively flat architecture. So indeed, as you asked: Is this the right outfit to be undertaking a 2.0 version of what they produced (since they're actually pointing to it as a success stofy) in their earlier 1.0 version?
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