SDN architectures

Cisco's Ahuja: CSPs Need to Think Like Restaurateurs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The New IP -- Enterprises and consumers are becoming like restaurant customers: They want what they order, they want it fast and they don't want to be hassled with details, Cisco senior VP Kelly Ahuja said here Thursday.

When you order dinner at a restaurant off the menu, the waiter takes your order back to the kitchen, where the chef knows the recipe and the dish is assembled, noted Ahuja, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) senior VP service provider of business, products and solutions.

Enterprises and consumers have the same demands of their service providers that restaurant customers have, Ahuja said. "The digital enterprise and consumer wants the dish. They don't care about ingredients. And they want it quickly. They want it on demand," he said.

"They expect content, services and apps delivered from the cloud... to a user who is untethered," he said.

Video is the primary service demanded by customers, Ahuja said, and that demand is shifting towards 4K.

Another inflection point for network operators is "the new network frontier," which is indoor rather than outdoor.

"It's not about users moving around, it's about content, services and apps moving around," Ahuja said. The network needs to be "a living thing" that connects users to content, services and applications.

Consumers and enterprises are becoming digital. "Every company is becoming a digital company," Ahuja said. They look to network services to connect with customers at the lowest possible cost, with maximum agility, scaling services up and down to meet needs.

Network demand is unpredictable. For example, Mother's Day and the day before used to be big days for retailers. But now "Mother's Day can happen any day in the network," often driven by geopolitical events. Networks need to be elastic to meet demand, Ahuja said.

Networks need to become programmable and automated to deliver agility, with SDN as the key to deliver on those needs, not just in the data center but on the WAN, LAN, CPE and endpoints -- across the network, he said.

Network operators need to be able to pull services together quickly and efficiently: Cisco calls that the Evolved Services Platform.

Roadblocks to change for service providers are often organizational rather than technological. Their own complexity and rigidity create problems, but technology is often lacking as well.

The changes also drive new requirements for vendors, including Cisco. Vendors will have to change from a model of building products and throwing them over the wall to collaborating with customers.

"No longer is it about a box -- it's about the things the network can do," Ahuja said.

Cisco's strategy to deliver business outcomes rather than products has been a marketing theme for the company. Most recently, John Chambers, chairman and CEO, delivered the message at the company's quarterly earnings call last week. (See Cisco Sees Strong Quarter Despite Carrier Weakness.)

Interoperability with other vendor products is key to Cisco's strategy to serve customers. That's part of what drove last year's acquisition of Tail-f, a network orchestration vendor whose tools are used by both Cisco and its competitors. It is also behind this week's decision to make a basic version of Tail-f's ConfD management software free. (See Cisco Woos Competitors With Free ConfD.)

"We realized our customer will have multiple networks, and heterogeneous networks, not homogeneous networks," Ahuja said.

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During a Q&A session following Ahuja's talk, he was asked about how intelligence would be balanced between NFV and SDN. He responded that there are only two things that can't be virtualized -- light and radio waves. "Anything else, you can virtualize," he said.

Network resources are moving to different locations on the network, he said. For example, while some think compute and storage should be confined to the data centers, Ahuja said it can be anywhere on the network. The network and compute resources are converging and service models and orchestration need to bring resources up dynamically, as needed.

— 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 [email protected]

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