Cisco bets on a connected future

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jun 9 2014, 06:00am hrs
There is something unique about John Chambers, chairman and CEO of the $48.6 billion American technology company, Cisco Systems. On the one hand, he dons sunglasses and dances in front of a mammoth crowd22,000 people in physical attendance, another 200,000 onlineat the companys largest customer event, Cisco Live, in San Francisco. By all indications, his thought process is that humour is a key ingredient in creative thinking and a fabulous tension breaker in the workplace. On the other, the sixty-four-year old Chambershe has been Ciscos CEO from 1995is completely at ease when he dwells on the latest buzzword to rock the technology landscape: Internet of Everything, the idea that every object can be Web-enabled. It is an unprecedented, groundbreaking opportunity which Chambers predicts will become a $19 trillion industry.

The moot point is this: flexibility and versatility are valuable qualities in a manager. And in a stellar CEO like Chambers, these two qualities are the pathways to speedy responsiveness. You watch whats about to occur in the industry, Chambers said during his

address. Youre going to see a brutal, brutal consolidation in the IT industry. Internet of Everything is and will continue to fundamentally change not only business but the entire world through technology. It has to be simple. Youll see that itll be literally seamless as

we move forward. There will be bumps along the way, but you can only get seamless if you have architectures, Chambers said as he

divulged the latest on Ciscos plan for the

Internet of Everything.

Cisco defines the Internet of Everything as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before. The Silicon Valley firm estimates that 50 billion devices and objects will be connected to the

internet by 2020. According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. ABI Research forecasts that more than 30 billion devices will be

wirelessly connected to the Internet of Everything by 2020.

Yet today, more than 99% of things in the physical world remain unconnected. The

Internet of Things is the next technology transition when devices will allow us to sense and control the physical world. Its also part of something even bigger. The growth and

convergence of processes, data, and things on the internet will make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before, said Chambers, creating unprecedented opportunities for industries, businesses, and people.

Globally, Cisco has been strong in the switching and router space but with technology shifting towards new areas such as cloud, mobility and big data analytics, the company has embarked on a transformation game plan towards IT services and solutions. Chambers plans to implement the Internet of Things by using new technology to put all of those

previously unconnected stuff together cars, refrigerators, lamps, wristwatches

on the internet and create an explosion of connectivity.

In terms of the bigger picture, Cisco is in the right marketsvideo, cloud, mobility and the social networking segment. It is concentrating on building full architectures for

enterprises and government and through software and services like its InterCloud

offering. Elaborating on the growth strategy for the company, Chambers said the focus is on cloud, mobility and security solutions. In the medium term, Cisco will strategise around services, collaborations with other firms, video and software. In the long term, the firm will focus on API, SDN (software-defined networking), Internet of Everything, InterCloud among others.

With a strong focus on emerging markets, it is moving very aggressively in India in terms of investments and positioning its products and solutions for customers here. It is also innovating locally to be more relevant to its customers and partners. More on it later, first a look at how Chambers is leveraging new technology to make his firm more

customer-focused.

Technology is constantly changing and

expandingand Chambers, once hailed as King of the Internet, is at his best at times of the most adversity. He is considered the

miracle man in tech circles for having helped with the dramatic turnaround at the American tech behemoth. The modest CEO proudly claims that his computer-networking

equipment firm is still on top of most product categories.

Few might recall that in March 2000 Cisco, with a market capitalisation of $531 billion, was the most valuable company on the planet. But then disaster struck and Cisco underestimated the effects of a major economic recession and was soon facing financial crisis. Fortunately at such troubled times, the company found in Chambers a visionary leader that could turn the company around to a profitable future. He has helped grow the company from $70 million when he joined Cisco in January 1991, to $1.2 billion when he assumed the role of CEO, to its current run rate of $48.6 billion.

Cut to present. Cisco continues to re-imagine collaborationand this time its personal. It has introduced three new personal collaboration tools designed to help get highly collaborative work done without technology hassles getting in the way. Two of these tools sit in on the physical desktop and one resides in the cloud. According to company officials, somewhere in the pursuit of perfect collaboration environment, workers desktops

become cluttered with technologies purpose-built for specific tasks (for example, voice-only phones, web cameras, monitors). Having so many different technologies for unique tasks clearly adds cost o the company and complexity for the IT manager.

Cisco aims to solve this with its new DX70 and DX80 desktop collaboration devices.

Similar to how smartphones revolutionised our mobile lives, the Android-based DX70 and DX80 devices streamline and simplify our work lives by providing access to all the top tools and applications highly collaborative work requires.

At the same time, Cisco has built what is claims to be the worlds largest real-time collaboration service in the cloud: Cisco WebEx. Now, it has combined the power of telepresence with the scale and flexibility of WebEx to delivers what it calls Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMR). These provide everyone with their own personal, private, always-available video collaboration space in the cloud.

In March, Cisco announced plans to spend more than $1 billion over the next two years to build a global computing cloud to underpin its Internet of Everything ambitions. It set up a $100 million Internet of Everything fund that has invested in about a dozen companies in the past year. In the realm of security, Cisco has broadened its advanced malware Protection and data centre security offerings. These innovations, spanning the Cisco security portfolio, protect against threats across the full attack continuumbefore, during, and after an attack.

Back to the Internet of Everything, which excites Chambers the most. At first, the internet could only be accessed on computers. Then, with the advent of smart mobile devices, we could take the internet with us wherever we went. The Internet of Everything is an evolution of thisit is about connecting the internet to most objects around us. Soon, we will open our home and car doors remotely with our phones. Its all starting to happen now, and it is changing the way we live.

Like folks at Cisco are fond of saying: Tomorrow Starts Here.

Develops India into a key R&D hub

India is at the heart of Ciscos emerging markets strategy, Chambers told FE. We have made significant investments in setting up our research & development (R&D) in the country. The Cisco Global Development Centre is in Bangalore and is the largest outside the US. It houses Ciscos R&D, IT, services and customer support teams and develops disruptive business models for Cisco to create new go-to-market channels, markets, processes and technologies for emerging markets. The Advanced Global Briefing Centre located in Bangalore showcases Ciscos latest technology solutions and proof-of-concepts.

Last week, Cisco announced the next generation of its leadership in India, reflecting the strategic importance of India for the company. The new leadership comprises Dinesh Malkani, president-sales for India & SAARC; Amit Phadnis, president-engineering & India Site Leader; and V C Gopalratnam (Gopal), president-strategy, planning and operations, India and CIO, Asia Pacific and Japan & Greater China. Together, this leadership team will help accelerate Ciscos momentum in India by strengthening its focus on innovation to lead market transitions. This announcement underlines Ciscos commitment to India and marks an exciting new phase of growth, aligned to the countrys national transformation agenda.

The Cisco India site is a complete ecosystem with a significant presence of engineering, services, sales, IT, and other support functions. Cisco, according to Chambers, is deeply committed to India and the company expects to increase its business well over the 2%. We are committed to the long run, Chambers added. Cisco has over 11,000 employees in India across cities like Bangalore, Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Hyderabad. Of these, 8,000 people are part of the R&D set up.

Although the company gets about 2% of its over $48 billion global revenues from India, it is confident of growing the share. It expects to garner 5% of its revenues from the Indian market in the next five years with business growing over 20%.