Cloud computing based on virtualisation technology will fix CIOs'main problems - how to do more with less while reducing their carbon footprint, says the woman who may be the US's new chief technology officer.
Speaking exclusively to Computer Weekly, Padmasree Warrior, Cisco's CTO and one of US president Obama's candidates for American CTO, said few companies want or need to own all their IT kit, but they did want to choose what they do with their IT and where they do it.
Firms will keep control of some business critical systems and those that gave them competitive advantage, but will want to seek lowest cost providers for the rest, she says.
The cloud computing model was still evolving, driving the supplier market into a transition phase that could rewrite IT suppliers' rivalries and partnerships, she said.
Warrior said Cisco's position as the dominant supplier of networking products put it in a strong position to lead the development of the new world.
Warrior played down talk of Cisco competing for market dominance. But last month's deal with Dell on servers puts Cisco into direct competition with firms such as Hewlett-Packardand IBM. Until now they were close partners.
To deliver the cloud's promise, many of the large players were going to have to work together, she said. Cisco was "very open and willing"to work with HP, IBM, EMC, VM (Cisco owns 2% of the virtualisation company which is itself an EMC subsidiary), even Microsoft, she said.
"It is the only way the industry will move forward," she says. "We are going to have to work with many partners, and we recognise that."
In her vision CIOs will want flexible access to public and private clouds. The decision will be where best to host the company's applications, on an internal or an external cloud, she said.
So much for the enterprise -what about the workers?
As digital video has improved, faster networks have developed and traffic prices fallen, the psychological barriers to virtual meetings have melted away, as Cisco's own internal experience has shown, she said.
The recession, globalisation and climate change are forcing firms to rethink how they work, Warrior said. Travel was among the first budget items to be cut. This bumped up demand for products such astelepresence and web conferencing, because they gave workers "face time" without having to be there.
But workers who had to travel did not want to be disadvantaged, she said. The need to be fully functional anywhere, any time, any place was driving mobile applications, and helped the shift towards cloud computing, she said.
One example was a Webex application for Apple's iPhone that Cisco showed at last month's Consumer Exhibition Show in Las Vegas, Warrior said.
"Customers want to do more with less, so any technology or solution that allows them to be more productive is something they will invest in -for example, telepresence and virtualisation," she says.
Warrior may be right, technologically speaking. But recession still grips the world. Only brave boards will loosen the purse-strings now.