Cisco highlights intelligent networking and service provider expansion

A continued push into the service provider arena and increased development of intelligent networking features were two of the...

A continued push into the service provider arena and increased development of intelligent networking features were two of the major trends highlighted by Cisco Systems executives yesterday during its analyst conference in San Jose.

President and chief executive officer John Chambers said these and other strategies were designed to increase the overall productivity of Cisco's customers.

"The key to productivity is integration," Chambers said. "You need the network, you need the applications, and you need to undertake change process. If you don't initiate a change process, productivity increases won't happen."

Chambers was referring to a fundamental shift that is taking place in the corporate world in which rising profits are, increasingly, being accounted for by Web-based applications deployed within the enterprise.

While these thoughts might be part of a long-term vision, Chambers and the series of Cisco executives who followed him throughout the day made it clear that Cisco has two key short-term objectives - to put more intelligent capabilities into its equipment and to break further into the service provider space.

On the intelligence front, Cisco is building more predictive capabilities into its routers, switches and other offerings that automatically remedy network problems and route traffic to its appropriate destination. The advantage for IT departments in this scenario centres around the fact that managers will see their responsibility load reduced.

Chambers billed this concept as the "network of networks" - essentially a series of technologies - such as a wireless LAN (WLAN) or a voice-over-IP infrastructure, linked together seamlessly, so that when a user has to traverse these different networks easily during a single session.

On the service provider front, Chambers described the telecom industry's recent woes as "an unfortunate time, but a market transition that is allowing us to move in".

"Moving in" to Cisco means getting carriers to make the leap from traditional PBX-based systems to IP-based networks. Andrew Sage of Cisco Systems, said:
"You need that Layer-3 intelligence to make the connection from the enterprise to the service provider to the public Internet to the small office/home office to the mobile network."

IDC analyst Dan McLean said that there was a certain inevitability in the minds of carriers towards the adoption of IP infrastructures. However, "the issue is that their legacy stuff works quite nicely. The IP network will come, but it isn't going to happen overnight. It will be a long, slow build."

McLean suggested that before the all-IP networks are established, users could expect carriers to use a hybrid system that combines IP and traditional telephony infrastructures.

As for Chambers' message about networks being the enabler to drive further productivity within corporations, McLean commented that Cisco must deliver this type of message to convince traditionally non-tech-savvy CEOs and business unit managers that they should invest in IP networks.

"The traditional sell is around feeds and speeds, but with this approach Cisco is saying that there's a tangible benefit to network building," McLean said. "To these people, it's all just plumbing - 'why should I invest in it?' I think it's a reasonable approach."

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