Cisco 'cannot wait' for open standards

The networking giant edges towards a more open philosophy but still sees its technology as the best

Cisco today preached its dedication to open source standards, but executives couldn’t help boasting that its software was superior technology.

The company’s chief technology officer (CTO), Padmasree Warrior, told Computer Weekly open source had been prominent in the enterprise for some time, but admitted Cisco had to play its part to stay relevant to customer desires.

“We are a very active participant and we have a very distinct strategy… being hypervisor agnostic for example,” she said. “I think that will become more important, not just in enterprise per se but across the cloud ecosystem.

“Cisco has always contributed. We are very active in standards bodies across the board and we use Linux a lot. I think our distinction… is our ability to build a system all the way from an ASIC to a system that can scale a datacentre. That is our expertise and this is where we think we are unique in the industry.”

Cisco has taken more steps to open up its technologies recently. The firm took the decision when launching its OnePK platform to open up its APIs to others, enabling developers to build applications on top of the software and signaling a much more open approach for a company with such a proprietary reputation.

“Opening up the APIs was a big step for Cisco,” admitted Warrior.

In software-defined networking (SDN), Cisco has continued with its line of supporting the OpenFlow standard, with Warrior stating the firm held a “leadership position,” but it was clear that executives still rate Cisco's own developments above the standard, despite OpenFlow's backing by a large portion of the industry.

“Because of the way we do things, you can view OpenFlow as literally a subset of Cisco’s OnePK,” said David Yen, senior vice president and general manager of the datacentre technology group at Cisco. “But by providing such a super set you go deeper and wider allowing the customer or user to have access to a much broader set of tools.

“If you like to stay within the so-called standard limit, then that is completely your judgment, your choice. We offer more rather than less or different.”

Yen concluded that Cisco’s position meant it had to work separately from the open source community to keep its place.

“When there is an industry standard, we absolutely want to support it, but Cisco being the leader in the market, we cannot wait until certain standards are formed or widely adopted,” he said.

“We regularly have to go above and beyond.”

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