Service sweet spot

Mark de Simone, the vice president for Cisco Europe, Middle East & Africa visited the UAE to attend a Cisco partner event and Network Middle East took the opportunity to hear about Cisco’s vision of the future of networking.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  March 22, 2005

|~|Mark_de_m.jpg|~|“We don’t need a committee to lead — we lead. And then we will be open and transparent,” - Mark de Simone, vice president for Cisco Europe, Middle East & Africa.|~|Mark de Simone, the vice president for Cisco Europe, Middle East & Africa visited the UAE to attend a Cisco partner event and Network Middle East took the opportunity to hear about Cisco’s vision of the future of networking. Network Middle East: Cisco has traditionally been an acquisitive company and this has opened up new business areas for you in the past. Will Cisco continue to aggressively acquire companies and what new directions will you seek to explore in 2005? Mark de Simone: Acquisitions are a consequence not the source of strategy. The Intelligent Information Network (IIN) is our main strategy, it fundamentally describes what is happening in information computer technology (ICT). It’s about the opening up and simplification of computing and storage and eventually of applications. The first wave of simplification was voice, video and data into one. The second wave will be the orchestration of all resources that are computer centric on the network. This is virualisation, with processing and storage becoming virtual resources. Network transparency is very important here, as the constituent parts are proprietary. The third wave is the virtualisation of the application environment. The world of applications is still very proprietary. XML and the web are open but software like SAP and Oracle don’t talk easily across the enterprise and this creates a bottleneck. We want to use the network as a simplifier of protocol translation. This is our five year strategy. Our acquisitions will support this movement up the value chain, or movement of intelligence that was traditionally in middleware to the protocol stack. In addition, all the security companies we have bought are about creating a self-defending network — which is the security implementation of IIN. We’re also making acquisitions in the service control plane, such as Actona. These are enabling control points that will allow applications to be driven from the network. Looking forward, if we acquire new technology, it will be in the wireless area. NME: How interesting is wide area network (WAN) optimisation to Cisco as a potential acquisition area? MDS: WAN optimisation plays a small part in virtualisation. There will be acquisitions and there is already is joined work and development to get things done, for example, the deep packet inspection to analyse traffic patterns content is very interesting. NME: What does the recent acquisition of Airespace add to Cisco’s wireless offering? MDS: Wireless is a very large space, there are lots of security, capacity and integration issues. You will see us coming at it from a service delivery perspective as opposed to wireless transport. We’re not interested in radios. We’re more interested in enabling services across radio access. NME: From Cisco’s point of view, does the smart or dumb access point model work best? MDS: The important thing about wireless is the service mobility, we have Cisco Media Exchange (CMX), which allows switching from GPRS to Wi-Fi, from UMTS to GPRS to Wi-Fi to WiMax, while maintaining quality of service. The service control plane is a sweet spot. To answer your question, the intelligence should be everywhere and it should be consistent. At the moment the industry is enamoured with the end devices, such as mobile phones, but there’s no orchestration of the service. I was in an airport lounge yesterday trying to get a wireless VPN going and it worked but it took time and that’s not the way I want my services. The logic will reside in the network, as the device can’t authenticate itself and the server is only in one place. The network is everywhere so it makes sense to have the intelligence in the network itself. We’re putting a lot more intelligence into the network. The whole stack that used to be on servers — firewalls, IDS — is coming into the network. The network is becoming a programmable set of devices and that’s where the service control layer is. It’s the most important layer as it connects everything together. NME: But we’re a few years off having seamless hand-off between cellular networks and the Ethernet based networks? MDS: It’s beginning, the problem is not the technology, it’s the legacy. Think about public networks today, you’ve got traditional PSTN, which has its own view on where you put service control in the voice world, which is different from the multi-service internet protocol (IP) world. The issue is not whether the technology is available, it’s how fast service providers are going to implement an all-IP layer. NME: Is the technology getting too far ahead of standards? MDS: When you use the word standard, my hairs stand up! Standardisation can only occur when there is zero innovation. The role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) needs to change, it can’t standardise what hasn’t been created, you have to let people try. IP, GSM and GPRS are very clear. If someone can implement a way to communicate they should go ahead. Mobile operators still think ITU-only and the biggest risk is that they are not embracing change fast enough and people that come from a sideline will take business from them. Look at Yahoo broadband in Japan, with 30% of market share. NME: What threats do you see from networking competitors in the coming year? MDS: Talking about networking its like talking about the train that already left the station. We’re taking it to a new plane — virtual computer resources, storage and eventually applications and middleware. If another network player comes in, it’s a yawn. The game has changed, I am more concerned with players outside the industry, someone who has understood that a transformation is about to take place. NME: Are there challenges to go from box sales to a more solutions delivery based mode? MDS: Yes of course there are, but our partners are stepping up. The world of software that was not necessarily relevant to the networking world is becoming more important and this creates new margins. We are a US$25billion business now and we want to be US$50billion by 2009 and that means a lot of things have to happen. The biggest pitfall when markets are in transition is to be too focused on one type of competitor. Instead, we should be educating our customers because IP networking will then become more relevant to the application people. The question to ask is, how often do our account people spend time with our customer’s Oracle and SAP people? We have many competitors but we have their games figured out. It’s a yawn. What I worry about is moving into new worlds, what other games do you have to learn and who can come across from leftfield? NME: Who will these new competitors be? MDS: The world of software tomorrow will be very different. The processes behind the web are very closed systems, very proprietary, every time you have an innovation cycle you have to integrate applications from the past as well as the applications of the people you deal with. Software companies are in a frenzy to buy one another at the moment, but the companies have the same business model with different standards. What we’re saying is that in long run, the network will have to play a different role to enable application translation and integration. We think of the network as an orchestratror that enables communication at the application level. Then the cost of integrating applications goes down dramatically and it’s a net gain of productivity. NME: But if the solution is proprietary to Cisco networks, won’t you still have inter-operability problems? MDS: If you think of it as a middleware, yes, but if you think about it as IP, then you have the native ability to be an open system. Web services haven’t delivered yet because the network is not web services enabled but if it is a web service platform then you’re there. Innovation can never be standard, IP was basically invented by Cisco, we’ll take the lead and others can catch up. We must take the lead, we’re the juggernaut. If we don’t, you’ll just have dumb pipes. Microsoft, HP and IBM are all asking for the network to play a different role. So we will do this, we don’t need a committee to lead — we lead. And then we will be open and transparent.||**||

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