Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First "Hardware-less" Cisco Live

When Cisco's EVP/CDO Pankaj Patel finished the final keynote speech at Cisco Live last week, I could not help telling him that it is the first Cisco Live without any "boxes" on keynote stage! :)

I was one of the original then-VMware persons who brought up the concept of Cisco being a "network mainframe" company.   Let me say one thing however: it is actually an amazing accomplishment for both IBM and Cisco to be able to deliver complex computing and networking functionality and make the technology to "just work" in a mainframe form factor.   The only question is what's next after achieving this "mainframe status"?

Imagine if IBM had evolved S/360 mainframe into something that is easy to use, pay-as-you-go, flexible to access from anywhere, available and intuitive to be used by more than the elite few IT'ish folks, with open API and an open ecosystem, would IBM have lost the king of computing title quickly?  Today's "cloud" is essentially a large scale S/360 PLUS all the flexibility and XaaS "enhancement". IBM got trapped in the "innovator dilemma" unfortunately.

Cisco, on the other hand, is motivated to re-invent itself despite the tremendous success thus far.  Cisco's willingness/motivation to disrupt itself is a reason I joined Cisco last summer.  I'm glad that I am able to help to drive some of the most exciting new technologies highlighted at Cisco Live, including ACI and Intercloud.  Also happy to see that Cisco articulated a balanced, not a religious, approach between hardware vs. software, custom ASIC vs. merchant ASIC, on-prem vs. off-prem vs. hybrid cloud.

There is still a long way to go, for Cisco and the entire networking industry, to deliver comprehensive Cloud and SDN era networking benefits, but I was certainly excited to sit in a "hardware-less" keynotes audience. :)