By Ryan Lynn, Principal Technologist, Trace3
There has never been a more important time in history to ask “why”. In a world where disruption and the pace of change seem to be accelerating on a daily basis, asking “why” leads to understanding and clarity. Those who are able to make sense of why they exist will be armed with critical information allowing them to react and change with the market. Gone are the days of technology following it’s own path in parallel with the business with the simple hope that they will intersect. Business is technology and technology is business.
I recently finished reading best selling author Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why”. In the book, Sinek describes how the biology of our brains is partly to blame for our intense focus on how (tasks, steps, logic) and a general neglect of why we are doing something. He argues that the best companies keep their focus squarely on their purpose. The book was timely for my annual visit to Cisco Live this year where the only constant for the traditional networking giant was change. With a massive change in leadership and shifts in core businesses, Cisco’s conference this year in San Diego had several exciting and interesting changes, as well. Because I was fresh off of finishing Sinek’s book, I attended Cisco Live with two goals in mind: understand the tools Cisco has to accomplish the “how” (networking, computing, storage technologies) but more importantly understand Cisco’s “why”.
Cisco’s messaging was very clear and deliberate. “Disrupt or be Disrupted”. Cisco is very serious about innovating and “making the turn”, as John Chambers called it. They understand that in order to compete in the future, they must continually evolve, sometimes disrupting their own core business in the process. A staggering prediction was noted several times at Cisco Live. “In 10 years, it is predicted that 40% of the enterprise companies will no longer exist.” That’s a sobering prediction, but one that Trace3 has been preparing itself and our customers for. At several points during the keynotes, I felt that I was listening to some of our own Trace3 leadership.
This is when I had the first “ah-ha” for why Cisco and Trace3 have developed such a close partnership. Sinek says that you gravitate to people who “believe what you believe”. In this case, Cisco and Trace3 both believe that innovation and disruption will be the tools needed to compete in the future of our global market. From a Trace3 perspective, this is evident in our focus on emerging technology, cloud and big data, which were all key themes to Cisco Live this year.
If I was forced to summarize Cisco Live into one word: change.
The most apparent change is the DevNet area of the conference. DevNet is Cisco’s community focused around software and developers. Having attended the last several Cisco Live conferences, it’s been interesting to see the explosion of DevNet. The area started a few years ago as a small section of the conference with a few people working the booth. At Live this year, DevNet took on an entire building of the convention center and had hundreds of people from Cisco working to interact with the thousands of attendees who made their way through it. Learning labs on programming, DevOps sessions from industry icons like Gene Kim and numerous real world applications made the DevNet area the new “hotness” at the conference. It’s apparent that Cisco is putting a lot of emphasis behind creating a community of open development around their products.
Software Defined Networking
No one is taking the “Disrupt or be Disrupted” messaging to heart more than Cisco’s core networking business units. On the data center front, Cisco introduced ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) in late 2013. This year at Cisco Live, several more companies announced integrations with ACI adding to a growing list illustrating the openness of the ACI controller. The most prominent announcement came from cloud management platform company CliQr, which announced integrations with ACI. CliQr provides centralized management for analyzing, deploying and securing application stacks into private, public and hybrid clouds.
Cisco also announced new enhancements to NX-OS for all Nexus platforms (2000 through 9000) that enables a common framework of programmability and automation. Though NX-AP, customers will be able to manage the entire Nexus product line in a consistent way using popular tools already utilized in data centers today.
The Openstack party started the week before Cisco Live with the announcement that Cisco would buy Piston Cloud, an industry leader in Openstack distributions. Keep in mind that Cisco acquired another Openstack company, Metacloud, only nine months earlier so it’s becoming clear that the open source cloud platform is a key business initiative for them.
Openstack enables Cisco to offer a more complete cloud system but also allows Cisco to benefit from thousands of open source contributors who diligently keep the project spinning out new versions every few months. Openstack is also a key component to Cisco’s Intercloud Fabric. Intercloud Fabric is an architecture deployed by service providers which builds an ubiquitous fabric and a consistent set of standards across multiple clouds creating one unified platform.
If you’ve paid any attention to the news of late, security is near the top of the list for things businesses are thinking about. Cisco acknowledges that security needs to be pervasive in every architecture deployed. At Cisco Live, they announced plans to embed security everywhere and discussed that in order to get ahead of the risks of today and tomorrow, the company would offer more control points for enforcement, increase network visibility through additional sensors and improve threat protection.
The products will be available as stand-alone devices that can be purchased for existing deployments, however the intention is that all new architectures will come with these features and functionality built in.
So What Does It All Mean?
So why computing, networking, DevNet, Openstack, security and the rest of the large portfolio that Cisco has? This was the second “ah-ha” for why, that I actually had last year at Cisco Live but was even more reinforced this year. As I walked around Cisco Live last year in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but asking myself “Why is Cisco reaching into all of these different technology areas?” There must be some connection.
IoE. It’s all about the Internet of Everything at Cisco and it is the mega trend that Cisco is betting will be the largest enabler of technology in the future. The Internet of Everything is the idea that connecting machines to the network and creating relationships between themselves and humans will create a more powerful information system. We have started to see early stages of this with connected thermostats, security systems, cars, wearables but largely these devices are parts of closed systems with little interaction. The next phase of this estimated 19 trillion dollar market will be to enable true machine to machine interactions.
So if you are looking to connect a few billion new devices to the largest network on the planet, what sort of things might the industry need in order to be successful? Obviously next generation networks that have software like agility (ACI). We would need to change the manner in which we develop and deploy infrastructure and applications (DevOps). A global ubiquitous cloud fabric would allow devices to be connected to a common platform – anywhere (Intercloud Fabric). Security . . . I think you see the pattern.
John Chambers said that people, process, and technology need to change to facilitate this new world and that technology was the easy part. Change is the new currency in business. It doesn’t start tomorrow, it starts today. “Disrupt or be Disrupted”.