Cisco’s network management challenges

Network management has been a source of frustration for Cisco Systems for years.

CEO John Chambers annually seems to lament the state of Cisco network management when he’s asked where the company is most challenged or weakest from a product development and marketing aspect.

Perhaps it doesn’t help that Cisco has acquired more than 125 companies since 1993. An acquisition binge at that pace will keep network management integration efforts continually on the back burner, a perpetual moving target. Indeed, as Cisco gets bigger through acquisition and market dominance, its network management fabric comes more and more unwoven.

“It’s actually a good thing when network management is struggling, because it says that innovation is really happening at a fast rate,” says Karen Sage, Cisco’s director of product management for network management. “So, it’s really a Catch-22. I don’t know if you’re ever going to have a single, shrink-wrapped ‘Here’s your network management’ that can do every area and everything and all functions. As Cisco moves into higher layers of the protocol stack, that makes it even more challenging.”

Unlike its intention to be No. 1 or No. 2 in each market where it participates, Cisco does not have the same ambitions for network management. It does not plan to develop a product to be a manager of managers or an all-encompassing enterprise-management system