N+I : Security demands big-picture view, Chambers says

Highlighting security as a key case in point, Cisco Systems Inc. president and chief executive officer John Chambers told a full house at Networld+Interop on Wednesday evening that networks need to be built with an overall architecture instead of with a series of point products.

Letting people use applications wherever they are requires an end-to-end infrastructure with security built in, Chambers said. End users should not have to know about that infrastructure, but it will be critical for the security, performance and lasting usefulness of the network, he said. For example, security threats such as viruses will find their way past a series of individual products, he said.

“I believe security in the future will be an architectural play,” Chambers said.

The message was a familiar one from Cisco, a vendor that dominates enterprise data networks and has been one of the few companies fortunate enough, as Chambers put it in his keynote, to succeed in multiple markets. On Tuesday, Cisco announced net sales of US$4.6 billion for the quarter, up almost 22 per cent from a year earlier.

The report Tuesday also came with a disclosure that the San Jose company plans to hire 1,000 more people, news that was in tune with Chambers’ relatively rosy perspective in the keynote.

Though the economic downturn has had less impact on consumers’ spending, it has hurt enterprise executives’ outlook so they haven’t been willing to look ahead and make investments, Chambers said. In the past four months, that outlook has improved significantly, he noted. However, “there’s still a hesitancy and an unusual conservatism,” for this stage in a recovery, Chambers added.

Cisco is seeing big order gains for all of its “advanced technology” segments, new technology markets the company has entered in the past several years aiming to become the number one or number two player or reach US$1 billion in annual revenue, Chambers said.

They include security, IP (Internet Protocol) telephony, storage, home networking, optical equipment and wireless. And the company isn’t standing still. It plans to dive into a few more new fields, though it’s still to be decided what they will be, said Rick Moran, vice-president of product and technology marketing in Cisco’s IP Communications group, in an interview earlier Wednesday.

One reason customers are embracing those new products is that Cisco knows how to integrate them into the network overall, Chambers said.

As he has in most recent speeches, Chambers highlighted what he sees as a key role for the network in boosting enterprise productivity, but only if combined with more efficient business processes. Otherwise, productivity will go down, he said.

“You can have the best IT organization in the world, but if your business leaders won’t change their processes, you’re going to spend a lot of money and be disappointed,” Chambers said.

That message rang true for two executives of Scandinavian telecommunications carrier TeliaSonera AB who attended the keynote. A fever for technology in past years has given way to a recognition that new tools and new methods have to go hand in hand, said Mikael Ovesson, a corporate senior manager in TeliaSonera’s TCC Multiservice Backbone group.

Networld+Interop continues through Thursday.

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