Will You Wager On Cisco's New Network?


John Chambers is not the type of executive you bet against. That does not mean Cisco and Chambers are without their flaws. But whether you are friend or foe, you have to envy two things: Chambers' consistency as a CEO and his penchant for deciphering where the next big opportunity lies. So it is always a treat to sit with the man who is driving the networking industry and pick his brain. Managing Editor, Technology Jennifer Hagendorf Follett had the pleasure of doing just that when she interviewed Chambers as he was preparing for yet another Cisco partner conference where he would have the task of inspiring thousands of partners to radically alter their business models to prepare for a new wave of networking.

ROBERT C. DEMARZO
Can be reached via e-mail.

It's hard to imagine such change for the average Cisco VAR. Life is good selling switching and routing equipment, along with professional services. But it's time to start building a model that enables you to assemble an intelligent network. This will require an understanding of VoIP, unified communications, IP video, blogs, IM and SaaS, just to mention a few. This new network also means Cisco will sell more stuff—lots more—and that's good for Chambers and for savvy partners.

"If you think of Cisco three to five years from now, we have the opportunity, along with our partners, to be the most influential company in the world, not just on communications, but also IT," he told us. "The role of the network will evolve dramatically, moving from merely transport or plumbing to more of an intelligent infrastructure that makes it completely transparent as to where your applications are, where your storage is, where the processors are, what type of device you're on, [whether you are] at home or at your work or in your car or at a hotel"your services automatically find you and move to you."

There is certainly some question as to whether a Cisco partner can do this alone, or whether he will have to become just as proficient at networking among other partners as he is at networking services. Cisco is going to push this theme hard and in just a few months Microsoft will do the same, as both strive to incent partners to work together to deliver complex solutions.

Skeptics will say they have heard Chambers say all this before, and they would be right. I once chided him for giving the same speech to partners two years in a row. But Chambers does have an answer: "It's actually accelerated now because a lot of the basic concepts in collaboration are now taking off. The network will probably enable the next major wave of IT spending as well as communication spending. So the role of the network has changed: It's changed from being infrastructure, primarily a box mentality, to an architecture approach that provides business solutions, and as such, we at Cisco have to change and so do our channel partners."

As I said, betting against Chambers can be a dangerous proposition, so the time has come to change your business model. The question is, will you?

Where do you stand on Chambers' vision? Everything Channel SVP/Editorial Director Rober C. DeMarzo is at rdemarzo@everythingchannel.com.