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Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers sat down with CRN's Kelley Damore, vice president and editorial director, and Senior Editor Chad Berndtson at Cisco's headquarters in San Jose, Calif., early this month. The wide-ranging conversation touched on the growth of the Cisco channel, why he believes Cisco is a more compelling bet for partners than HP or IBM, and what role the network, collaboration, video and other Cisco hallmarks will play in the businesses of the future. Following are excerpts of the conversation.
More From CRN On Cisco's John Chambers
What is your message to partners at Partner Summit this year? If you're looking to tee up how to motivate them and get them to visualize the industry heading into 2011 and beyond, what do you tell them?
At the 10,000 foot level, what's most exciting is that many of the market transitions we anticipated happening are happening. The network is becoming the platform not just for all forms of communications and IT, but it's going to enable a different generation of productivity around collaboration, it's going to change the data center, it's going to change healthcare, it's going to be at the center of everything from security to video. The exciting thing about Cisco and its partners is we're going to play there together. We are better together. There's a key reason for that.
If you look at the breadth and depth ranging from such issues as collaboration, it'll drive a decade of productivity. The first time I've ever heard [it] at the World Economic Forum, with top economists from Europe, the U.S. and China, we talked about GDP growth for the next three to five years and beyond, and I asked about productivity and expected a candid answer of one to one-and-a-half percent, which is what they always say, 'You can't drive faster than that.'
All of them agreed -- all of them agreed -- that we were in for a decade of productivity growth that was probably two to three percent or more. When I asked them what's going to cause that, they said, 'What you're doing, John.' They said that in front of 100 of my customers, so I could have hugged them right there [laughter], but it would have been inappropriate. What it does speak to is collaboration is the next generation of productivity, organizational structure, and is almost unlimited and an area I expect grows very rapidly for us in the next five to 10 years.
The second thing is there hasn't been a new hardware player in the data center for decades, and contrary to all the prognostications, we are breaking away there. We have very much established ourselves. We are in the top three x86 players, we're winning a lot in the cloud, which is the second generation of virtualization data centers, the product is winning most of the performance awards, and it isn't servers separate from the network separate from storage, it's that combined, first in a physical data center, then in the cloud, then all the way in your home. And [we] build VDI and other capabilities off of it.
The third area you think about in terms of the approach is video. Video is the next voice. It's going to be how we communicate. When we built a router, nine years ago now, that did a billion phone calls -- voice, if you will -- everyone thought we were crazy. Of course, 5- or 6,000 CRS-1s later, and 500 customers-plus, we are now building a router than does a billion videos. I think you'll see the same exponential curve on that, except video will have much more cost justification whether it's entertainment or productivity, whether it's how you enable a collaboration, how you enable virtual organizations together, whether it's just permitting you to travel halfway around the world. It enables opportunities and meets tough issues.