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What would make that Cisco CEO transition two years as opposed to four?
I'm not going to go down that path. But if I were to answer it very directly, it's more when things are ready. It's more when the opportunity is there. The opportunities in front of us are as big as they've ever been. The second part of the question you asked earlier, I wanted to say that before, we were a world-class networking company and we're very proud of that. Most people would say we've pulled away from everybody there. But the market transitions occurring in big data, mobility, software throughout the data centers, the ability to think about the Internet of everything, social networking, Wi-Fi, smart grid, every one of these transitions is network-enabled.
Cisco is uniquely positioned. We've positioned architecture across enterprises and service providers. There will always be a set of tough competitors -- startups and otherwise. If there isn't, that's a bad sign; it means you're not in a good market. The good news is that we anticipate being in a good market for a good little while. '
The key takeaway, what people now realize, is this. I said to a large group of very sophisticated industry analysts recently, how many of you think that we have a chance to not just hit our aspirational goal of being the No. 1 communications company, but the No. 1 IT company and the best business partner for our customers? More than half the room raised their hand.
That shocked me. I would have been ecstatic with 10 to 15 percent. But people watched what we did in service provider, where you saw end-to-end Cisco. And service provider, it used to be the kind of organization people said used to be, quote, "systems integrator," but then you saw Cisco moving throughout key franchises there. You're going to see the same, with all appropriate caveats, you're going to see us do the same in enterprise and commercial.
Then, we see these organizations coming together. If you're already No. 1 by the furthest way in service provider, you can be already No. 1 in enterprise, and be No. 1 in commercial. You suddenly see the opportunity in front of us. That's why I get excited for our partners.
We have never hesitated in our commitment to partner success. That doesn't go up and down by year, it doesn't go up and down by economic times, or in market transitions. We are a partner-driven company, period.
Staying on the succession aspect for a little bit, are you confident saying your successor will definitely come from inside Cisco?
You need to understand that this is a board decision on which I have an influence. I think all of us recognize there are huge advantages coming from internal. It is such a complex operation. When you think about the complexity on our ASICs alone that's very unique in the industry. We develop the most complex ASICs in the industry -- you don't even think of us that way. Sixty percent of our engineering is in software.
Each customer segment, when you talk to service providers at the CEO level, we have a relationship about how do we achieve business goals, grow top line and bottom line and how do we help them add value and perception to their customers. We help them bring new services to the market at a faster pace. In short, we help them with every major business initiative they have, so we have become their most trusted business partner. We have the same opportunity in the other segments because when you begin to look at the new markets, all of them are network-centric.
There has never been anything more network-centric than what some people define as software in the data center. I would actually argue that it's a unified data center of the future, made up of hardware and software and ASICs and a unified fabric as well. That will evolve, not just as cloud but as distributed capabilities throughout the entire network. So when you look at it -- hardware, software and ASICs -- if you execute it right, that will probably win. And if you look at merchant silicon, that's a risk of what happens. When you come out late with merchant silicon, and you're beaten to the market by a long way with an architecture that's 200 nanoseconds, when the next generation of ASICs we've seen looks like 350, that's game over. So that's our ability to constantly reinvent ourselves in a very positive way.
If you can be faster to the market on ASICs, and we waited a bit too long in the case of this one competitor [Arista Networks], you can also build the most complex [routers] like our CRS-1 and CRS-3 and follow-on products. And if you can build the most unique [system] that everyone thought could not be done with UCS, with the UCS interfacing to the network and common software across that, that's an unbeatable combination.
This is a fourth generation occurring. The prior generation was servers and ASICs and the players like Intel, and a Dell putting it all together or an IBM or an HP putting it all together. Cisco does those combinations too. But don't think of us in the old model, think of us in terms of the Apple model. Think of architecture and where the differentiation is and how the money is made, and compare that to the Android model. That's exactly what we're going to do with this.