Cisco Jumps Into Big Data Software, Chambers Says Its Tech Is Best For Businesses

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers is fond of talking about how Cisco has a unique ability to "see around corners" when picking which technology trends will explode, but big data has been a notable exception.

That changed Thursday when the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant unveiled its Cisco Connected Analytics for the Internet of Everything portfolio, a set of eight "easy-to-deploy software packages" aimed at helping customers use data from the Internet Of Things to improve business operations.

The packages, available now, are designed for customers in specific industries. One lets retail firms analyze customer and operational data in their stores, while another lets event venues keep track of how fans are using Wi-Fi, mobile devices and social media during concerts and sports events.

To get value from the mountains of data they create, most enterprises funnel it all back to a central repository for processing. But when the Internet of Things really gets cranked up, the amount of data coming in from sensor devices is going to be too big to handle this way, Chambers said in a press conference Thursday at Cisco's Global Editors Conference.

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Cisco thinks it has come up with a better approach. By embedding analytics technology into its networking equipment, Cisco can enable data to be processed on the fly at the network edge, and that means customers can get value from their data more quickly, Chambers said at the event.

The ability to move analytics anywhere on the network is something that only Cisco can offer, he said. The technology that enables this is called Cisco Connected Streaming Analytics, and Chambers said it's one of the fastest processing engines on the market.

Bill Smeltzer, CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based Cisco partner, thinks Cisco is well positioned to solve the data challenges that the Internet of Things will create.

"All of these sensors and devices are going to be bringing data back over a network, so I think it's imperative that Cisco is part of this market because it's going to be huge," Smeltzer told CRN.

Cisco estimates that the Internet of Things will be a $19 trillion market in the next 10 years, and $7.3 trillion of that will be tied to data analytics and how big data is handled, Chambers said.

In a recent survey, Cisco found that 40 percent of its customers need help with using their mountains of data to gain insights about their businesses.

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Edzard Overbeek, senior vice president of Cisco Services, said the new Internet of Things software packages use assets from Truviso, a network data analysis and reporting software vendor that Cisco acquired in 2012; and Composite Software, a data virtualization software vendor it bought the following year.

Technology from these deals is part of the new portfolio and is a key to enabling data processing at the network edge, Overbeek said at the event.

In a retail setting, a grocery store could use Cisco's big data analytics to figure out how many people are coming in and how long they spend at the cash registers. Armed with this data, the store could open more cash registers when needed, thereby boosting customer satisfaction, Overbeek said.

Cisco has signed up Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Pivotal and many other vendors to be part of its Connected Analytics ecosystem, and it's planning to launch a channel partner program for its Connected Analytics products.

Cisco came late to the big data space, but Chambers said the Connected Analytics portfolio will catapult it to the forefront of the market for Internet of Things analytics. More work remains, but Cisco clearly feels like it just plugged an important gap in its technology lineup.

"We're not there yet, but this was one large step in terms of how we're going to get there," Chambers said at the event.