Chambers: Cisco's Sights Set on Virtualization, Video

Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers Tuesday identified virtualization as the biggest opportunity the networking company will be focusing on in fiscal 2008.

In a keynote address at the vendor's Cisco C-Scape Global Forum 2007 analyst conference in its hometown of San Jose, Calif., Chambers laid out several technology and business areas the networking company plans to concentrate in its current fiscal year and said virtualization is at the top of the list.

"If look at where we're going, the biggest play of all is virtualization: any content to any device in any format you want anywhere in world with the proper security," Chambers said.

Virtualization is one of the foundational elements to Cisco's vision for the role the network will play in the "second phase" of the Internet, driven by collaboration and Web 2.0. Cisco lumps technologies such as social networking, unified communications, telepresence, podcasts, mash-ups, blogs and peer-to-peer under the Web 2.0 banner.

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"Over time we will design our virtualization, if we do our jobs right, to the point where the user will have no idea what's going on," Chambers said, speaking of the transparency Cisco wants to provide in the interactions customers have with their content. Customers won't have to worry about where their data is housed or how it is served, as resources such as servers and storage become shared entities, he said.

Technologies such as virtualization, unified communications and video will spur the next decade of productivity gains, Chambers said.

Video, particularly high-definition videoconferencing in the form of Cisco's TelePresence product line, is changing the way the vendor does business, Chambers said, noting that the company conducted 42,000 virtual meetings this year.

"I spend 50 percent of my time touching customers. Within three years, I will double the number of customers I touch and cut my travel time in half," Chambers said. In an example of how the vendor is using TelePresence, Chambers opened the conference by moderating a panel that used the videoconferencing technology to connect to three remote speakers located in Cincinnati, Boston and London. In addition, a small audience has been participating in the conference via a video link to New York.

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The company expects businesses of all sizes to increase their adoption of video-driven collaboration technologies. In a technology demonstration, the company showed its forthcoming WebEx Connect offering, now in beta, which enables customers to create collaborative spaces online. Users can see other personnel working on a given project team, log chat sessions between individuals so other team members can view them, create video blogs and search a corporate directory of user-created profile pages to find employees that have needed expertise. From those pages, users can initiate video calls with each other and share digital information. In the demonstration, for example, a user shared images taken from a networked microscope via TelePresence.

Cisco also demonstrated how employees could use a Cisco IP phone to create and distribute a podcast.

"Video is the great driver," said Charles Giancarlo, executive vice president and chief development officer at Cisco, during his keynote address. Roughly 250 billion video streams are expected to be served in 2007, up from 9 billion in 2005, he said.

Video for Cisco means more than just TelePresence, Giancarlo said. The company is also investing in areas such as digital signage, IP video surveillance and IPTV.

Cisco is looking at several technology areas that are expected to grow into $10 billion businesses, including TelePresence services, hosted software (from its recent acquisition of WebEx Communications) and next-generation enterprise architecture.

Other focus areas for Cisco in fiscal 2008 include mobility, the SMB market, the consumer market, managed services, green technology and its business strategies in India and China, Chambers said.