CRN Exclusive: CEO Chuck Robbins On Cisco's 'Seminal' Network Intuitive Launch, Open Architecture Improvements And The Future of UCS

Robbins On The Record

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins spoke with CRN after launching the company's new 'Network Intuitive" platform which is aimed at redefining the network for the next 30 years.

This new network is the result of years of research and development by Cisco to reinvent networking for an age where network engineers managing hundreds of devices today will be expected to manage 1 million by 2020, said Robbins. He says the intuitive networking system anticipates actions, stops security threats and continues to evolve and learn.

Robbins says he "disagrees completely" that the Intuitive Network is a closed system, saying the API-driven architecture works with third party applications and leverages x86 compute.

Robbins also spoke about Cisco's commitment to its Unified Computing System (UCS) as well as what he is most "proud" as he approaches his two year anniversary as CEO on July 26.

This whole intuitive network platform seems to be an end-to-end proprietary Cisco play. What is your response?

I disagree completely with that premise. So first of all, we rewrote the entire operating system and it's a modern, data-model structure, it's API-driven -- so you can program the network through third party applications. So there's an open element associated with that. We're also working with standards bodies around defining this data model architecture for programming networking so that it can be an open standard architecture.

We actually have a Cisco employee who's leading the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) … and these data models, we're actually contributing to make sure that there are open standards. So open APIs, contributing to standards bodies to make sure that there's a standard for how the operating systems API structure gets done so you can have an open architecture. And we put x86 compute inside the boxes for the first time so that you can run applications standard off container-based apps or whatever you want to run.

So what's the benefit of having all Cisco components inside your new networking platform?

There are unique capabilities like the encrypted traffic analytics that are only made possible because of a tightly integrated system with custom silicon that we build that gives you the ability to do the wire speed, but I think that's just not possible to do without all our security threat intelligence, high-speed performance analytics, machine learning at scale through the cloud – all of those things are attributes that we bring together. But the other elements, I think we've actually made more moves towards an open architecture with this.

With steady declines in Cisco's data center business, what is your UCS strategy?

We're still very committed to UCS. We put out some documents internally because there's been some noise in the press about our commitment here. We surpassed I think 60,000 customers on UCS and we also have as part of that portfolio our HyperFlex [hyper-converged] solution that continues to gain momentum. It's a part of our portfolio that we remain committed too.

You're coming up on your two-year anniversary as CEO. Is this Intuitive Network your biggest achievement?

Today was a big day. I believe it was a major milestone for the company and I'm incredibly proud. When you look at the [Intuitive Network] announcement and what all has to be pulled together and the innovation that had to be built to deliver that today -- it's an incredibly proud moment. It was something that, we had pieces before, but we put the vision together in the last two years and then delivered on this today.

What are you most proud of during your time as CEO?

I'm proud for a lot of things. I'm proud of the innovation, of how the progress we've made in our security portfolio being the number one enterprise cybersecurity [vendor]. I'm proud of the new innovation that has been delivered in the collaboration space. I'm proud of the pace of machine-to-machine connections that are being added to the network today. But the [Intuitive Network] actually represents this seminal moment. I think that we really are going to enable the future of networking. It was an incredibly proud day for me. If you couldn’t tell, I was pretty excited.