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CEO Outlook 2019: 5 Questions For Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins

Matt Brown

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said that simplicity and clarity will guide his company and its channel partners in 2019.


Robbins On 2019

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins recognizes that battling complexity is a big challenge for partners and says 2019 is the year customers get the simplicity they need from their IT architecture.

“Enabling multi-cloud, driving automation, integrated security, SD-WAN—all of these things are part of this whole architectural transition, and I think 2019 is going to be a huge year for that,” Robbins said in an interview with CRN.

Cisco has introduced several products and initiatives to emphasize software, subscriptions, recurring revenue and, perhaps most importantly, automation.

“There’s a significant amount of investment that’s going into cross-domain automation,” Robbins said. “There are pieces that you’ve seen, but then there’s the overarching larger pieces that bring all the policy management together.”

Here are Robbins' predictions for 2019 for both Cisco and its channel partners.

What's the biggest market opportunity you and your channel partners will tackle together in 2019?

Simplicity. Bringing simplicity to this world that our customers are trying to deal with. It's enabling multi-cloud, driving automation, integrated security, SD-WAN, all of these things are part of this whole architectural transition and I think 2019 is going to be a huge year for that.

What are the biggest technology investments you are making in 2019?

We're going to continue to enhance the portfolio that fits within each of the automation architectures, in each of the individual domains we mentioned. But there's also a significant amount of investment that's going into cross-domain automation. That work will be going on. There are pieces that you've seen, but then there's the overarching, larger pieces that brings all the policy management together will be a big investment area for us next year.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing customers in 2019?

From a technology perspective, continuing to deal with the complexity of all the different services they're trying to enable their internal clients to consume. Second, is the continued uncertainty from an external factor perspective, whether it's the regulatory environment, or it's what happens with trade war and some of the geo-political dynamics. Those are going to continue to be issues we're all going to have to contend with through next year.

What is key to success for your channel partners in 2019?

For Cisco it's to continue to deliver on this innovation pipeline against the architectural vision that we've laid out. We're getting to a point in 2019 where we're into serious execution mode on the customer experience strategy that [Senior Vice President of Customer Experience] Maria [Martinez] has laid out. For partners, it is to really build practices to help customers go from where they are to where they need to be in this new environment and I don't mean that generically. I mean in dealing with all this multi-cloud complexity they have. There's probably a set of services where partners can go in and help our customers understand where they are, where we need to be and build a multi-step process to get there from automation to SD-WAN and protecting the branch networks. Second, I think this is a year for partners to really look at how much they want to invest in creating development capabilities not only with the DevNet platforms we have, but across the board. I think there's a lot of unique intellectual property that they can build for themselves that can really differentiate them going forward.

Fill in the blank: 2019 Will Be The Year Of...

Clarity. It would've been easy for me to say multi-cloud or something like that, but I think it's clarity. I think we've been living for the last three to five years around this constant uncertainly around what this technology transition means, or what that technology transition means. We're coming to a point where we, our customers and our partners Ð and I mean 'we' the industry Ð we're going to have clarity. I think we're going to gain a lot more clarity next year around what are the solutions our customers are going to embrace. It's all going to come together in 2019.

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