We took a large complement of NetCraftsmen to Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego last week to hear Cisco Systems’ perspective on the latest networking technology, and to share views on where technology will be taking the business world.
The overwhelming message: The pace of change in the networking space is accelerating. Cisco CEO John Chambers made a compelling case that while Cisco and its partners have been able to correctly call, and stay ahead of, major trends in the networking industry, the pace of change will challenge all of us to keep up.
Peter Diamandis, a well-known entrepreneur and author, led a startling discussion of how fast Internet technology is evolving and how quickly the unconnected rest of our world will be able to come online. We all have to relearn how to leverage technology to disrupt our own businesses, Peter argued, before a new competitor disrupts it and puts us out of business.
Several speakers noted a statistic that shows that 40% of the current Fortune 500 companies will not exist in a meaningful way 10 years from now.
With the increasing pace of technological innovation, and the resulting disruption in many industries, the call to action for all attendees at Cisco Live 2015 was to be ready. Be ready to accelerate your adoption of technology. Be ready to target new markets with new products. Be ready to partner with companies who can accelerate your pace of change.
Be ready to disrupt your business — before someone else does.
The question is: Are you ready?
As I said, we had a full complement of NetCraftsmen at Cisco Live 2015, so I asked my colleagues to share some of their takeaways for the event.
If your company isn’t yet ready for the pace of technological change, the next question is: How can you get ready — especially when many IT departments are struggling to keep up with broader IT responsibilities despite flat budget and staffing.
Start by identifying some key initiatives. We recommend:
- Increasing the High Availability and Disaster Recovery capabilities of your network, in recognition of the very critical role IT now plays in conducting business.
- Working with business units to understand how the Internet of Things (IOT) and big data may impact your company, and what the IT and network implications might be.
- Gaining network and server cloud experience.
- Exploring IOT and scalable application-building techniques.
Consider outsourcing some of your more routine work to free up staff to build new skills. Or consider hiring more skilled staff if necessary. And partner to expedite acquisition of new skills.
Work with skilled network designers to clean up and simplify your network design, and to establish documented standard design elements and procedures. Bring the present network into alignment with the standards. Acquire the right network management tools and build related staff skills so as to increase productivity.
The term “cloud” doesn’t sound as much like a buzzword as it did a few years ago. Instead, it is steadily becoming a real part of everyday business and technical conversations.
However, I still think back to a previous Cisco Live event where I overheard someone say “it’s always foggy in the cloud” and I think that’s very true indeed. There is a big push to move data and applications to the cloud; however, there is just as big of a push to make sure that we can control and secure data, devices, and so on. In other words, cloud services and enterprise security present challenges as well as big growth opportunities for both partners and customers.
Yet it’s hard for me to fully imagine a cloud-only world. I mean, it’s hard to manage and secure something that you don’t have control over, right?
Allow me to make an analogy with music for a moment. Pop music seems to go in cycles. Hair metal is here in the 80s, becomes a joke by the mid-90s, and then has a little resurgence a few years later. Let’s say businesses adopt the “cloud, cloud, cloud” mentality… and then bang — there’s a widespread hack of corporate data, and so begins the cycle of retreating to an on-premises model.
I made this observation to my NetCraftsmen colleague Bill Bell and he suggested that maybe “hybrid” is really the wave of the future. And that may very well be true.
Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is causing many changes in the industry. For example, Cisco has made a big move with Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and there were many sessions about it, including an interesting session on how to integrate ACI with the Nexus 7K product family.
As Paul noted above, expect the pace of change to increase, with even more changes occurring in the coming year. As ACI grows and matures, I anticipate more functionality than simply network automation.
My take on SDN and the network industry future: Network management systems will be the key differentiator for survivability and success after hardware is deconstructed with SDN technology.
To move with the increased speed of business, organizations will have to restructure their IT departments and change their relationship with technology.
“Fast IT” demands cooperation between traditional IT silos such as networking, security, and systems. They must work together to leverage each other’s resources. Their technology platforms must be flexible, scalable, and agile enough to respond quickly and securely to business changes. Additionally, as network complexity increases it may be hidden by SDN’s software interfaces and controls, but it is important that IT understands what is happening under the covers of that software.
Cisco Live 2015 included a significant track sponsored by the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN). I participated in this program because I respect the considerable contributions of the women I work with, and I believe that it’s to our mutual advantage to network professionally and learn from each other.
More diverse teams are better at problem-solving, so business leaders should work to include top talent from a variety of backgrounds in any team interested in high performance (like NetCraftsmen). My takeaway here is that we should continue looking to hire and to grow women employees who can become top contributors and leaders themselves.
The DevNet program, a Cisco project that seeks to support development professionals, drew in strong crowds and provided a key glimpse into the future of networking — with its growing emphasis on automation in general and SDN in particular. These are key areas because they can generate compelling business advantages in speed and costs, but being successful with these changes will usually require organizational transformation, and that may be too painful for many to bear.
I left Cisco Live thinking that those who are unwilling to change will be among those who are overtaken by more nimble competitors in the coming years, and strategizing how we can help our customers deal with these issues.
I was struck by the new software initiative Cisco One. It is part of Cisco’s increasing emphasis on software as well as hardware. One important aspect is that it covers licensing for software that customers purchase associated with the hardware that they purchase, and allows the license to be transferred when the hardware is replaced. This becomes especially important as a customer goes through a network equipment refresh cycle where now they would not need to purchase licenses for software on the incoming new hardware.
This conference is about technology, but not just for technology’s sake. The goal of all of it is to make human lives better — to improve the way we live, learn, work, and play. Not only did we get very technical information through the sessions, but we were reminded to retain our humanity and compassion, help others, get involved, and be agents of change.