Cisco released its 1st quarter financial statement last week, and the numbers weren’t pretty. But this shouldn’t surprise too many, since the company warned the financial community that the revenue growth was going to be below their expectations. Unlike most, I see this as more of an inflection point in an undulation that swings back into a growth mode that comes with a change in strategy than a parabolic upside-down curve. While there are multiple transformations starting to occur in the networking domain, the Cisco Doomsday-ers seem to solely focus on software-defined networking and the creation of cloud infrastructures; they assume the data center of the future will look like Google’s data centers, even though no one truly, outside of Google, knows how it really runs or what the components are.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume every data center (private or XaaS platforms) will be a Google data center full of white-box components and Cisco’s high margin/feature switches will disappear. Does this mean Cisco becomes irrelevant or loses its position as the 800 lb. gorilla in the networking industry? Heck no. What clearly is being missed by most of the world is the incredible transformation starting to materialize outside the data center. And no, it isn’t the presence of mobile devices. That is today’s transformation that changed the consumer. The business will catch up. Tomorrow’s emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) will enable the business to meet its consumers’ desirers, and Cisco sees it already. Cisco could lose every port in the data centers and still be ahead if you look at where the amount of port growth and network revenue will come over the next 10 years.
Ten years ago, if I had stood up in front of IT professionals and said that their company would allow employees to bring their own devices to work in lieu of corporate-owned devices, I would have been heckled out of the room, but look at where we are today. Well, I am here to say that it won’t stop at personal devices or applications. The user edge of the network (where users and mobile devices connect, not servers or storage) is slowly shifting under the control of business and is an integral part of the ecosystem that shapes a customer’s experience. Already, non-IT employees are doing traditional networking tasks like:
Granting wireless network access. Controlling who gets on the network had always been an IT function, until wireless came out. Assistants, business greeters, and other employees can give guests Internet access with all the wireless solutions on the market today.
Setting up networks. Today, manufacturing engineers design manufacturing lines and deploy automation equipment with built-in Ethernet/IP capabilities, such as motion sensors, energy monitors, and logic boards. The design and management of that part of the network falls under their domain.