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Cisco Live London: Uncle John promises to fix Cisco security strategy

Fast Packet blogger Greg Ferro reports from Cisco Live London where (after a marketing exec was stripped down by orphans!) Uncle John promised a stronger focus on Cisco security strategies as well as network automation and management. Strangely, Chambers didn’t mention a few key things …

This week, Cisco CEO John Chambers keynoted at Cisco Live London to the collected Cisco faithful with the overall message that the economy is improving and companies should feel confident in spending. Then Chambers promised users tighter security integration and a focus on network management, but didn’t get quite specific enough about any changes to the Cisco security strategy or new automation technology. What’s more, there were a few topics that Chambers very notably did not mention.


Where is the Cisco security strategy?

After sideshow entertainment that included a group of kids singing from the musical “Oliver,” a marketing executive who literally had her clothes torn off by the mob of kids, and a speech by an Olympic athlete, Uncle John took the stage where he hit the topic everyone has been complaining about all year: Security.

“Security is being included into the ASICs and the software,” said Chambers. That, I guess, means Cisco will embed security into all systems instead of using individual elements, but overall there was not a clear product or strategy delivered.

Meanwhile, the last year has seen Cisco discontinue key security products such as CS-MARS and Security Device Manager, as well as reduce security product feature sets. These reductions have lead to a widely-held perception that security isn’t a key focus for Cisco.

But at Cisco Live London, Chambers tried to assure users: “We’ve heard our customers loud and clear that security is vitally important.” That message was echoed by senior execs in later meetings. I would guess that either Cisco has something in the pipeline or customer response to Cisco “re-prioritizing” security investment was loud and aggressive enough to require response -- or both.

Cisco network automation and management

The final surprise was buried at the bottom of Chambers’ “What’s on my Mind” slide deck on the page entitled: “Innovation = Operational Excellence,” which stressed network management and automation. This is long overdue, as Cisco’s network management software is regularly the butt of jokes in the Cisco community. The message that ease of operation isn’t just about the CLI could finally be coming true. But again, no specific product roadmap was laid out.

What didn’t get mentioned

It’s notable that several topics didn’t get mentioned: cloud, Virtual Computing Environment (VCE), storage or data center. That’s a bit stunning considering Cisco has pushed its data center and virtualization story so hard in recent years. The problem is, according to many partners, the message is told more than the product is bought.

What’s more, no single business unit or product was singled out. More striking, not a single partner was mentioned, which may suggest that there is considerable conflict internally as Cisco realigns its business partnerships. 

Read more of Greg’s Cisco Live London coverage on his Ethereal Mind blog.

This was last published in February 2011

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