What happened when a diverse group of analysts met Cisco’s EMEAR management?

January 13 and 14 saw the gathering of EMEAR-based analysts for their annual Cisco update. Many of us have been attending these for years, so are always looking for chinks in the armour alongside Cisco’s reading of, and reaction to, the key industry trends.

Chris Dedicoat set the scene for the two days of plenary and interactive group sessions with his accustomed grasp of both the economic reality of EMEAR and the emerging role of Cisco in its digitising future. Economically, things are complicated by the halving of the oil price, whichever conspiracy theory camp you are in. And, importantly, the many themes shaping EMEAR’s market only go to show that every country is different, every business is different, and that perhaps technology is one of the few unifying factors. However, the change was evident: “Don’t do it in Cisco speak” but through the customer lens, and every customer sees things differently depending on their position in the value chain and emerging ecosystem.

While the session covered the major changes of virtualisation, mobility, social and cloud, the shift of emphasis was clearly to embrace the overall business and social impact of digitisation. Business outcomes were front and centre, whether for a Rolls Royce or GE- provided jet engine, for Copenhagen’s ambitious smart city, for Dubai’s Du as a challenger Service Provider (SP), or for a connected collar around a Las Vegas puppy! Combining analytics with the exploding data flows from every device and sensor, across the increasingly virtual network and the better-connected Data Centres, will produce dramatic impacts on business performance. That is, as long as the right culture is in place to break down silos, legacy business practices and technology.

The Internet of Things (IOT) and Cisco’s extended market of Internet of Everything (IOE) added in the concept of driving business outcomes on a massive scale. Holistic analysis of activities at all points will also result in better process, as well as infrastructure automation and orchestration. Cisco’s figure of $19 Trillion of activity around IOE, whether that be in the private or public sector, needs some big wins to set the direction. Chris’s love of aviation provided an example by drilling us down into the fact that by linking together the processes supporting Europe’s airlines, air traffic control can literally save billions of dollars in aviation fuel. How? Well, simply by managing the time the aircraft spends taxiing to the runway and slowing down over the water surrounding Britain to avoid the nauseous circling above our beloved Heathrow.

Every business touched upon showed clear business returns, whether it was the engine manufacturers and their ‘power as a service’, financial organisations leveraging high-quality video to deliver expert input to the mortgage process remotely, or an SP connecting services to networks and networks to clouds and clouds to clouds. The granularity of data being gathered and analysed finally puts business in a situation where the customer experience can be measured, modified and finally built around the customer rather than around the technology sitting in the Data Centre or in the cloud.

A common theme emerged throughout all sessions: the power of cloud is providing the extended and virtualised infrastructure of the future, supported by mobility and social but, most importantly and with a stronger emphasis than previously seen, secured at every level. Security needs to be the rainbow of hope that encircles every aspect of the emerging digital landscape. Securing the trillions of devices individually is an impossible task, hence application-level security, network policy and monitoring become critical. In addition, domain-specific behavioural modelling will help identify issues through unusual activities from, say, a lightbulb, camera or pacemaker.

Nick Earl brushed aside his over 25 years of presenting to the analyst community and, together with his team and demos, brought Intercloud – and its goal of building the largest cloud platform in the world – to life. This also emphasised the issue of managing the transition of selling product through a channel to a managed services cloud and annuity-based model.

Importantly, it was emphasised that Cisco cannot do this alone. Cisco needs partners to build the layers on cloud services, as well as the increasingly important consultative and risk- sharing elements of developing the propositions and executing the plans with the end customer and their ultimate customers – you and me.

And, as ever, Cisco fronted up its senior executives from EMEAR to face the grilling from the massed ranks of analysts with their diverse perspectives and takes on the future of the industry. Keep in mind that this analyst audience now consists of people looking at the market from every networking, software, IT, services and consulting angle and you get a notion of the breadth of plenary, breakout and the inevitable side-bar discussions. No shortage of fuel to pour on the fire of debate.

Cisco is known for continually refining its strategy around new points of inflection. No doubt this is a massive coming together of many trends from the converging IT and networking industries. The major difference now is that IOE and consulting/advisory are part of the opening gambit, and business outcomes are the deal-maker. Cisco, its partners, channels and customers see the opportunity to leverage the technology trends to build more efficient and effective business processes, service offerings and tools to continually refine them as the demand side cranks up its thirst for everything digital.

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