Cisco CEO John Chambers kicked off Cisco Live, the annual training event for IT professionals, at San Francisco's Moscone Center this morning with a quick peek back in time, the early days of the company and the Internet. It's been 10 years since Cisco Live - called Networkers back then - kicked off. And Cisco, Chambers said, is still committed to the core technology of routers and switches.
But technology has changed since then and Cisco's vision and strategy have also changed, adapting to grow with the technology itself, specifically the use of virtual collaboration through video for customers around the globe.
Interestingly enough, the company said that the 10,000-plus people at this year's event is a testament - especially given the global economic conditions - that businesses want to do more for less.
The network, Chambers said, is the platform that connects the clouds that everyone is talking about today. The network is what allows data - notably video feeds - to move from headquarters to remote offices. Consider the cost savings that companies, Cisco included, are saving by conducting virtual meetings by telepresence and collaborating with people on the other side of the globe without having to jump on an airplane. A Cisco global sales meeting used to cost $14,000, he said. This year, that same meeting - conducted virtually - cost $437. And it had triple the normal attendance.
But the network is also what makes the processes smarter, he said. The network isn't just a dumbpipe that moves data from one point to another. Chambers talks about the advancements and innovations that the network opens. Video, for example, can't just be moved. It has to be formatted for different video screen sizes. It also has to be accessible by the right people and inaccessible to the wrong people. It has to be pushed out to the right people on any device they're interacting with.
So Cisco has it all figured out, right? Even Chambers has to chuckle at that idea. He noted that a customer once told him that Cisco tries things and, if they work, the company builds a strategy around it. (He actually said he wasn't sure if that was a compliment or a bit of a slam.)
The company, like others, has a vision and a strategy, he said. But it's true that Cisco isn't afraid to take some risks and try new things - even in the worst economic times. Sure, the economy is bad today and even Cisco isn't immune to turbulent economic forces. But smart businesses are looking beyond the next quarter or next year. They're looking at visions for 3 to 5 years out and execution strategies 18 months out.
Cisco has visions for the future across many sectors - health care, education and many other sectors. And it's gambling on the network - as well as video, virtual data centers, cloud computing and more - to be the platform that will drive the way people communicate and collaborate in the future.
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