Cisco is expanding its as-a-service efforts with the launch of Cisco Plus, which will bring flexible consumption models to customers.
The move, outlined at Cisco Live, comes as many enterprise technology giants such as Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise go all-in on subscription models. Over time, hardware will be purchased more as-a-service even though some enterprises will want to buy upfront and depreciate assets.
According to Cisco, Cisco Plus will offer as-a-service models for its compute, networking and storage hardware. When coupled with Cisco's expanding software portfolio, most of the company's products will ultimately be as-a-service.
What Cisco is ultimately going for is network-as-a-service, a cloud model for its routers and switches combined with compute and its observability platform.
Cisco Plus is an option for customers that are expanding Cisco purchases for data center and hybrid cloud implementations, said Kip Compton, senior vice president of operations and strategy at Cisco. Ultimately, Cisco plans to offer all of its portfolio as a service. For instance, Cisco will launch a limited release of its network-as-a-service later this year with a bundle that unifies networking, security and visibility across access, WAN and cloud.
Cisco's NaaS would mean customers can integrate applications and clouds, pay under an operating expense model and have unified policies, visibility, analytics and security. Compton said that Cisco's NaaS effort will initially focus on secure access service edge (SASE).
Compton said visibility will be a key item. "Aside from the focus on flexible consumption models, Cisco Plus will be able to have more visibility," he said. Cisco recently acquired ThousandEyes.
The networking giant will roll out Cisco Plus offerings over time. The first will be Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud, which will be available in mid-2021.
Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud will combine data center compute with UCS, networking via Nexus and storage and include third-party storage and software to meld on-prem, edge and public cloud. Customers can choose the level of services, a usage commitment upfront and order delivery in 14 days. Initial as-a-service offerings will be in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, UK and US.
According to the company, a differentiator for Cisco Plus will be an experience that's self-service and simple via the Cisco CX Cloud. Compton said the Cisco Plus experience will allow customers and partners to pick from the product portfolio, add services and consumer and track usage for cost visibility.
Partners will also be able to build on top of Cisco Plus and layer in additional services.
"We worked on the integration to make have a simpler experience and use predictive analytics to show bills, usage patterns and how it will work with simple provisioning," said Compton.
Todd Nightingale, senior vice president of enterprise networking and cloud at Cisco, said at an investor conference March 3 that the company doesn't want to be seen as solely a hardware- or software-as-a-service provider. The art will be putting together tech stacks as a service.
Nightingale said Cisco is looking to "start selling complete solutions as a service." He added:
Instead of buying one technology in each area and some hardware and some cloud licenses, we are looking to make this transition over the next 12 months, a single as-a-service offer across the board that would be 100% as-a-service, billed monthly and really deliver that total solution to the customer. We're trying to stay away from like a pure hardware as a service motion or software as a service motion, deliver a whole solution as a service to the customer, focus on the outcome and the experience not the product and the technology.
Add it up and enterprise technology vendors are increasingly playing to this solution as a service tune. While these vendors are familiar to enterprises they may be best positioned to serve as a neutral party in a multi-cloud model. What's unclear is how fast customers will change their buying behavior.
Compton noted that the as-a-service approach applies to systems going forward and not equipment in the field. Nightingale, however, indicated that the transition to as-a-service could come faster than folks think. Digital transformation requires faster upgrade cycles and new technologies.
"I update my iPhone every 24 months, am I really going to trust my switch 8 years later, I don't think so," said Nightingale.