Cisco stakes a claim for Internet of Things security and analytics

"You can't connect 400 to 500 billion things that have never been connected before and not achieve tremendous new value," says Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: We have to provide analytics out of the network. Image: Cisco

The new chief executive of Cisco has made the case for the networking giant as a key player in building, securing, and making sense of the nascent Internet of Things.

Cisco predicts that the 15 billion devices connected to the internet now will rise to 25 billion - or maybe even 50 billion - by 2020, as the Internet of Things gathers pace. Internet traffic will triple over the same time as a result, and Cisco expects that around 40 percent of mobile internet traffic will be machine-to-machine communication.

All of this will create big changes for how enterprises manage data, said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: instead of hauling all that information back to a datacenter, some of the analysis of that data will be distributed across the network.

Speaking at an event at Cisco's headquarters in San Jose, California, his first major presentation since taking over as CEO, Robbins said: "You need a very intelligent network infrastructure to make that happen. So now we will have not just datacenters but remote centers of data. We can't always depend on taking the data back to the datacenter and acting on it because it has a shelf-life, it's perishable, the value only exists for a short period of time."

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Robbins said: "We have to provide analytics out of the network that are only available in motion, at a moment of time," he said, giving the example of combining data about a shopper's location in a store with historical data about their shopping habits to be able to instantly offer them tailored special offers.

Securing this infrastructure is key worry for CIOs, and Robbins said many companies are coming to the conclusion that using 40 or 50 individual security vendors is no longer an option because their security teams cannot aggregate that information quickly enough to stop hackers. Robbins argued instead that security should be embedded in the network.

"We have to take advantage of that network which is connecting those 500 million things and we have to allow the network to take advantage of machine-learning and the ability to do deep traffic-flow analysis and begin to build intelligence from the network up that says, 'This is what normal traffic looks like' and identify anomalies quickly. We don't have a castle, we can't put a moat around it, we have to do this differently."

The emphasis on security and data analytics is part of a push by the networking company to find new sources of revenue, shifting away from one-off hardware sales to services with recurring revenues to stave off the threat from white-box vendors who threaten to eat into networking hardware sales.

Still, Robbins remains bullish. "I do believe this is bigger than the first wave of the internet. It has to be. You can't connect 400 to 500 billion things that have never been connected before and not achieve tremendous new value," he said.

Robbins took over as CEO in late July, and while it is a long time since Cisco was the most valuable company on the planet he insisted: "The next decade for Cisco can be better than the last."

Steve Ranger travelled to San Jose courtesy of Cisco.

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