Smart connections: The transformation of networking giant Cisco

Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

I think it was Sun Microsystems that originally coined the mantra "the network is the computer." But networking giant Cisco is doing everything it can to go way beyond that idea, attempting to position networking technology as nothing less than the central nervous system for every company, community, building, government. You name it, Cisco wants a piece of it.

A few months back, Cisco made a major public overture toward this mission with the launch of the EnergyWise technology platform. Essentially, this is a product line that helps Cisco networking equipment gather information from networked facilities equipment, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.

Since that time, it's become increasingly apparent that Cisco is undergoing a major philosophical shift as far as how it is positioning its core product to participate in what it views as a profound change in how organizations view information technology. Rather than sitting on the periphery of business operations as part of the IT department, Cisco and many other high-tech giants, notably IBM, are trying to claim a seat at the board table. In their minds, information technology is integral to the next wave of economic growth and development. But if it remains sequestered only in the CIO's bag of tricks, the true potential cannot be realized.

The latest news related to Cisco's Smart Connected Buildings vision is a new product called the Network Building Mediator. The device, which is priced starting at $4,995, is intended to help building managers measure, monitor and act on information collected from their energy systems. It uses XML and other open-system protocols to communicate with this equipment. Cisco has inked alliances with at least 20 technology companies that will help it develop integrated solutions that use the device.

For more background on the strategy behind this stuff, here is Cisco Executive Vice President Wim Elfrink in a video that was released with last week's launch.

It should be interesting to see how Cisco brings its tradition network integrator and VAR sales partner channel into this. Most of them have few, if any ties into the sorts of departments where Cisco will need to sell these technologies. Yet, they are the logical channel through which to get this deployed. Indeed, one of my main concerns with many of the corporate sustainability programs that are being adopted by major companies today is that they are islands on themselves and haven't trickled over into key supply chain partners. I know there are many managers that DO have this on their mind, but I wonder how many of Cisco's VARs REALLY care about this stuff right now, given their current economic plightl.

And that brings me to my last point, a disclosure. I do some consulting work with a division of Cisco that is dedicated to forging tighter ties with its sales channel (IT resellers, VARs and so on). Through the relationship, I haven't been involved with anything related to the technology I've just referenced in this posting but I want to make you aware of that relationship, nonetheless.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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