CEO John Chambers Says Big Data Tech Will One Day Come Running Into Cisco's Arms

John Chambers

Cisco CEO John Chambers, who leads the world’s largest networking equipment company, is pretty pumped up about the notion of billions of Internet-connected devices, known as The Internet Of Things (IoT).

That’s because analysing all the data these devices collect, and then figuring out if it contains anything valuable, is a tough engineering challenge.

There’s plenty of big data companies right now, attacking the problem, often through software and sometimes through hardware.

Chambers is trying to sell a vision of big data in which the tech is included in, and dependent on, network hardware in order to be successful. That’s an interesting and self-serving, perspective.

“You can’t ship the information from 50 billion devices all the way up the line [in software],” Chambers told The New York Times‘ Quentin Hardy last week.

Cisco has moved beyond networking in recent years, now selling servers, security, software and services.

Chambers has declared that Cisco is now an “IT company” like IBM, rather than just a network hardware player, insisting that  it can do it all, while rivals are finding networking a tough field to crack into, Chambers told Hardy. 

“The IT players are trying to come into the network, and we’re becoming one of the world’s big server players. The two are collapsing into each other,” Chambers said in The New York Times interview. 

This isn’t new rhetoric for Chambers; nearly every time a new tech trend emerges, he predicts it will someday be part of the network, and that Cisco will be its de facto leader.

Still, he needs to create a new image for Cisco, because others see the reverse happening: that networking is becoming a software thing, not a hardware thing. An emerging technology called software-defined networking could take a bite of Cisco’s networking business. SDN puts the high-end control features in switches and routers into software that can run on cheaper network hardware.

Still, Cisco is doing well in the server market. Its Unified Computing System product line is about a $2 billion a year business, Morgan Stanley analysts estimate. It’s a product that marries networking, compute power and storage.

So maybe big data will also get married to networking equipment, as Chambers envisions.

But we’ll see.

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