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Cisco working on an IT simplification platform

In five years, it will more easily tie applications and network services; onePK is Phase 1

Cisco is developing a "platform" to simplify IT operations over the next five years by better aligning applications and business processes.

"We are in the process of building a platform in the next five years that will simplify how IT is delivered in our vision of potentially becoming the leader in IT," said Rob Lloyd, Cisco president of development and sales, in a TelePresence roundtable session with technology reporters. "We think the network can compress much of the complexity that exists in handing off infrastructure to applications and business process."

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The platform will provide a consistent set of network service calls, requested and delivered through northbound and southbound APIs, to streamline the capability of an application to call a network service, such as encryption or QoS, Lloyd said.

The initial phase of the platform is Cisco's onePK API set, which it introduced last year to instill programmability into the company's three strategic operating systems - IOS, IOS XR and NX-OS. The goal is to provide customers with a toolkit and a set of services so that "they don't have to buy anything else" to link applications to physical and virtual network resources in their IT environment, Lloyd said.

"It starts with onePK and services to use onePK," Lloyd said. "We're painting a very long term vision. The short term part of that is the onePK toolkit. That's Phase 1. But there's a lot more to this than just APIs. This is a big vision, this is a big step."

Cisco will release more details and specifics of onePK in a few weeks, Lloyd said.

Lloyd says Cisco views an opportunity in creating a platform that simplifies what happens between applications and the data center, through access to network intelligence that will form the basis of application services. But in addition to switches, routers and servers, that data center also includes storage arrays, applications and other components that Cisco does not currently own.

Lloyd wasted no time in dispelling notions of Cisco owning storage despite reports of Cisco taking a silent stake in Flash storage company Whiptail.

"Our strategy in storage is to partner," he said. "We are adamant that we will partner in storage."

Cisco, however, does plan to double software revenue over the next five years, from $6 billion now to $12 billion. It won't do it through a huge acquisition of an application developer, but rather though purchases and internal development of application platforms that enable linkage between the application and the network.

"We're not going to buy salesforce.com, we're not going to buy SAP," Lloyd said. "We're going to buy the things that are relevant to creating and exposing the intelligence of the network up to the communications applications and other apps, both traditional and new, that we think the network can support and transform."

Case in point: of the last 11 acquisitions Cisco's made, 10 have been software companies, said Pankaj Patel, executive vice president and chief development officer. They include BroadHop, a developer of network management servers and software for carriers; Cariden, a maker of network planning, design and traffic management software for service providers; Cloupia, which develops products for automating data center operations for the deployment and configuration of physical and virtual resources; and Meraki, for cloud based management of wireless LAN, security appliances, and mobile devices.

Cisco is also aiming to improve software licensing and be an easier company to license from, Lloyd said. It's heard the cry from users of its enterprise collaboration software that licensing must be simplified.

"We're hearing from customers and partners that separate licensing (for different collaboration applications) should be combined," Lloyd said. "We're looking to compress the number of licensing and renewal schemes to create a much more consistent experience."

This licensing compression will begin with collaboration and then expand to other product lines and markets, Lloyd said. Rival Juniper plans to revamp its software licensing around an enterprise model too, given the advent of software-defined networking.

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