Cisco analyst conference mulls super fast pipes vs. highly functional nets

* Thoughts from Cisco analyst conference

Last time, we discussed Avaya’s recent analyst conference and today we’ll talk about Cisco’s conference held last month.

We have been attending Cisco’s annual analyst conference for roughly 10 years. Up until 2006, each conference was comprised of a series of Cisco executives describing their area of expertise. While that is truly interesting the first few times you attend, after a while that format becomes a bit staid.

Last year’s conference started out like all of the preceding conferences. The first session, as usual, featured CEO John Chambers who reviewed Cisco’s overall strategy. The next session was delivered by Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco’s chief development officer, who discussed Cisco’s vision of the network as a platform.

You knew things were going to be different when the third speaker up on stage was John Gallant, Network World president and editorial director, who was there to moderate a panel discussion. Not only is John not from Cisco, three of the four panelists were also not from the vendor company.

Two of the panelists were particularly interesting: Shai Agassi, president of product and technology for SAP, and Aber Whitcomb, CTO at MySpace. Shai, who was dressed in a very expensive suit and tie, represented the Web 1.0 world while Aber, who was not wearing a suit and tie, represented the Web 2.0 world. In addition to how they were dressed, another possible difference between the Web 1.0 and the Web 2.0 worlds surfaced when John asked each of them which approach to networking they preferred – that the network should be highly functionality or that the network does not need to be highly functional as long as it is really fast.

There were no surprises in their answers. Shai was quite clear that SAP believes that a highly functional network is the way to go and Aber was equally clear in stating that all he wants is blazingly fast pipes.

We appreciate Cisco having the courage to interject some controversy into its analyst conference. For the record, we certainly believe that blazingly fast pipes do indeed alleviate a lot of problems. However, we have written extensively about the poor performance of chatty applications. Since no amount of bandwidth is going to make these applications perform well, we draw an obvious conclusion to the question of fat pipes vs. intelligent pipes. That conclusion is that the right approach depends on the problem that you are trying to solve.

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