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Cisco becomes a Big Data analytics provider with 'mist' computing

The latest bet for Cisco is big data analytics.

Last week, Cisco celebrated its 30th anniversary. Over the years Cisco has made many big bets to reach the dominant position it is in today. As part of the celebration, Cisco held its first ever Global Editor Conference, using the event to lay out the organization’s vision for the next big bet, and that’s becoming a big data analytics provider.

If this bet pays off, it could be huge for Cisco. CEO John Chambers has reiterated over and over that Cisco has a goal of becoming the industry’s No. 1 IT solution provider, and becoming an analytics provider is certainly another step toward achieving this goal. On Thursday, I dialed into an analyst session on this topic and, as expected, there was a fair amount of skepticism as to why any enterprise would buy analytics from Cisco.

To me, this question is like asking why anyone would buy telephony from Cisco. Or servers. Or cloud applications. The fact is, computing and big data are becoming more network-centric, so IT should care about it more. This is Cisco’s opportunity to innovate and capture share in a new market, like it has done so many times in the past. Additionally, Cisco has beefed up its services organization and data center portfolio to help its customers consume these technologies, a key to all IT vendors today.

See also: 30 years of Cisco: The networking giant's boldest predictions over the years

Cisco’s differentiator is that the analytics tools won’t just be located in the core or edge of a network. Cisco will be pushing analytics all the way out to the extreme edge of a network by having the tools built into its network devices. If the core can be thought of as the cloud and the edge considered the fog, one could think of the extreme edge as being “mist” computing – a more dispersed version of the fog, which is a dispersed version of the cloud.

Cisco’s thesis, which I believe is correct, is that analytics is best done as close to the data as possible. Take for example a retail environment. If the store collects information on a customer and wants to analyze the data and take action, why should that data be backhauled all the way to a cloud resource thousands of miles away, or a fog resource hundreds of miles away? Even tens of miles is too far. Instead, the analytics should be done in the store. This means decisions can be made in seconds instead of hours or even days.

Cisco is calling this “Connected Analysis” for the Internet of Everything, and it’s the connectedness that gives Cisco its edge. Cisco has far more connected touch points in most businesses than any other company, and it can pull data in to be analyzed from its own networked devices (phones, cameras, collaboration endpoints, network devices, etc.) as well as sensors, mobile devices, and other third-party end points.

Cisco is going to market with Connected Analysis with packaged offerings for specific industries, such as retail, travel, or stadiums, or use cases like the ones built around collaboration or mobility.

The Internet of Things is about more than just connecting devices to a common network. The value comes from the collecting of data, analytics done on the data, and the ability to make critical decisions quickly. Cisco’s Connected Analytics strategy is targeted at making this process operate at network speeds. Success here will go a long way toward helping Cisco hit that goal of becoming the No. 1 IT vendor.

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