Cisco winning business without bake-offs

Customers saving time by banking on trust; no thunder from InterCloud

chuck robbins cisco ceo

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins was happy with Q4 results, but the company is slashing its workforce to refocus on the very hottest areas

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

In an effort to save time, customers are increasingly awarding business straight to Cisco without going through months-long “bake-offs” to evaluate solutions from various vendors, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said this week during the company’s reseller partner conference. These customers would rather focus on company business operations than spend as long as three months evaluating trials of different vendor proposals to fulfill their IT requirements, he says.

And it’s becoming a trend, Robbins says.

“What we see is an increasing desire by the IT organizations to spend more time on strategic issues inside of the company relative to what technology does to the future of their business and business models,” Robbins said during a Q&A with reporters at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego. “They have tremendous confidence in our portfolio and what we bring, and we do see customers trying to move more aggressively in this fashion.

“Certain customers will want to do these cross catalog licensing deals and then there are other customers that just want to make a decision from an architectural perspective, that just want this stuff to work, and trust it to work,” Robbins says. “There are other customers that are looking to this partner community to clearly take this complexity off my plate, and (say) let’s build a closer relationship where you integrate all this stuff for us so I don’t have to do it.

“I would suggest that we are seeing a trend where customers are looking to free up some of the IT time, and to the extent that they have that level of confidence in us they see that as an opportunity where they can do it.”

Another big trend at the Cisco Partner Summit was the topic of multi-cloud orchestration, or the ability to coordinate workload mobility between an enterprise’s private cloud and one or more public clouds. Multi-cloud orchestration was a recurring theme in three big Cisco announcements at the conference: its entry into hyperconvergence with HyperFlex; new “cloud scale” Nexus 9000 switches; and the acquisition of multi-cloud orchestrator CliQr.

Multi-cloud sounds a lot like InterCloud, Cisco’s multiple on-premises/off-premises cloud initiative that was trendy at company events a year or two ago. But seldom was heard the InterCloud word at this week’s Partner Summit.

Indeed, we haven’t heard anything about InterCloud from Cisco in the 10 months since Robbins was named CEO, and President and InterCloud evangelist Rob Lloyd was on his way out.

Robbins says InterCloud, which is comprised of five “pillars,” is still around and in various stages of progress. Those five pillars are: building an architecture as a foundation for federated global clouds; offering products “as-a-service”; moving workloads into public clouds with privacy and security; encouraging a global federation of workloads; and creating a marketplace for InterCloud services.

“The first (pillar) is very much on track,” Robbins says. “We’re working deeply with service providers around the world and moving forward as expected.”

The second is a work-in-progress. The as-a-service infrastructure is built but different business units inside of Cisco are at different phases of getting their applications written to it, Robbins says.

“It’s probably taking a little longer than I hoped,” he says.

The third pillar, workload mobility, depends on Cisco’s InterCloud Fabric, software that allows customers to extend their private infrastructure into the cloud through what Robbins calls a VPN tunneling-like capability. But CliQr enables that too, though up the stack with “true” policy, provisioning and security, he says.

Even so, he says InterCloud Fabric and CliQr complement each other.

On the fourth pillar, Robbins says Cisco is the technology provider for an existing federated cross-cloud service offer that “I believe is going to be successful.” And the marketplace for InterCloud services will most likely be various marketplaces instead of, perhaps, an InterCloud app store.

“That hasn’t really become something that I believe is a single destination for enterprises to come buy,” Robbins says, adding that the fourth and fifth pillars of InterCloud are longer term goals than the first three.

But silence shouldn’t be interpreted as abandonment.

“While you haven’t heard me say InterCloud, InterCloud, InterCloud, you also haven’t heard me say IoE, IoE, IoE,” Robbins says, referring to Cisco’s Internet of Everything initiative which is essentially the future of the company. “The underlying strategies haven’t fundamentally changed.”

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