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State of the technology union

Six research executives, together controlling billions of development dollars, examine the changing face of R&D and tell us how the network industry has become more innovative than ever.

By Network World Staff, Network World
June 09, 2003 12:11 AM ET
M. Mazzola

Mario Mazzola
Chief development officer, Cisco

Number of researchers in the organization: More than 860
R&D budget: $3.3 billion for 2003
Number of patents issued in 2002: Unspecified number issued, but Cisco says it files approximately 650 patent applications yearly and it has more than 2,300 pending applications.

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Past "A few years ago, the R&D path was more defined. We had the opportunity not only to combine and repackage technology in a more convenient way, but also to introduce functionality that could create a great deal of value for our customers. There was a clear path involving the development of our hubs and concentrators to switches to provide more bandwidth, dedicated bandwidth and superior routing capability. This technology shift provided many new characteristics - much higher speeds, much higher density and much lower costs."

Present "We are looking at a new innovation wave, which is more fundamental in some respects than previously. Some interesting aspects have to do with support for different types of media and traffic, which has implications in terms of universally supporting quality of service and multicast, for instance. Other aspects have to do with blending security, embedding firewall, VPN capabilities, strong intrusion detection and antivirus prevention. The intention is making it easier to integrate different applications, and to that extent, network intelligence is increasing. Businesses will transform themselves and their information with these intelligent networks.

"The most relevant investments for customers are those taking advantage of the benefits relating to Moore's Law - meaning the rapid evolution of the technology - in a way that also ensures preservation of customer investments. The difference now is a move from point products and a move toward global systems and solutions. It's an exciting time."

Future "We continuously look at new and disruptive technologies, but keeping in mind the important translation into capabilities and characteristics that are relevant to the customer. We focus a great deal now on how to increase productivity - how to make not only the capital equipment, but also the operational cost, more convenient for all of our customers.

"We have defined several areas as new growth opportunity. A major one is in IP telephony, which we started to make investments in a few years ago, and storage and security. We have technologies here and there on the very edge of innovation that don't take the approach of doing basic research like in a Bell Labs. But even though I'm an engineer at heart, I don't believe in force-fitting technology for the sake of technology. I'm more interested in understanding the ways we can bring as much real value as possible to customers."

- Phil Hochmuth


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R. Lampman

Richard Lampman
Senior vice president of research, HP Labs

Number of researchers in the organization: 750
R&D budget: Undisclosed
Number of patents issued in 2002: 1,385, including those obtained from work done at Compaq.

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Past "In the past, many corporate research labs had indirect visions. They pursued technology work without understanding what the result would be. When competitive pressure increased, people realized that labs had to be a real contributor to the business. This forced many research labs into painful transitions in the past 10 to 12 years.

"At HP, there have been three disruptive technologies. The first was ink-jet printing, taken for granted now. It started here and was an uphill struggle for awhile. But ultimately, business people got excited about the technology, and it created this huge success for us. The second was the program that got HP into Reduced Instruction Set Computing processors - the discontinuity that moved HP into the first tier as a computer company. That technology was controversial, too, because we had many existing products that had to change. The third is the Itanium processor technology. It is emerging from the 'Is it going to happen?' stage to 'It is starting to happen' phase."

Present "Itanium, which has the potential to shake the whole computer industry, is a strategy we've pursued for the last couple of years. When you look at the potential for building chips with hundreds of millions or billions of transistors on it, the best way to use that silicon shifts. That's a lot of what drove our early theory about what ultimately became Itanium.

"We always have existed to look beyond the current product horizon, to develop technologies that give HP competitive benefit and give our customers an advantage. Chip technologies, such as silicon-on-insulator or copper metallurgy of a couple of years ago, had pretty long development cycles. There's still a lot of variation, but across the board, development cycles have gotten tighter. We have a range of things from some with short cycles to some that are quite long. Architectural issues, such as a new CPU, are in the middle, and software has the shortest cycle. All continue to accelerate in terms of the velocity at which we work."

Future "Look at the use of virtual resources in the data center, a hot topic. That has been a rapid development cycle for us, and we have an extremely strong position in it as the result of focused work over a few years and in the labs over a short cycle. You can win in either [development] game and build value. It's about getting the right tool for the job. Even on our longest-range programs, those people have a clear vision of 'If we can do this, it would create an opportunity for HP.' It is motivational for people to imagine how their work could be used."

- Deni Connor

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