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The Networked World - 25th Anniversary

John Chambers on the network

By John Chambers, Cisco CEO, Network World
May 09, 2011 06:03 AM ET

Network World - The network is more important today than at any time in history.  In the last 25 years it has had a transformative effect on the way we all live, work, learn and play but I believe it will deliver even greater change in the next decade than it has in the last quarter century.

What gives me the confidence to make that prediction? Let me explain.

Cisco was tiny when Network World first rolled off the presses in 1986. We had just four employees and were still led by our founders out of Stanford. By the time John Morgridge completed his first year as CEO two years later, Cisco was taking off: revenues were $27 million and we had 111 employees.

Read what other living legends of the networking industry had to say

In the eight intervening years before I became CEO in 1995, Cisco grew as quickly as the Internet was growing. We opened for business in Belgium, Brasil, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico and the UK, and added almost 4,000 employees as revenues grew to $1.2 billion.

What was behind that rapid growth? Innovation. Real innovation that solved customer problems. Innovation that started with the Aggregated Services Router in 1986, continued with the introduction of the Catalyst family in 1995, and which continues to this very day with Cisco Unified Fabric innovations.

Innovation is what drives all markets and transforms industries. Network-based innovation has been central to every major computing transition in the last 25 years: from mainframe computing to e-commerce, from Web 2.0 to the advent of the real-time, rich media, interactive social Internet.  And I have no doubt it will also be at the heart of every major computing paradigm for the next decade, from today's emerging cloud computing movement, to the post-PC world of highly virtualized IT infrastructures and mobile computing that follows us wherever we go.

Cisco's mass of acquisitions spawned growth, competition

So how can you prepare your network for the challenges of the next 25 years? You do it by understanding where the network and where business is going.

Ask yourself: do I expect video communications to be as ubiquitous in future as voice calls are today? With 91% of global Internet traffic forecast to be Internet video by 2013, I have no doubt about it. Video will not only transform the way we communicate it will become the base (platform) on which much of the future will be built.

And question not whether the number of users and devices on the network will grow, but how fast. We believe there will be more than 7 billion mobile-connected devices by 2015, nearly equal to the world's projected population at that time. The question won't be: who and what is connected to the network? But rather: who and what isn't connected to the network?

And what about security? Do you expect cyber terrorists and cybercriminals to become even more sophisticated in their attacks? Regrettably, the answer is also 'yes', and a network-centric approach to security will become the only way to holistically protect our networks.

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