A look back at Cisco in 2008; What to expect from Cisco in 2009

We at Cisco Subnet have watched and commented on Cisco tirelessly this year and we're looking forward to another year of Cisco-watching. Let's recap on the highlights of the year and take a look ahead to what to expect from the networking giant in 2009. We'll recap on how it did in the security and data center sectors, and discuss its ambitions in the consumer space. We'll also take a look at the state of the CCIE market. CISCO AND SECURITY: MUST TRY HARDER BUT A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY LIES AHEADsignificant marketshare in security, but a recent Gartner report on the enterprise network firewalls space indicates that Cisco is rarely considered by companies researching security tools unless they are already Cisco customers. In addition, Cisco MARS, which was praised by some pundits last year has either fallen out of favor among Cisco's own sales reps or they are talked up too much by some Cisco reps and the product fails to live up to customers' expectations.

Most pundits recognize that Cisco has

However, Cisco's standalone security appliances fared quite well against its rivals' equipment in NSS Labs tests, which included simulation of perimeter, internal network and e-commerce.

Cisco has a good chance to shine brighter in the enterprise security stakes as customers are looking to have a strategic vendor in security, and Cisco was the first choice -- the second being Microsoft, according to Nemertes Research, as reported in Ellen Messmer's analysis of Cisco's security profile. Best-of-breed is old hat, apparently. However, some observers don't believe Cisco is integrated enough. Customers are stuck managing the security functions from different consoles anyway even if it's inside the switch or router, notes Richard Stiennon, analyst with consultancy IT-Harvest is cited as saying in the analysis.

CISCO AND THE DATA CENTER: WATCH OUT FOR FIREWORKS

Cisco is poised make some big news in the data center world in January when it is expected to launch a server blade that will compete with hardware from established data center providers IBM, HP and Dell. And Cisco has enlisted the help of some key players, including management vendor BMC, which according to this story by Network World's Jim Duffy, will supply management and computing intelligence in the server blade, codenamed California.

Duffy cites sources who say the BMC piece is so important to Cisco that it may even acquire all or parts of the management company.

Such as acquisition would also address Cisco CEO John Chambers' frustration with the state of Cisco network management. Another consideration is BMC's 2008 purchase of BladeLogic, a developer of data center automation tools. BladeLogic was one of the most highly-sought prizes by management vendors, IBM and EMC, and helped put BMC on track to better compete with HP, IBM and EMC, notes Denise Dubie in her Network/Systems Management newsletter.

While the thought of Cisco competing head-on with data center giants IBM and HP make good headlines, could Cisco be looking at a more targeted application for those blade servers, muses Jeff Caruso in his Network Architecture newsletter. Cisco at its recent C-Scape analysts conference dropped hints about providing technologies that address the "seams" between servers, switches and storage devices.

Expect Cisco to continue talking up virtualization and cloud computing next year. And talk is mostly what it has been doing - especially in the cloud computing space. Even as late as August, bloggers were still foggy about Cisco and cloud services, but in a podcast interview with Cisco Subnet blogger Mark Lewis in November, Doug Gourlay, senior director of marketing and product management for Cisco's data center business, detailed what Cisco is and isn't interested in about cloud computing.

He said Cisco's interest in cloud computing doesn't involve becoming an IT services provider and selling its infrastructure capacity in the same way Amazon does with its EC2 service offering. Rather, Cisco is developing infrastructure tools to enable third-parties to offer cloud-based IT services. Listen to that podcast here.

Looking forward to 2009, Rajiv Ramaswami, VP and general manager of Cisco's data center business unit said: "In 2009 enterprise organizations will focus on cutting through the hype of cloud computing, starting to put some hard edges on the vision of the cloud. They will seek answers on implementation, management, enforcing policies, and evaluating cost effectiveness."

Of virtualization, Ramaswami said: "We expect to see both broader adoption of virtualization and also more sophisticated use of virtualization in the data center. Cisco expects to see greater depth added to virtualization as a solution addressing areas like networking, security, L4-7 and management - -that is certainly in our plans. In addition we are also seeing the soft economy pushing customers to consider virtualization when previously it was not on their radar.  IT organizations will also evolve their views of virtualization from 'server virtualization' to a wide set of virtualization technologies in order to increase efficiency and agility of IT assets: desktops, network infrastructure, storage and applications themselves."

CISCO AND THE CONSUMER: YOUR 2009 SHOPPING LIST - MILK, SUGAR, CISCO TELEPRESENCE?same thing in 2007, but technology has changed and networking can help consumers do things three times faster than they could in the mid-1990s, noted John Chambers at Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference in December.

Cisco says it is is going to make it big in the home in 2009. OK, it said the

TelePresence is one tool that Cisco will push into the consumer space over the coming months. The coming of TelePresence in the home began in May 2008 when Cisco launched a $34,000 TelePresence 500 system for use in individual offices (the price led Microsoft UC blogger Moz Hussain to quip "Should I buy this or the helicopter?").

On the other hand, Cisco is said to be readying a $1,000 consumer-grade TelePresence system that's expected to be launched at CES at the beginning of January. Cisco was first reported to be working on the consumer-grade version in 2007 and it was thought that such a system wouldn't be launched for another two or three years.

Cisco's HD technologies will also get showcased in sports stadiums in 2009. Cisco plans to saturate Yankee Stadium with more than 1,000 high-def screens, which are not TVs but IPTV monitors. Not only will fans not miss a second, but they will also gain brand new services, similar to what digital video recorders did for live TV. Cisco is also building Cisco Field, a new 226-acre ballpark for the (Oakland) A's in Fremont, Calif. And you can bet your bottom dollar that it'll be full to the gills with Cisco technologies.

Cisco's Linksys was hardly in any of the news reports out of C-Scape. The news of the Linksys brand was a hot topic in 2007 and in April this year, a top Cisco exec for small businesses said the brand may disappear sooner than expected. In August, Cisco combined the engineering teams for all its SMB products, forming a single group to develop products for the Cisco and Linksys brands.

Cisco will likely find it tough going in the consumer space - especially if the Linksys brand is going way. In a recent poll by ABI Research of 1,001 tech-savvy adults, respondents said they were most familiar with Microsoft and Sony. Cisco trailed behind with Cox and Comcast as the least-recognized consumer brands.

CISCO AND THE GREEN MILE: THE REAL MOTIVES OF ECO-FRIENDLY CISCO?alternative to costly air travel? There are also the corporate efforts to reduce Cisco's carbon footprint to talk about, as well as Cisco's work to turn cities green with its Connected Urban Development movement.

The down economy is an up economy for Cisco marketing folks. Why feel glum about the economy when you can use it to your advantage and push TelePresence as the

Green will also be the watchword for Cisco's "evolution" of its switching portfolio. Marie Hattar, vice president of network systems and security solutions at Cisco told Network World's Jim Duffy that its "Big Bang" switching upgrade - expected late January - will be "tied to green capabilities, and how the network really enables those types of capabilities."

WILL CCIES REMAIN TOP DOGS?not up to par. The program will be made available through select authorized Cisco Learning Partners - one of the first being Netmaster Class - and consist of pre-assessments, six online classes. A few weeks later, two well-known independent CCIE training labs, IPexpert and Internetwork Expert publicly detailed the reasons why they declined to join 360, and why they believe the program is flawed.

Cisco put the cat among the pigeons when it launched its own CCIE Router and Switching training program, Cisco 360 to compete with independent bootcamps that Cisco claims are

The CCIE designation is for an elite group for network professionals who've passed Cisco's toughest exams - and can command the salaries to show it. But is there a danger of the designation becoming a commodity as Cisco pushes 360 and its Global Talent Acceleration program into China, India, and other emerging markets?

Already, China and India have been beating out the United States in CCIE count growth. As reported by blogger Brad Reese in November, of the 367 new CCIEs that were minted between Oct. 10 and Nov. 24, 110 came from China and Hong Kong, while 49 came from India. The U.S. came in third in the CCIEs by country ranking, minting 43 new CCIEs during the same period.

Cisco has also made it easier for candidates to take the 3-hour lab exam by introducing a mobile lab program available worldwide.

What does this all mean to U.S. CCIEs and their salaries? Would employers still be willing to pay a premimium if they knew they could outsource the same work to CCIEs elsewhere around the globe? (Check out the CCIE Buzz blog for more CCIE discussions written by CCIE candidates.)

For more about Cisco in 2009, see Cisco revs up competition with '09 blade plans, security moves 

Cisco Subnet will be taking a break next week (12/22) for the holidays. We thank you for reading Cisco Subnet this year and we wish you and family a warm and festive holiday season.

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