Cisco's Chambers: Cloud computing a security 'nightmare'

Cisco is one of the companies with a lot riding on cloud computing, and one of its big proponents. Why then, would Cisco reveal the security horrors behind it?

That's exactly what CEO John Chambers did this week during his keynote address at the RSA conference in San Francisco, as chronicled by colleague Tim Greene and IDG New Service's Robert McMillan.

In his address, Chambers acknowledged he was excited about the opportunities cloud computing opened up for Cisco. But he also said that "It is a security nightmare and it can't be handled in traditional ways."

This isn't the first time Cisco seemingly shot its ambitions in the foot with scary proclamations around a computing trend it's banking heavily on for future growth. At the Interop New York conference last year, Marie Hattar, Cisco's vice president of network systems and security solutions, also raised the red flag on cloud security:

"A hypervisor needs hypersecurity. We have to rethink our security approach because when we virtualized, it increased complexity. In cyberspace, there are a lot more points of entry."  

Perhaps Cisco is using scare tactics to try to stoke demand for its cloud security products and services unveiled at RSA this week. But the company also runs the risk of scaring enterprises away from cloud computing or significantly delaying its adoption.

Whatever the intent, Cisco is walking a fine line. In an environment where spending is drastically cut, one would think the company would spin the economic virtues of cloud computing -- not emphasize the dangers.

The again, demand creation means convincing -- or frightening -- customers into buying what they think they need. And if anything can goose IT spending when there is none, it's securing corporate information and its infrastructure.

So in cautioning enterprises on the challenges of a new computing trend, Cisco is actually encouraging them to make the leap, but to do so by also buying some of the add-ons to help safeguard the new infrastructure. Sometimes it's the only way to get customers to spend when they aren't.  

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