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Q&A: Cisco's Ken Boal and Jason Brouwers -- We're now a software and security company

Allan Swann | June 30, 2015
Cisco has changed its focus from routers and switches to software and security. How has that changed the company under the new CEO, and how will it affect its Australian partners?

After a big year for the networking giant, Cisco has seen long standing CEO and industry legend John Chambers step down, and the company has tightly focused on its Intercloud offerings, security and software, via its application of Software Defined Networking (SDN), Cisco ACI (Application Centric Interface).

ARN sat down with Cisco A/NZ's vice president Ken Boal and its director of the partner business group, Jason Brouwers to discuss the company's new direction.

Allan Swann (AS): How is Australia batting in terms of its place inside the Cisco global empire?

Ken Boal (KB): Cisco A/NZ has always batted very well in terms of how its viewed within the global empire. We've used our recent Woolies and DiData rollouts as case studies overseas, for example.

Jason Brouwers (JB): We always ask to be front and centre, to be first on a lot of things. Australia was first with ACI, first with Cloud, we are already very strong with IoT.

KB: What's good for our partners is that we have a very healthy mix -- we aren't reliant on one product category. We've got a great portfolio and our partners are free to play and innovate in multiple areas -- it brings a breadth to our capability locally that we might not see in a Cisco's other countries.

AS: In a networking world that's seeing a lot white label offerings and open source technologies -- why would customers and partners pay a bit more and go with Cisco?

KB: There's no shortage of competition for us across different categories, the competition just takes different forms. If it's not the traditional competitors, there's always a new start up with an innovative or disruptive approach.

In terms of the growth of the white label space, we haven't seen that a lot in Australia. We find that for our partners, it doesn't really solve their problems. If anything, it creates more problems.

They don't want to be mucking around with science projects, building this stuff themselves. It might be okay for a Facebook to go and do that, but for an Australian enterprise or a retailer to be mucking around with white-box and opensource technologies that aren't proven -- its just too high risk for them. They really want to just take it off the shelf.

AS: Speaking of one stop shop and converged solutions, Cisco has its fingers in IBM's Versastack, with Nimble and VMware on Smartstack, Netapp with Flexpod and so on. How well are those projects working for you?

JB: The converged infrastructure story is a huge one for us. It's popular because its a validated design, ready to go. Yes, there will always be times when you need a bespoke solution for specific requirements, but these work well.


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