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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?

AS: Are you concerned that these hybrid 'Cloud-in-a-box' solutions are cutting out the channel, specifically the systems integrators role? Do you get any push back there?

KB: I'd say none at all. Our partners and customers are happy to produce faster outcomes with the converged infrastructure. It's more profitable, and its lower risk for partners. The real differentiator, for the partners, is the over the top stuff.

We have seen examples of where the partners have tried to stick this stuff together themselves, and it's just too difficult and messy. These solutions are tried and tested, and off the shelf. They know if there are any issues there is a single large company they can go back to get it fixed or replaced easily.

We're focusing on getting the hardware and the software to work better together. All the different bits inside the data centre working better together, whether it's the firewalls the load balancers, the hypervisor, the storage, whatever. This is where our implementation of SDN, ACI, comes in. It makes everything work better together -- no just in the bundles and the stacks, but the individual elements across the board.

That's the problem customers from Woolworths' of the world, down to the SMBs, all have. We want to simplify how our partners and customers consume our products.

AS: There has been a lot of talk about the commoditisation of the physical network, if your partners are providing the OTT, what keeps Cisco relevant in the piece?

KB: It's something that we've handled pretty well over the years. Look if we don't drive innovation and new capabilities into our network then we deserve to be commoditised.

JB: That play around having the network as a sensor is a very powerful message. Cisco as a full security play, rather than just point security products. No other security vendor can match that.

The good news is, with the network as a sensor - as an enforcer -- it becomes a true security weapon.

That's an example of the work we're putting into the network to make it smarter -- that avoids commoditisation. The other vendors can go down the path of the network being dumb pipes - that's not our model.

The feedback from partners and customers is that they value that intelligence. And we're holding out, if not growing our market share, in most of the network categories.

AS: So how does that work when you partner with vendors like Checkpoint, whom you compete with in the security space? Or Palo Alto and FireEye?

We're absolutely competitors to those guys, but we have to work in an open environment with our customers. Yes, we'd prefer our customers worked with us in an end-to-end architecture - Cisco for the firewall, intrusion prevention, gateways, emails, the Web filtering... all these pieces work together as an architecture. That's what we will always advocate for.


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