By: Bob Tarzey, Service Director, Quocirca
Published: 3rd February 2011
Copyright Quocirca © 2011
The big themes at Cisco Live, held at London’s Excel exhibition centre this week, were video and security, with a little more light thrown on its Cius IP phone.
Cisco sees video as key to addressing the world’s environmental issues and Europe’s productivity problems. The case made for video included a demonstration of a school teacher speaking to parents about their child’s progress, using a video link to show project work. It also took attendees through a couple of case studies. One was the Spanish Ministry of Justice, using video to put prisoners before judges, without having to attend courts in person (would that fit with habeas corpus elsewhere?) and a live interview with the CIO of Crédit Agricole, who pointed out that if his conservative organisation was adopting video, then its time had really come. Of course, the growing use of video which Cisco espouses has the all-important side benefit of consuming lots more bandwidth, which would mean more sales of its core products, network switches and routers.
The security issue was less about products and more about culture. Cisco does of course have a growing security portfolio, but CEO John Chambers admitted that it has a challenge to become number one or two in the IT security market (as Cisco likes to be in any market it enters). If it is to get there it will need to work on integrating its security products; a demo of the latest version of Any Connect, which can distinguish between users trying to access IT from inside and outside the firewall, used a mix of on-demand and appliance-based content security, both with different policy engines—making it hard to ensure consistency.
On the security culture front, Cisco wants to put security at its core, ensuring that all its internal processes consider security; most importantly product development (including of course software). This sounded similar to Microsoft’s, largely successful, Trustworthy Computing initiative that it introduced in 2003. That focused on privacy, reliability and business integrity, as well as security. It is good that Cisco looks like taking a similar approach but perhaps worrying that it has taken to 2011 to do so.
However, the news that Quocirca found most intriguing was around the new Cius IP phone, which will be launched next month. Chambers demoed this himself during the episode with the school teacher. He dramatically lifted the screen off the top of the phone and—hey-presto—a tablet PC. A further investigation into this Android operating system-based device showed how new the product is to Cisco staff. Eventually we discovered that it did have a soft keyboard and could run applications locally including Open Office, although it was principally aimed at being a mobile interface to the VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure).
The “street price” of the Cius is expected to be in the region of $1,000 and it will be sold to businesses only. So, in this age of IT consumerisation, Cisco seems to be missing the point—with iPads available for about $500 and a fast growing array of Android-based competitive products, mobile employees seem unlikely to be happy about being asked to carry an additional device alongside their preferred personal ones. And, with budgets squeezed it also seems unlikely that schools or courts are going to pay a premium for tablet devices from Cisco, even if they do come with an IP phone docking station.
Cisco talked about plenty else including the progress of its datacentre initiatives and its joint venture with EMC and VMware—the VCE (Virtual Compute Environment) coalition. With all this going on plus the focus on video and security, a half-hearted attempt to enter the tablet market may prove to be an unnecessary distraction.
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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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