Cisco makes big bet on analytics

Cisco announces plans to expand its business in the growing analytics marketplace, with a focus on moving analytics towards the network's edge.

Cisco CEO John Chambers

Cisco CEO John Chambers

SAN JOSE, CA – Cisco CEO John Chambers says getting his company into analytics is going to be key for the networking vendor to reach its long-stated goal of being the world’s most valuable technology company.

Chambers made the comments at the company’s annual Global Editor’s Conference here, held at the same time as its 30th anniversary collaboration, after walking attendees through some of the company’s biggest hits (voice going digital, connectivity everywhere, big switches for a big Internet) and misses (the Flip video camera) over its history. Thus far, he puts the company’s performance when it comes to analytics in the latter category, calling it “the one area we missed” when it comes to the Internet of Everything story.

In fact, of Cisco’s oft-quoted $19 trillion economic opportunity around the Internet of Everything, Chambers said $7.3 will be derived from the analytics of data that new Internet-connected and pervasive sensors will enable. And in Cisco’s view, an intelligent network is the only way to make it happen.

“We’re talking about bringing together the cloud, the data centre, mobility, security and collaboration, do analytics of data in real time at the edge of the network. Only Cisco can do this,” Chambers said. “The edge is the key to bringing this to life – we’ve got to bring structured and unstructured data together at the edge.”

Edzard Overbeek, services chief at Cisco, said that continuing to rely on centralized data repositories is impractical in a world operating at Internet speed, because of the massive volume of data involved, and because of the speed with which that data must be acted upon – increasingly, as close to real-time as possible.

“Instead of putting data into the analytics engine, you need to bring the analytics to the data – to every network device, to every WiFi connection, to every Ethernet port,” Overbeek said, predicting that the move towards real-time analytics will quickly make up upwards of 80 per cent of the overall analytics opportunity.

The edge becomes important because it’s where the action happens, as Cisco illustrated with several examples at the event here. In retail, for example, the goal is to know when a customer enters the store, cross-reference that with that customer’s buying patterns, and offer a specific promotion to them that matches their individual needs. In sports and entertainment, customers gave examples of how they’re using Big Data to control the fan experience not just at the stadium, but from the time they leave their home to head out to the big game.

Cisco already has components of the analytics business, acquired through a number of acquisitions over the last few years. Those capabilities include the the ability to tap into data wherever it resides, and to gain insights from streaming data in real-time, as well as network analytics capabilities.

But to really get to the value of it, the company will have to start getting more solutions-based and verticalized, and Overbeek suggested the company would expand its business consulting capabilities in key verticals and grow the software capabilities around specific vertical needs. Sports and entertainment is the area where the vision is most fully realized today, he added, but other vertical markets will be brought up to speed quickly.

Chambers described the plans to move towards analytics as part of the company’s ongoing transformation from a networking vendor to “a software services company, a cloud and mobility company,” one that has seen it make security a much more core go-to-market and completely overhaul its collaboration lineup.

“We aren’t there yet, but boy, this is one big step,” Chambers said.

And its one that partners – both “traditional” Cisco partners and those new to Cisco – will participate in. Overbeek said that the company is “working through” the next set of partnerships for the analytics space, and will introduce new partner programs around analytics as it grows the business.