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Cisco Looks Ahead to the "Programmable Network"

The world of networking is changing from a collection of devices and platforms to a software-based virtual infrastructure. Venerable hardware vendor Cisco is doing its best to adapt and lead.

Programmable network serversIn sharing my thoughts here over the last three or four years, I’ve had many opportunities to speak to folks inside Cisco Learning. Recently, my most frequent contacts have included Tejas Vashi, Senior Director for Product Strategy and Marketing, and Antonella Corno, Senior Manager for Marketing, both within the Cisco Learning organization.

 

Ms. Corno has just posted some fascinating thoughts to the Talking Tech with Cisco blog that are much worth reading. As usual, the new post shows off her ability to take technology and put it into a business context while continuing to respect the nitty-gritty details that make it work. It’s entitled “Taking Control of the Programmable Network,” and it’s very much worth a read.

 

Here’s a synopsis of what's on her mind, which should encourage you to seek out the full post. It also shows that while Cisco is considered by some to be a bit late in jumping on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV), it’s not because they’ve been ignoring it nor because they’ve not been implementing like mad in the background, either.

 

Ms. Corno sees SDN and NFV as essentially reinventing networking from the ground up, or as she puts it: " ... the network is undergoing a huge change ... This change is just as big as the move from analog to digital. It is the shift away from physical devices — hardware — to software that virtualizes device functions and supports digital innovation."

 

It's probable that this all comes as a bit of a shock for a company that’s been in the hardware business for more than 30 years (Cisco was founded in 1984) — but that isn’t stopping them from jumping in, big-time.

 

After setting the stage, Ms. Corno recites some facts and figures about the SDN market, including a staggering cumulative annual growth rate of 54 percent from 2014 to 2020 (source: IDC). That makes it worth $12.5 billion by 2020, and means that SDN and NFV adoption and deployment has been, is, and will remain both furious and intense for the foreseeable future.

 

She points out that moving into the virtualization dimension with SDN and NFV has important implications for organizations that climb aboard that express train. First, it means that automation must replace manual monitoring and management, so as to be able to keep up and scale along with this all-digital and virtual environment.

 

Second, she observes that analytics become absolutely central to providing insight and intelligence about these kinds of networks, too. This should help explain why Cisco has recently introduced a slate of analytics-focused training, and why it’s rolling out certifications in the area of analytics that are focused on the networking world.