Cisco Pledges Networking Innovation Built on Open Standards and Open Source

By Sean Michael Kerner | Dec 7, 2012 | Print this Page
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At Cisco's Financial Analyst meeting today, CEO John Chambers articulated his plan to innovate and grow. It's a plan with multiple components, including leveraging more networking programmability and Software Defined Networking (SDN).

"Innovation is no longer about a product," Chambers said. "Innovation is about how you architecturally play together and how you bring services in to solve customer problems."

Chambers added that his company remains a fierce competitor, but that he will continue to leverage a partner ecosystem.

"Everything we are going to do will be in an open standards and open source direction at the base level," Chambers said. "We will clearly add value on top of it."

A key part of Cisco's innovation path revolves around the company's Cisco ONE effort. Cisco ONE was first announced in June of this year as broad company initiative to provide network programmability and SDN across the Cisco product portfolio.

David Ward, CTO of Engineering and Chief Architect at Cisco noted that in his view there is a clear objective for Cisco's SDN efforts.

"Our goal right now is to make network operations go as fast as system administrators," Ward said.

Going a step further, he added that when networking information is made available to developers, service guarantees can be tied to the application performance on the network. Ward said that programmatic interfaces to the network are an augmentation of what Cisco already does.

"For our portfolio, given the capabilities of our ASICS and operating systems, this is a software upgrade to get those programmatic interfaces," Ward said.

Standards

Cisco's overall SDN approach also leverages the use of industry standards. Ward is no stranger to the OpenFlow standard, and is an active participant in the Open Networking Foundation that develops the standard.

"Standards are a means to an end and not the end," Ward said. "The key thing that we can do is to continue to extend the protocols and use a modular protocol design to do whatever it is we need to do."

Ward noted that while Cisco embraces standards, in some cases they will push ahead on their own first as the standardization process can take multiple years.

"My religion, if I have one, is the right tool for the right job and making sure we can get that tool across the portfolio as fast as possible," Ward said. "That's why the One PK (Platform Kit) is so critical. We now have the ability to take any protocol, build it as a client and boom it's available across the portfolio."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.