RSA: Chambers Takes Cisco Beyond Change

SAN FRANCISCO — Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers said the only constant about the security industry is that it will change.

“We talk about protecting against viruses, phishing attacks, spyware and malware today, but there will be a whole new set of terms for network threats in about five years,” Chambers said during his keynote at the RSA Security Conference here this week. “You cannot predict who, where or when, but you can predict how. And you can predict how these components relate to each other.”

John Chambers
John Chambers
Source: Cisco

That’s why the executive of the largest provider of Internet networking equipment is transitioning his company from a pure-play hardware and software provider to an overall “solutions” provider.

“We are moving from the intelligent network movement to one that is based on virtualization,” Chambers said. “There will be a time when you will have no idea if the data on your laptop or handheld device was processed or stored there or on a network somewhere else. So the security implications are pretty broad.”

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Chambers said currently his company is addressing the transition by focusing on three areas: IP as the overall framework, consolidation of voice and video and the expanded role of security.

“We will be acquiring aggressively and partnering aggressively,” Chambers said, noting about a dozen purchases Cisco has done in the last few years. Chambers tempered the company’s reputation as an acquisition machine by saying he hopes to develop internally about two-thirds of its own security-related products.

In that vein, Chambers highlighted a completely new phasein Cisco’s “Self-Defending Network” initiative. The new portfolio, called “Adaptive Threat Defense,” initially launched 10 new products and corresponding services this week to prepare for future multi-level attacks.

The CEO said work on the latest phase started close to seven years ago and caused a lot of controversy within Cisco’s management.

“There were those that said we should approach it in terms of offering separate products because that is where our competition is going,” Chambers said. “The alternative was to architect an integrated system that needed to be self defending and does not require human intervention.”

Cisco also announced a new Cisco Powered Network certification Wednesday. The program is focused on helping companies converge voice and data networks and evaluating managed virtual private network (VPN) providers. The new certification requires an annual third-party, on-site assessment to validate recommended levels of network performance (including latency, jitter and packet loss) and customer support.

Chambers noted, however, that educating the way customers prepare for security threats is just as important, no matter how good the technology.

“If you change the technology but you don’t change the underlying business, or government and educational processes, then you haven’t changed a thing,” Chambers said.

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