Network giant Cisco is now an end-to-end holistic enterprise vendor with a great focus on security, cloud, apps and other blocks of modern infra of digital businesses. Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India & SAARC speaks about the company’s focus areas including the impetus for security for 2018. Edited Excerpts.
Everyone is talking about the digital transformation which is more of a journey than a single product pitch. What buckets of Cisco’s portfolio fit fine with this industry trend and why?
It is the digital transformation or digital disruption which has been happening for some time. Some CIOs saw that much ahead of their peers. CIOs who saw it and embraced very early like BYOD, then private cloud, public cloud. And now the more focus on security and now SDDC. Now it is more about how to reduce dependencies on people to serve your internal and external customers.
Cisco has been on this transformation journey for a while now and the heartening thing is that all our strategic priorities are bearing fruit. Last quarter (JAS 2017) global results were healthy. An important measure is our deferred revenues growing on healthy double digits on both - products and services. Another prime measure is our recurring revenue from software and subscriptions that has grown at approx. 37% and which is now a 5.2 billion dollar business. The defered revenues growing at 32% and increase in software recurring subscription is a good measure of Cisco’s successful journey in the past three years.
Besides being focused on managing the infra, we are focused on apps. CIOs have a huge number of apps – some are extremely critical and some are peripheral in nature. Which apps should go where and how are they functioning in terms of intelligence of apps? AppDynamics was a massive acquisition by Cisco which gives us edge into application analytics and app performance management (APM). Things have been moving over past five-six years in the digital transformation phase; but now all the things or trends are coming together. And I think that’s the perfect storm facing the CIOs.
“Software-defined is clearly the way forward to deploy and manage the networks from both policy and analytics perspective. The year of 2017 and now 2018 will be the year of SDN.”
Sameer Garde, President, Cisco India & SAARC
Cisco too is now a holistic end-to-end tech vendor than just a network vendor. Which are the five big initiatives that Cisco will focus more in 2018 and why?
Cisco is at the front and center of technology and the changes in the tech world. The launch of Intuitive Network in June 2017 includes Cisco software-defined access and Cisco DNA center. It is managing the network more through software and to make it more intuitive in terms of data due to the explosive proliferation of data with a number of devices globally.
Secondly, there is fear that everything will go on the public cloud; but that is not the reality. Most customers are on hybrid cloud or multi-cloud. Within public, there will be multiple players and we are very clear that managing that complexity of multi-cloud will be important. Cisco's recent announcement with Google globally revolves around deploying and managing resources both on the private (on-prem cloud) and public cloud.
Security is super critical with many devices, and growing in and outside the network. Cisco is now a very large-- approx. 2.3 billion dollar-- security company with more than 5000 security engineers across the globe. We have made a significant investment in many acquisitions in cybersecurity space.
Managing the data through our practice around datacentre both from switching and servers. We have moved our focus significantly on software required to manage DC towards the reality of SDN and SDDC with ACI, tetration platform, more analytics, and more policy management from software layer perspective. Finally, customer experience is the key in the modern world and the experience of meetings through telepresence and single touch is a good example.
Key Pain points of IT leaders in India: Sameer Garde, Cisco
1. Manage huge proliferation of devices and their types, and exploding data.
2. Mitigate security threat surface that has become multi-vector and scarier.
3. Understand internal and external customers business in the digital era.
4. Find the right skillsets for the emerging technologies like AI, ML, DL, and IoT.
Security is an integral part of any tech giant’s enterprise portfolio. Isn’t the security market already too crowded for Cisco to make strong imprints?
At the customer end, there are anywhere between 15 to 20 security vendors that CISOs or CIOs have to deal with whether from the endpoint or network point. There is no ‘one throat to choke’, especially in case of incident or event wherein there is finger pointing among the security vendors. Our firm belief is CISOs should align with an end-to-end solutions provider and reduce those dependencies on dozen-plus vendors. Have one throat to choke to enable your business at firewall level or endpoint, whether DC or cloud.
We have integrated the security components in our network. The most important part of security is visibility and then eventually you can have more remediation and better protection. On visibility side, we acquired Lancope. Cisco Talos threat intelligence service has over16 billion web requests go through it and more than 35% of worldwide emails go through it. Cisco has the right base and right strategy to go to customers as a strong security vendor. Globally we are singing ELA - enterprise license agreement - for end to end security solutions which nobody else can do in the market. Its long-term and multiyear contracts explain our growth in deferred revenues and subscriptions.
Do you actually see 2018 as the year of SDN and SDDC because companies do need a fair bit of hardware chunks in their IT infra?
We launched Cisco catalyst 9000 series of switches which is purpose-built for full fabric control with Cisco DNA and SD Access, and delivers the great performance and an intuitive, automated network. Around software defined access switching in June of 2017 and within the first four months we had over 1100 customers globally adopting it. It comes with base software on it. That’s pretty rapid. In India, we have around 100 customers in less than three months. Software-defined is clearly the way forward, deploy and manage both policy analytics and networks. The year of 2017 and now 2018 will be the year of SDN. We have fallen back in love with networks.
What are typical pain points of Indian CIOs and CTOs and how will Cisco come to their rescue and solve their business and tech challenges?
Number one is the proliferation of devices and data. China has double the number of smartphone users than India; but India consumes more data that China – anywhere above 4GB per user per month.
And then proliferation of devices and the data and devices it goes through the network. Criticality of the network for CIOs to manage in a way automated, orchestrated easily and at the lowest cost from a people perspective. Earlier they could throw people to manage a large network. Automation and orchestration have made it more software-defined which can be managed by very few people, and those extra resources can be redeployed to manage more critical projects.
Security continues to be a challenge because threats have larger surface because of increase in the number of devices and type of devices. CISOS and CIOs are concerned about how they understand their internal and external customers business and how they are willing to support them. This was not the case, say, five years ago.
Skillsets of people is another challenge, especially around AI, DL, ML, Robotics, and IoT, because all these require different skillsets.
Cisco’s 5 big bets for 2018
1. Integrated Security
2. Hybrid & Multi-cloud
3. Internet of Things
4. SDN & SDDC
5. App control
Skillsets shortage in DevOps –critical to Dx economy – is expected to be huge challenge for CIO team in India?
Having the right skillsets in both development and gathering the information from the users and capturing the right specs has always been the critical part of development of software. Combining those two and making them more agile is the new mantra for digital. You need to have the right analytics at user end and infra end. The software needs to interact and help the user to quickly and frequently get the information. With Application dynamics solutions we can capture that information on dynamics basis and at the level of Infra on dc or network side. We have Cisco tetration platform, security analytics which can then interact with software and give DevOps the right inputs.
How will Cisco engage with its channel partners in 2018 and what will be the key tech focus areas?
We are significantly committed to channels as a critical part of the ecosystem with more than 95% of Cisco business in India executed through them. It is about building a partner ecosystem that brings complementary skills to the table. Areas like IoT, smart cities and the new areas we are getting into multi-cloud management and software requires a new ecosystem of partners. At the same time, our existing strong channel partners have transformed as they get into software and build skill sets for new technologies. With GST, demonetization, and financial inclusion plan, digital is becoming more pervasive. That is driving adoption of digital technologies by a large number of commercial customers and smaller customers. This can be a good business opportunity for our partners.