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Chambers pushes Cisco network architecture over products at C-Scape '08

CEO John Chambers is again pushing network architecture -- not products -- in the move toward collaboration and Web 2.0.

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers promised once again on Tuesday that the company will lead innovation (and sales) in Web 2.0 and collaboration by creating one network architecture to tie together multimedia applications.

Cisco will also focus more resources on consumers this year, enabling high-end content delivery to essentially any device, Chambers said during a kick-off speech at the company's annual C-Scape event in San Jose.

C-Scape 2008 on Tuesday and Wednesday was limited to a small number of analysts and offered via webcast to most journalists, who generally used to attend in person. In November, Chambers promised to cut Cisco's expenses by $1 billion, and the company has already cancelled the November Women's Leadership Forum and the August 2009 Global Sales Meeting.

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Chambers said Cisco will usher in a transition in technology "scarily similar" to one in the mid-1990s, when it chose to combine sales of routers and switches in the push for "end-to-end" networks. This time, the vendor is working to combine applications like Twitter, Facebook, WebEx, unified communications (UC), video and IP telephony into a seamless collaboration package enabled by a single architecture.

He claimed Cisco will make the network intelligent enough to provide these applications to any device -- set top box, PC, handheld -- without the end user ever knowing where the content resides.

In fact, Chambers' words this year did not stray far from his keynote at C-Scape 2006, where he also promised to ease networking of video and telepresence.

Products align with Cisco's network architecture

Cisco's launch this week of the MediaNet initiative plays right into Chamber's outlook. The goal of the effort is to help enterprises and service providers build networks that can better deliver video and multimedia. The central part of the release is the Cisco Media Experience Engine 3000, an appliance that automatically formats media for the appropriate device screen. But the initiative also relies on a video module in the new ASR 9000 router released in November. The Advanced Video Services Module enables terabytes of streaming capacity at the aggregation edge while allowing content caching, ad insertion and channel change for television-like delivery.

The initiative is a no-brainer for service providers, who are scrambling to enable consumer content from YouTube to IP-based television delivery as quickly as demand is rising.

"We think the time has come for Cisco to make a huge play in the home," Chambers said. The company will free up resources from other areas in the company to accomplish this. He also stressed that Cisco had already signed with two of the biggest sports franchises, the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. With those deals, Cisco plans to enable ballpark-like content right in the home.

And in the enterprise, Cisco is banking on the idea that businesses will become as dependent on video as consumers. Of course, should this happen, Cisco will sell lots more routers and switches to build the necessary bandwidth -- making the company just as much a product-driven organization as one focused on architecture.

For its part, Cisco has already proven how collaboration and Web 2.0 can work within its own walls. Chambers demonstrated Cisco's internal Web 2.0 and collaboration system by pulling up a Facebook-style "MyCisco" intranet page showing an employee's name and photo. It also featured her blog, recent wiki entries, messages and other corporate activities, as well as the ability to locate and contact her.

Chambers also launched a telepresence session with a digital signage expert in Madrid and was able to have a multilingual conversation, with an automatic translator turning the expert's Spanish into English. The translation service is a telepresence upgrade and will be available in 20 languages within the year.

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