Cisco’s Attempts to Fix Itself Revealed (Sort Of)

John Chambers, Cisco CEO

John Chambers, Cisco

Cisco on Thursday laid out its plans for reorganizing the company to focus on five main business areas, a move that was expected since April, when CEO John Chambers posted a memo explaining how Cisco could turn itself around.

It’s good that Cisco is taking strides. But the information the company shared today doesn’t provide a lot of transparency, nor does it engender a lot of confidence about Cisco focusing on the big threat to its networking business — namely, the idea that networking itself is changing, becoming flatter and will be less indebted to the proprietary-software reliant, high-cost gear that Cisco sells.

As stated in April the company will focus on five businesses:

  • Core routing and switching
  • Collaboration
  • Cloud computing and data center virtualization
  • Architectures for business transformation
  • Video

Amid a lot of internal restructuring, there were two bits worth mentioning from the Cisco release. One is that Marthin De Beer will head a dedicated Emerging Business Group inside the engineering organization. De Beer was responsible for building up Cisco’s Telepresence business and is also one of the executives on Cisco’s group of people who decide on the company’s acquisition projects. The other is that Cisco is still pursuing its nebulous “Medianet” strategy, with the release saying that De Beer will have a “continued focus on integrating the Medianet architecture for video across the company.”

I covered Medianet back in its inception when it was primarily a marketing term designed to push Cisco’s gear as the solution to a rising tsunami of video traffic. I am concerned that the focus on Medianet means Cisco is still focused on video delivery and service providers rather than the more broad goal of rethinking network architectures to fit in an age where traffic is growing, it’s coming from a multitude of devices and locations and even different networks, and customers are demanding more agility. Perhaps cutting down on bureaucracy at Cisco improves its internal agility, but it needs to focus on the network itself.

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