Cisco's Chambers Describes Virtual 'Revolution'

Cisco CEO draws parallels between virtualization and the Internet boom

September 13, 2007

3 Min Read
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SAN FRANCISCO -- VMworld -- Virtualization is about to revolutionize the way we live and work, says Cisco CEO John Chambers, warning that this will mirror the rapid rise of the Internet. (See Chambers Touts 'Network of Networks'.)

Speaking during a keynote here today, the ever-glib Chambers urged IT managers to stay up to speed with virtualization, drawing parallels with the explosion in Internet technologies prior to Y2K. (See VMworld to Showcase Storage News and Virtualization Is Key to Disaster Recovery, Says VMware's Greene.)

"In the next five to 10 years, we will see a replay of what happened in the '90s," he predicted. "This will usher in a new generation of productivity, changing how we work, where we work, and the nature of work itself."

Cisco already uses virtualization extensively on its own network, according to Chambers. He claims Cisco has boosted its server and storage utilization from less than 20 percent to between 40 and 60 percent, which helped save $200 million over a two-year period. "We [were able to delay] having to build a new data center for four years," he explained.

Virtualization is also opening the door to a slew of new collaboration technologies at the networking giant. "This capability allows me to change not just servers and storage, but virtualization of my resources on a global basis," said Chambers, explaining that Cisco now has thousands of ideas coming regularly from its global workforce, thanks to internal wikis supported by the streamlined nets.Virtualization, or more broadly speaking, virtual technologies, will also provide the basis for other forms of business collaboration, many of which are more typically associated with acne-ridden adolescents and college kids. "You're going to see the consumer drive the key [business collaboration] trends in terms of the instant messaging, the wikis, the Facebook, and the YouTube capabilities," said Chambers, explaining that most of Cisco's customer interfaces will be virtualized within the next couple of years.

The CEO explained that Cisco has already used social networking-style technologies to overhaul its legal department. "We used these technologies to bring people and information together virtually, and drove our legal expenses down by 5 percent."

With the increasing globalization of business, virtual technologies will become even more important. "The majority of GDP [gross domestic product] will be in emerging markets," said Chambers, highlighting opportunities in such far-flung locations as Saudi Arabia, India, and Azerbaijan. (See Cisco Updates Investment and Cisco Opens Indian Campus.)

Warming to his theme, Chambers explained how virtualization technology has changed his own working life. "A year ago I made two trips around the world, and it took me two weeks," he said, adding that he made stops in Beijing, India, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe during an exhausting trip.

"We did this [through the Web] the other day in two three-hour sessions, and I was crisper, I was awake," he said. "It also allowed us to communicate more effectively."With virtualization presenting new opportunities to users, the Cisco supremo urged his audience of IT managers to start thinking about how they are going to communicate the benefits of this to their bosses. "Half of the CEOs view IT as an expense item," he said, admitting that even he has crossed swords with Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby.

"We struggled for the first couple of months -- I was talking to her about business strategy, she was talking to me about infrastructure strategy," he said.

As ever, Cisco's chief demonstration officer Jim Grubb put in an appearance, walking his boss through a virtual data center demo using VMware's ESX Server and Cisco's newly released VFrame Data Center with VMware Virtual Infrastructure.

At one point, the normally slick sidekick appeared to forget his cue, barely responding to Chambers' effusive ramblings on the benefits of the virtualization. "The CEO is talking one language, the CIO is talking another language," quipped Chambers, prompting yet more laughter from the audience.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • YouTube Inc.0

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