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Chambers: We're Not Plumbers Anymore

CHICAGO -- There was a time when carrier networks were just about the plumbing. Those days are now over, according to Cisco  CEO John Chambers.

In a keynote session and in a lively session with press and analysts that followed at the NXTcomm show here, Chambers revealed his thoughts about where the carrier market is going, what role Cisco will play in it and where open source fits in.

"What a difference a decade makes," Chamber said. "A decade ago many of us were plumbers and it was an honorable profession and it made us lots of money."

Plumbing, or the nuts-and-bolts connections that comprise a network, is no longer enough for carriers or network equipment providers. Now it's about triple play services, smarter services and collaboration.

Chambers reiterated his position that the network is the platform and, as such, is the backbone for all kinds of content and experiences.

Making the network the platform is a message that resonates well with service providers who can now bring in additional revenues as part of a connected lifestyle enabled by the network.

"Telecom is not just back, it's here at phase two and it will change life experiences," Chambers said. "This is a market that waits for no one, including Cisco, and we need to be ahead of change."

In his meeting with press and analysts, Chambers stressed that it's not always the best technology that wins.

As an example, Chambers mentioned Wang, a systems vendor that is now long gone, but at its peak was at the top of the field; Wang didn't manage to take advantage of change when it came and they failed.

"I don't fall in love with technology and the best technology doesn't always win," Chambers said of his lessons learned from Wang. "The market will always determine the winner."

Chambers also addressed where the Cisco brand is headed.

With all of its acquisitions, Cisco has a broad portfolio of companies but Chambers was adamant that the company will eventually move to a single brand name for all of its offerings: Cisco.

"Scientific Atlanta means something to providers but not to consumers," Chambers said. "Linksys is more recognized more at retail than Cisco. So we want to handle things smoothly to get the best of both worlds."

In response to a question about Cisco's views on open source posed by internetnews.com Chambers responded, "I think that open source or open content is the future. You want to be able to create your own content and we want to do that empowerment."

Chambers did not respond directly about open software other than to say that, "Openness is just a word and something that you use architecturally and then add value on top off. "

So beyond Chambers, who is calling the shots at Cisco? The answer is simple.

"If you listen to your customers they will tell you what to do," Chambers said.