Cisco Maps Out New Plan for Managing Networks

Cisco network management
Cisco’s Jesper Andersen
Source: Cisco

What can networking giant Cisco learn from software application giant Oracle? Apparently quite a bit.

With the help of a former Oracle executive, Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is charting a new path it says will bring innovative solutions to the world of network management.

Jesper Andersen, former senior vice president of application development at Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), has been Cisco’s senior vice president of network management in the company’s technology division for nearly six months. He’s responsible for the applications that will let users manage Cisco equipment.

At Oracle, he helped lead the company’s overall application strategy. Prior to that, he was an executive at PeopleSoft.

In an in depth interview with, Andersen argued that though Cisco is doing many things right today, it can still do better. Specifically, he says that he plans to push for more open standards, consistency and re-use across Cisco’s management portfolio.

Cisco’s renewed network management push comes as the networking vendor is pushing deeper into new areas like Web 2.0 collaboration technologies and an expected blade application server that could be announced as soon as Monday.

“Coming from Oracle and PeopleSoft and having the application angle, I can certainly appreciate all the additional stuff that needs to be done,” Andersen said.

“ERP and CRM applications have automated to a various extent all the various manual tasks that people perform,” he added. “The next step is to embed collaboration deeper into the process. With all the technology we have at Cisco — WebEx, unified communications, all those things — it’s pretty exciting for Cisco.”

Andersen added that because of his background in applications, collaboration is near and dear to his heart, and commented that improvements in the category will improve productivity and managing various workloads.

Overall, Andersen has a few key priorities for moving Cisco’s network management business forward from an application point of view.

“Being a software guy coming to Cisco, one of the things I don’t think we’ve done well is getting to a more modern, layered software architecture,” Andersen said. “What I mean by that is we have a lot of great network management applications but we haven’t really achieved what I would consider to be an acceptable level of re-use and componentization across that portfolio of products. Most of those products have their own ways of interfacing with the equipment and their own user interface.”

Andersen argued that the problem is also one of consistency, an area on which he intends to focus as well. In his view, Cisco today does a very good job of ensuring that all the various features of its switches and routers are available and accessible. Still, he thinks that Cisco can do a better job of ensuring accessibility in a consistent way.

“With a consistent modern interface, whether its XML-based, [Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP ], or otherwise, we need consistency,” Andersen said. “We need to have a consistent look and feel working with our applications.”

Next page: Open Standards

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Open standards

Part of the move toward improved consistency at Cisco will also involve greater backing for open standards. Cisco has long been a supporter of standards across its networking equipment, however, Andersen feels more can and should be done on the management side.

“I want to instill more of an open standards philosophy across our product portfolio,” Andersen said. “I think we can do a better job of ensuring we have open, well-published APIs across all our products.”

Andersen said that in his meetings with Cisco customers, he is constantly reminded that Cisco is only one part an enterprise’s IT infrastructure — and that it’s imperative to interoperate with other frameworks.

On IT management specifically, Andersen said that there are areas where Cisco’s technology will overlap with solutions from IBM Tivoli, BMC and HP. He also noted that Cisco partners with those same vendors, and in some cases, resells their products.

So far, those arrangements have come about due to differing areas of focus. For Cisco, Andersen explained that its management portfolio is very focused on network management, while he argued that IBM Tivoli, HP and others are more broadly focused on IT management systems.

“The key that I’m focused on is, ‘How do we best interface between their systems and ours?'” Andersen said.

He added that a lot of big companies spend money implementing things like Tivoli, and it’s important for Cisco to be able to fit in.

New hardware

As Andersen tries to grapple with management applications for Cisco’s existing hardware portfolio, new hardware continues to roll out from the networking leader. Ensuring that Cisco has the proper tools in place to manage new hardware as it is released is another key goal for Andersen.

“Not that execution wasn’t good when I got here, but I think we can have a stronger interlock process and make sure products are more aligned earlier in the process,” Andersen said. “So that when we ship a product, we can manage it within our framework on Day 1.”

Yet Andersen doesn’t think that it’s a realistic expectation that Cisco will ever have one big master management application, considering the width and breadth of the company’s product portfolio. But Cisco can still the way things are done now, he added.

“There has been, maybe, a little bit too siloed network management applications at Cisco, and I think we can achieve more harmonization across the portfolio,” Andersen said.

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