Cisco: Networking Is Hot Again


LAS VEGAS — While the economy may be cool, the world of networking is anything but,
according to Marie Hattar, VP of Network Systems and Security Solutions for
Cisco. There are a lot of reasons why Hattar is so upbeat including new
product initiatives, compliance drivers and overall customer sentiment.


Since Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is an important bell weather for the technology industry as a
whole, what Cisco sees as the current and future state of the networking
business has wide implications.


As a simple proof point of the renewed interest in networking Hattar who
spoke to InternetNews.com at the Interop trade show, cited the
enthusiasm of Interop .


“Despite the split personality of Interop this year we’re excited because
we’re seeing so many customers,” Hattar said. (Interop added a separate software conference to the event). “A few years ago all we’d see was vendors.”


Hattar’s area of responsibility includes routing and switching as well as
security. Under her auspices lies the big area of Cisco’s Self Defending
Network portfolio of which Network Access Control (NAC) is a constituent.


“We see NAC as something that crosses between network security and endpoint
security and we do see it as an area of growth,” Hattar said.


Hattar noted there has been a lot of hype about NAC and it’s taken longer for the technology to prove itself in terms of deployments than some might have expected.

A trough of disillusionment

“What happened with NAC is it went through great hype and then it went
through the trough of disillusionment,” Hattar said. “I think now what
you’re seeing are customers getting to the steady state of deploying it into
their networks.”


Hattar also was quick to point out that security is much more than the
concept of admission control. Cisco’s broader vision involves its new Trustsec
initiative
which was announced at the end of 2007.


“Trustsec secures things across the LAN and brings policy, identity and ties
it all together so you have a whole trusted security entity,” Hattar
explained. “That to me is a more interesting topic than just purely ‘knock
knock who is there?’ That doesn’t necessarily protect your overall network.”


While NAC has perhaps been a driver for networking, there is no question
that the PCI compliance requirements have also been a boost.


“Many enterprises deploy security products to deal with compliance issue so
PCI has been huge as a driver to put security into the network,” Hattar said.
“But just because you’re PCI compliant doesn’t mean you have a secure
network.”

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Network operating systems are also keeping the networking market hot.
Cisco has recently expanded its operating system lineup to now include
IOS, NX-OS and Linux. IOS is Cisco’s core internetworking operating system
that powers many of its switches and routers, while NX-OS is a purpose built
OS for Cisco’s
Nexus core switching platform
.


As for Linux, Cisco is using the open source operating system in various
areas including the AXP module that turns ISR routers
into Linux app servers
.


Hattar noted that some vendors may preach the merit of having a single
operating system across their entire portfolio. Though the reality is that
she hasn’t actually seen that yet in terms of actual implementations.


“At the end of the day when you learn to drive a car, do you learn to drive
just one car or do you learn how to drive multiple cars? ” Hattar said.
“What we aim for is to optimize the engine for whatever car
you’re in, but you’re still driving a car. So the user experience is the
same, the manageability is consistent.”


Hattar noted that operating systems are not a religious issue for Cisco


All told for Cisco with new product introductions like the Nexus, the AXP
and the ASR routing platform(which cost $250 million to
develop), Hattar is bullish on networking prospects.


“For awhile networking wasn’t so hot,” Hattar admitted. “What we’re seeing
here is a rise in interest in networking capabilities and innovation. There
has been a lot of rejuvenation and excitement in what has been core routing
and switching. ”

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