Cisco C-Scape 2008 - Day 1

It's Day 1 at Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference in San Jose. Keeping in step with the overall economy, C-Scape is scaled down this year, but still a pretty big event.

Most of the morning was taken up with keynotes from John Chambers and new CTO, Padmasree Warrior. On the CTO front, it's quite a change from Charlie Giancarlo, who I just saw at Avaya's conference a few weeks back. I want to keep the focus on today, but feel free to search my blog for earlier entries about these changes.

Over the course of the day, there have been two types of sessions. The keynotes have generally focused on Cisco itself and how the company is evolving to be more productive in a weak economy, as well as to be driven by the Web 2.0 mantra of collaboration. On the other hand, the breakouts had more to do with their various lines of business and how they're serving customers and entering new markets.

Compared to last year, the messaging was more nuanced and less grand. The vision is not as ambitious in terms of leading the world to the promised land of seamless communications experiences, and there was not much hype about new technologies. Last year, we heard and saw a lot about Second Life, video, Telepresence, digital media and Cisco Field. There were bits and pieces about some of these, but more toned down. To me, that was a good thing.

It's a tough market for everyone, and 2008's theme for analysts seems more about how Cisco is striving to become a model company for how these technologies can be adopted. There were lots of examples of Web 2.0 applications being used internally for collaborating and knowledge management, which I thought was great. Even John Chambers is doing video blogging now.

He talked a lot about finding a balance between innovation and operational excellence. For Cisco, the latter is the priority, and when you have a well-run organization, innovation will follow. Getting this balance right is at the core of his vision for Cisco 3.0. He sees this vision not just as a strategy for Cisco itself, but also to create an environment that lets Cisco get closer to its customers. And by extension, if it works for Cisco, it will work for Cisco's customers. Good strategy.

Another big theme for Cisco's roadmap was related to "Phase II of the Internet". Sounds like Web 2.0 to me - personalization, collaboration, multimedia, social networking, etc. John Chambers talked about this being their next iteration from the "network as the platform" mantra they have been following most recently. This is a big shift for a company that still makes most of its money from routers and switches, and speaks to the transition that he and the other execs talked about to stay ahead of the market. Virtualization and cloud computing are now big topics, and Padmasree in particular connected these themes to Cisco's vision for helping customers better leverage IT for growth and productivity gains in a global marketplace.

That's it for today - will post tomorrow about Day 2. Here are a few photos of the day.

Well, this is one way to creatively trim costs. A simple bit of branding to let you know you're in the right place. This is the Cisco event - uh, Adobe's conference is down the hall. Nothing fancy, but it works. And with some clever rearranging, it could make a nice menorah. Blinded by the light...


John Chambers leads off with his keynote


Not much new being presented so far - at least compared to last year. Here's a cool twist, though. John Chambers talked a lot about the globalization of communications, and this Telepresence demo with Jim Grubb was done with a Cisco employee in Madrid. He was asked to reply in Spanish, and as you can see in the second photo, his comment was translated on the fly into English in the caption at the bottom of the screen. It's bit like watching closed captioning on TV - same idea, but more profound. Reminds me of Jajah's Babel service, and speaks to the huge opportunity that IP-based technologies has to break down the natural barrier of language for communicating.


New CTO Padmasree Warrior


Cisco customer Q&A session - HSBC, Verizon, Disney


SMB session, moderated by Rick Moran


Randy Pond - Cisco 3.0 and creating transformation through leadership


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