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On The Price of Innovation

May 16, 2011 at 1:35 am PST

So, I heard last week that some folks want to be known as innovators, which is certainly a laudable goal.  The thing is, innovation is the domain of engineers, not accountants and, sadly, not even marketing folks.  Face it, when accountants get innovative, we end up with things like Enron—not so good. Delivering meaningful innovation to the market starts as an organizational imperative that has to then be nurtured with an ongoing commitment of time and resources. You simply cannot fake it.

For example, let’s look at R&D spend last year some of the industry’s movers and shakers (all data is based on their respective FY10 annual reports):

As I noted in a previous post, I am pleased to note that Cisco remains near the top of the pile both in terms of R&D investment as a percent of revenue and in terms of absolute dollars.  For other folks, the numbers and the historical trends speak for themselves. Talk (and slides) are cheap. These are meaningful numbers because they represent both the commitment and the ability of a company to innovate and lead versus being forced to follow.

If you are a Cisco customer, this should please you because you know we are investing in your future, but, beyond that, why should you care?

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On the Nature of Innovation

March 29, 2011 at 11:15 pm PST

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Soni Jiandani about the nature of innovation at Cisco.  For those of you who know her, you know she knows a thing or two about bringing innovation to market.  Soni is currently a VP in the Server Access and Virtualization Business Unit. In a prior role, she was Vice President and General Manager of Cisco’s LAN and SAN switching business unit within the Data Center, Switching and Wireless Technology Group, where she was responsible for the industry leading Catalyst modular switches and a comprehensive portfolio of intelligent SAN switches.

Omar Sultan: Soni, you often refer to the “Cisco Innovation Edge” -- What does this refer to?

Soni Jiandani: Specifically this refers to our ability to introduce technology innovations more quickly than the rest of the industry that deliver quantifiable benefits to our customers.  This really speaks to our culture of being a customer-centric company. Throughout our history we have maintained a close collaboration with our customers in order to understand their current requirements and vision for how technology can benefit their business in the 3-5 year time horizon.  By listening and then applying our technology expertise and experience of over 2 decades, we have been successful in driving many innovations into our architecture through custom silicon development.  At the same time, we are often leading the charge to drive these innovations through the standardization process and providing engineering support for plug-fests and industry-wide interoperability efforts.  We do this because we believe it is in the best interests of the customers, the industry and Cisco.

A recent example of this is Fibre Channel over Ethernet, a technology which is helping customers to save up to 50% on their data center infrastructure and operation by consolidating equipment and networks.  We were the first company to introduce FCoE switching products in 2008 in our Nexus data center switches.  At the same time we were helping to lead several industry-wide efforts which resulted in Lossless Ethernet and FCoE becoming official IEEE / INCITS standards in 2009.  Our custom silicon development allows us to introduce innovations more quickly to our customers, allowing them to benefit through cost savings and more agile infrastructures.  Once these innovations become standard and required by customers, they may then make it into merchant silicon; but often this can be several years later.  That’s a significant “Cisco innovation edge” that delivers real value to our customers maximizing investment protection.  We are on an innovation treadmill here. As we standardize Cisco innovations, we are constantly investing in the next set of innovations.

OS: There are a number of competent companies out there that make merchant networking silicon, so why does Cisco continue to commit R&D resources to make our own chips?

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Cisco ranked #1 Innovator by The Patent Board

Cisco continues to hold the top spot as “#1 Innovator in the Telecom & Communications industry” in The Patent Board scorecard released this week.

According to a release issued by The Patent Board, “Cisco holds a comfortable lead over the industry, and had a patent count increase of 10%, well above the 8.3% industry average increase.”

On their website, The Patent Board says the scorecard “ranks corporate innovation using a series of metrics to determine patent quality, technological strength and breadth of impact.”

Cisco’s Managing Director of Intellectual Property Dan Lang says:

“We’re very proud of Cisco’s reputation as an innovator.  Cisco continues to invest heavily in research and development, and the new statistics from The Patent Board indicate the breadth and quality of our innovation.”

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Innovation: The Cisco and Librestream Video Collaboration Solution

March 2, 2011 at 11:08 am PST

I’m really excited by this new Cisco and Librestream MMVC solution. Lots of information out on the web, and lots of questions so I thought I’d put a brief video together to give you an introduction and to see if we can get a discussion going and also to see if we can answer some of the questions for you. The video starts talking about what really matters. What are the pain-points that manufacturers and industry have today? How do they get hold of the right people to fix things if something goes wrong, and how can they say ‘I see what you mean now’ -- and really mean it?

All this matters because keeping things running matters. Being able to communicate effectively in real time using video, speech and pictures -- globally, if need be -- matters. Knowing what’s going on and having clearer visibility matters. Working out what to do next, whether it’s developing a new product or fixing an operational problem fast, matters a lot.

I was fortunate to catch up with Librestream’s Vice President of Marketing and Client Services, Marieke Wijtkamp, and let her answer some of your questions. You’ll see what Marieke has to say and find out more about the solution in a moment… Read More »

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Why do I need a password in a factory?

So, I got locked out of my Cisco “everything” account recently. At first I thought it was just my home router acting up, but after a couple days I called IT for help, and they asked me to reset my router, and my modem, and then when that was done they informed me that maybe my password had expired.

Long way of getting to the story. I hate when my password expires. We have pretty stringent rules about passwords here at Cisco. I appreciate that. I just don’t want to change my password. You see I have (guessing) at least 20 sites that I use, all have different password requirements. Some have unique requirements for User Names too.

So I have figured out that from now on, the day that I change my company password I am changing all of my other account passwords too. At least within Cisco they synchronize all of the passwords. But I still have all my individual accounts, and I’m quite sure they sit there and watch, here comes that idiot, requesting a new password. Why can’t these people remember their password, they likely wonder while they smirk.

To some degree it is a matter of how often you go to the website, I suppose. Read More »

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