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Bringing clarity to cloud usage: a must-do for shaping more effective IT strategies

Shadow IT isn’t anything new; it is part of human behavior and started with the first mini-computers in family homes. People will always choose the tools that help them do their jobs in the simplest and most efficient way. Unfortunately, when that means using unsanctioned technologies, well intentioned selections can have unintended and potentially dangerous consequences for the company.  These can include: increased security risks, diminished productivity, and increased costs. Additionally, when users select their own cloud services, they inadvertently create silos of information that IT is not unaware of, and potentially create data compliance issues.   By purchasing cloud services on an ad hoc basis, users limit the company’s ability to negotiate volume pricing.

IT leaders and other executives need to make it their responsibility to find out which cloud services are being used, and come to a mutual understanding of which cloud technologies are best for the business. Only through a clear understanding can IT leaders devise cloud strategies that benefit users—and ultimately drive business advancement. At the very least, IT leaders need to become informed brokers. Even better, they may want to establish their own cloud services and merchandize them to reduce costs and better meet user needs.

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Our Ecosystem Begins Here @Ciscocloud

As Cisco prepares for Cisco Live Melbourne #clmel, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight our @Ciscocloud Intercloud partnership with Telstra

The following Q&A session between executives of our partnered companies identifies the unique challenges of our current business environment and the rapidly changing needs of our customers. Interviewed by Stuart Robbins, the participants in our inaugural blog are Ken Owens, Cloud Services CTO from Cisco, and Tim Otten, GM Cloud Strategy and Platforms from Telstra.

Q: Cisco’s strategy is to create solutions built upon intelligent networks that solve our customers’ challenges. As a key technology partner, Telstra’s diverse customers present unique opportunities for a new generation of solutions for those customers – can you tell us about how our combined capabilities will help those customers be successful?

[Otton, Tim J] Networks are increasingly important to the delivery of services as we shift to “the Cloud,” and the concurrent profusion of data, workforce mobility, distributed application environments, and the hybrid infrastructures supporting those applications. Both Cisco and Telstra are committed to delivering highly secure, high-performance intelligent network capabilities.

These networks must be thoroughly responsive to an ever-changing set of user and application requirements – adaptive, flexible, and resilient. Both companies have a rich tradition of global insight gained from a relentless focus on customer requirements.

[Owens, Ken] Telstra is one of the industry’s most advanced solution providers, with a noteworthy history of successful technology transformations in telecommunications. From the earliest days of IT outsourcing, and managed hosting, and now as we shift to the Cloud, Telstra has provided true leadership to the industry during these transformations.

Like Cisco, they view their customers’ strategic objectives as Priority 1 and will do whatever is necessary to make their customers successful. For more than 25 years, Cisco and Telstra have guided the market through each new technological shift, with exceptional people leading the way.

Q: One aspect of the changing enterprise landscape is the “blurred” boundaries between large enterprises in business ecosystems. While the basic principles remain important (resilient architectures, reliable networks, responsive applications), what are some of the emerging challenges in this “ecosystem first” world?


[Otton, Tim J] The business landscape has changed. Cloud, Mobility, Social Media, advanced analytics, and open platforms are also changing the landscape for service creation and innovation. Increasingly, service creation will emerge both within and beyond (intra- and inter-organizational) boundaries to better serve a growing number of mobile users and a project-oriented workforce.

In order to support connectivity as well as enable full integration with many external partners and providers, businesses are now required to ‘open’ their IT environment. Increasingly, organizations are choosing to expose their own systems and proprietary data to third-parties, creating “greater value” by encouraging innovative use of a company’s intellectual assets. Software applications are distributed, both geographically and architecturally. All of these factors alter the connectivity/security paradigms of traditional enterprise IT.

[Owens, Ken] Tim is right on, and the exciting element of this model is that it’s driven by the customer! This is not a consumer fad or one-time remodel, this is the pace and speed by which business must adopting to the requirements of their customers and the rapidly changing marketplace. A successful business today requires a flexible set of services and capabilities to quickly adapt to this changing landscape. Together, Cisco and Telstra have a proven track record of enabling innovation to address the changing needs of the businesses we support.

Q: Providing exceptional products and services to Enterprise IT is familiar territory to both Cisco and Telstra, and this common ground is one reason why the Cisco-Telstra partnership makes great sense. As we move beyond IT, we’re also being asked to directly address the needs of business departments (marketing, product management, customer support). How do we adapt to meet those needs?


[Otton, Tim J] We need to develop a deeper understanding of the different “lines of business” within the Enterprise. We need to better understand what drives their business and the market environments in which they operate. In other words, we need to become an enabler of business solutions rather than simply selling more technology. Our focus needs to be increasingly on the business outcomes we can deliver to our customers.
We need equip our sales teams to communicate those solutions, to be able to engage customers in conversations that start with business issues and proceed from there to provision enabling technologies rather than starting (and often finishing with) technology alone.
At the same time, we need to better support IT departments so that these services can be integrated into the overall Enterprise network architecture- – -ensuring that these distributed services are secure, and optimized to perform reliably. Telstra and Cisco need to be seen as enabling partners, and not just suppliers.

[Owens, Ken] The needs of the business can be vast, complicated, and rapidly evolving to meet the needs of a changing marketplace. Cisco and Telstra are leaders in business transformation. The key to success in this ever-changing environment is to provide leadership with speed, agility, innovative leadership to assist each customer’s ability to adapt to the changes. Of course, Tim’s right, we also need to help IT executives quickly transition not only their technology, but also their processes and practices.

Q: The recipe seems simple enough = one part: exceptional technology with the associated expertise, and one part: an evolved partnership methodology (i.e., Partnership 2.0) that will serve as the foundation for what our companies can accomplish together.

One last question. Imagine what success looks like for the joint Cisco-Telstra effort in two years: what are the core behaviors/values that we’ll be most proud to have embraced, when we glance back? In other words, what are the central organizational principles that will serve to anchor this new style of ecosystem development?


[Otton, Tim J] My vision for the partnership is that we have developed an advanced understanding of the requirements of stakeholders – whether it be IT, LOB, or end-users – within the customers we served and are singularly focused on the business outcomes that we can jointly deliver for our customers.

[Owens, Ken] The demands of Enterprise 2.0 require an infrastructure that is both elastic and reliable, flexible yet secure. Organizations, too, will require those very characteristics. To accomplish this,“Governance 2.0” and “Partnership 2.0” become framework components of that new ecosystem in service of our customer’s transformed world. As Tim stated, the business outcomes and continuously delivering business value are the key principles.

Thank you Tim for you time to discuss the joint journey we are embarking on.

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So you’ve got a cloud strategy? Sorry. What you need is a roadmap.

Like many IT organisations, yours probably knitted a “cloud strategy” some years ago. But do you have a clear roadmap to execute the required changes at all levels (people, processes, technology, services) in a stepwise approach? If not, your strategy is likely to remain just that – a “strategy” – for a long time. And you might miss all the benefits brought by cloud.
Cisco’s Strategic IT Roadmap (or SITR, introduced in my earlier post) is a 3-phased methodology destined to help you make this transformation. Here below, I am sharing an example of what the third (and last) phase usually looks like – a detailed roadmap built around a number of key IT programmes, each composed by specific projects.

Strategic IT Roadmap

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The Internet of…Outcomes?

At Cisco, as you might imagine, we talk a lot about the Internet of Things, and now about the Internet of Everything (IoE).  You can find some great videos and background about IoE here, here and here.   As technology continues to transform our world – from how businesses operate to how we connect with each other to how we control features in our homes – the paradigm is shifting.  And it’s creating exciting opportunities for companies that are prepared to capitalize on them.

It used to be that technology was itself an outcome – people wanted an application or they wanted a robot programmed to do certain things.  It was viewed simply as a tool, and one that was often operated in a siloed business unit within a company.  That world, at least for companies who want to stay competitive and maximize potential, is no more.

Technology is no longer just a tool.  It’s no longer a means-to-an-end nor is it a strategy that operates in isolation.  As our CEO John Chambers recently predicted, “every company is going to be a technology company” (a prediction that you’ll also find echoed in many leading business journals).  To respond to consumer demands and consumption models, we all must embrace technology and harness its potential to transform businesses.

S Hogan Biz Outcome

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Analytics to Identify and Strengthen Organizational Collaboration and Drive Innovation

Companies with many employees face various challenges w.r.t. their size. One of these challenges is to identify key people, skills and information across (and outside) the organization and use them in the most effective way to drive innovation, new initiatives, but also sales.

Situation Today

The natural way for employees to cope with such a challenge is to build social networks (I mean networks of people not software) and collaborate across the organization. This organic social network building happens through various activities such as projects with colleagues, social activities, company events, etc… However, such social networks take time to create, and are typically not that extended. The effectiveness of these social networks is hard to measure (unless perhaps you equip your employees with location trackers). This social network building, I call the qualitative approach to organizational collaboration.

Connect and Collaborate

Connect with the right people inside and outside the enterprise

Many companies have deployed technology solutions (tools) to cope with the challenge described above. Companies have personnel directories that show employees’ groups and the official organization hierarchy. Some of these personnel directories allow users to add more personalized information (but this information is not always up to date). More sophisticated personnel directories (or other collaboration tools) also feature timelines of activities/tasks, blogging, integrated search, etc…. .Video conferencing enables people to connect people remotely. Despite these new social tools, email and mailing lists still play an important role in connecting people and disseminate information as well as external social networks and resources. All these tools provide a wealth of information. In essence: collaboration is Big Data.

Do all these social/collaborative enterprise tools help us doing our job better and promoting innovation? From a personal point of view I am tempted to say yes, but much more can be done. My main concern with most of these tools is the lack of analytics features to quickly identify user-relevant information or contacts. New tools – and newer versions of already existing tools – are starting to provide some of these capabilities, but IMO that is still not enough (or not accurate enough) to fully understand the evolving social networks or the relations between people and information (documents, emails, etc…).

What can be Improved

The goal of exposing more of the right analytics to end users would be, for a user, to faster gather insights, new ideas, and enable quicker decision making and eventually translate these insights and ideas to new opportunities, projects and/or costs savings.

Analyze and Correlate

Correlate different sources to identify information

To achieve this goal, users should be able to identify patterns in their organization’s data, specifically on threads or evolving thoughts and interactions that can be relevant for their particular projects or questions. In essence, analytics should foster more and improved collaboration with like-minded people, or people that share a common goal. As mentioned earlier, people naturally do this already, but in large organizations it is humanly impossible to scale this effectively and fast, without the help of analytics tools. This type of analytics I call the quantitative approach of organizational collaboration, which I see as complementary to the qualitative approach.

When I look for example at mailing lists or video conferencing, a few questions always pop up in my mind that modern enterprise collaboration tools should be able to answer in just a few clicks:

  1. What topics are trending during the last week/month? Perhaps type a topic in and get trend information or have the computer generate topics based on a context analysis of your posts or email conversations.
  2. How are the groups and hierarchies evolving over time (who is talking to who)? Can software recommend groups of people that are relevant for me and my projects?
  3. What people can be considered as experts on certain topics, based on their posts, replies, published articles, etc…?
  4. For particular topics, who are the top contributors and how do they relate to the experts? Are people clustering around certain topics?
  5. Who are the influencers/thought leaders, and how do they relate to experts?

From a strategic point of view companies can leverage analytics from social/collaborative tools to answer questions like:

  1. Are best practices shared across the organization between the appropriate groups?
  2. Is there an alignment between strategy and direction of the company?

This is not an exhaustive list and as a software engineer I think that an additional relevant feature for any tool should be the ability to provide an environment to mashup and integrate data by employees, to answer some of these questions.

How can it be Leveraged

Various groups and people (MIT, Virginia Tech, …) do research on this subject and translate this research into strategic insights at the enterprise level. The next step will be to provide the insights to individual employees as well. Enterprise tools with more sophisticated analytics capabilities (many focused on machine learning) are beginning to emerge. Perhaps the biggest challenge is integration of such capabilities across multiple internal and external tools and platforms.

Organizational collaboration is for me not limited to an enterprise environment. Groups with different affiliations who organize themselves as “virtual organizations” to work together towards common goals (for example, Open Source communities or standard bodies) can benefit from this type of analytics too.

To be more successful in capturing the value of collaboration, companies not only need to deploy the right tools, but also need to foster a mashup environment to leverage the organizational insight and tacit knowledge of its employees through analytics.

Special thanks to Marco Valente and Yannik Messerli for the discussions and insight on this subject.

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