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The Internet: Built with Human Imagination

April 11, 2011 - 0 Comments

The public Internet is pervasive. It’s an essential ingredient to the way many of us choose to live, work, play and learn. When this amazing resource is viewed through the perspective of mainstream users, the path that led us here may seem unimaginable.

It’s an example of open innovation and creative collaboration, with a common cause that was shared by determined pioneers. The Internet Society has published a brief history that starts with the following story introduction:

“The Internet has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. The invention of the telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer set the stage for this unprecedented integration of capabilities. The Internet is at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.”

I’ll share a related story that includes insights about my own experiences, pursuing a bold vision and staying the course to reach an end objective.

Back in the fall of 1990, as an independent consultant, I was asked to perform a primary market research assessment of the data networking landscape for MCI Communications. The VP of data service marketing and I had many interactions during the process of gathering the information needed to write a comprehensive situation analysis.

The Path to Standards-Based Interoperability

During the course of this project, I agreed to join MCI as an executive staff consultant in July of 1991. My initial task was to take the body of knowledge that I gleaned through research and use it as the basis for MCI’s first “Data Services Strategic Marketing Plan” – which I drafted and completed in January, 1992.

Of course, the process of developing our plan required me to meet with many people within the service development organization, including Vint Cerf and MCI’s CTO. Did you know that MCI was instrumental in providing national network infrastructure during the  Internet’s metamorphosis into a public utility? Imagine that…

Granted, MCI was best known as a long-distance phone company. In fact, when we first proposed a path to “virtual private data services” — that utilized standards-based packet switching technology — there was some intense resistance. Why? Because the proposal included evolving to a TCP/IP based network architecture.

After much debate, we were able to rally everyone around a common goal. How? We explained the platform vision within the context of a timeline — where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. My point: when you articulate both contextual meaning and purpose, then combine it with strategic foresight – you can achieve greatness.

IP Network Performance, Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

The practical application of human imagination is central to the creation of the Internet. That said, Cisco Systems has consistently built the technology building blocks for IP Network Routing solutions for as long as I can remember – and I can still recall some of the early Cisco Heritage.

Throughout my career, every service provider that I’ve worked for relied upon Cisco’s extensive product portfolio, without exception. Today, broadband network service providers continue this practice. In a highly competitive marketplace, I believe that’s a tribute to Cisco’s engineering talent.

I offer my heartfelt congratulations to our Cisco colleagues who have injected their imagination into the latest chapter of their own story – designing an unmatched core networking foundation for the next generation Internet. Truly, it’s very rewarding to work with people who aspire to achieve bold goals.

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