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The Story of Cisco Virtualized Managed Business Services: How Cisco Evolved its Engineering Teams To Revolutionize Service Provider Service Delivery

- February 27, 2015 - 6 Comments

I’ll be boarding a flight to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress tomorrow knowing that this year’s event will be like no other for Cisco’s service provider business.

Over the past two years we’ve completely transformed our service provider engineering organization. We’ve overhauled our technology and services portfolio and, as you’ll see from a blitz of announcements we’ll make with world-leading telecommunications service providers next week, we continue to innovate, and customers really like the progress they’re seeing.

Clearly we’re building what they need, but the story of the past 24 months goes far beyond our portfolio. We’ve changed the way we operate. We have removed impediments to rapid innovation, and accelerated the creation of high-performing teams.

If those words sound familiar, then you probably know Agile software development. The principles of Agile have been applied at Cisco for a long while now.  However, what’s really changed in the past two years is summed well in something Agile pioneer Jeff Sutherland wrote in blog marking the 10th anniversary of the agile manifesto:

Individuals adapting to change is not enough. Organizations must be structured for Agile response. Failure to remove impediments that block progress destroys existing high-performing teams and prevents the formation of new high-performing teams.”

I couldn’t agree more. While Cisco was, and still is, structured well to deliver the best routing technology in the industry, we needed to improve our engineering and business structures to be able to dynamically deliver the software products and cloud services customers could use to rapidly implement new businesses models, and drive more profitable outcomes for their customers.

What we’ve done since 2012 represents a massive transformation. I give tremendous credit to Chief Development Officer Pankaj Patel and his Chief Technology Officer Dave Ward, and I’m extremely proud of the results we’re starting to achieve.

To be clear, what you’ll hear about at Mobile World Congress isn’t just Cisco turning a corner. We’d already done that a year ago when Pankaj first wrote about virtualizing six times more network functions and applications than our major networking competitors combined. What I’m really excited about is going way beyond NfV building blocks (which, for the record, will number 80+ by year’s end) to delivering the profitable business outcomes that are our customers’ top priority.

I’m talking about service providers being able to rapidly roll-out on-demand VPN services to small and medium businesses – a massive market opportunity. I’m talking about enabling providers – with a few clicks – to create, automate and deliver a multitude of new connectivity services that save customers money and time, all delivered with amazingly simple end-user experiences.

Imagine the complexity of scaling-up broadband capacity to a stadium filling up with 80,000 fans for game day. Now imagine replacing truck rolls and expensive technical support with a few keystrokes.

And what if a service provider could accelerate the Internet of Everything by provisioning sensors in a manufacturing environment with virtual mobile connections – no matter what they are connected to – in minutes versus months?

That’s what we’re making possible.

So, how have we managed this transformation in such a short space of time?

Put simply, we’ve adopted working structures and principles that have helped us become laser-focused on rapid development of new technologies and services, while dramatically reducing the time from concept to prototype, development, test and deployment, all while being inclusive of customer feedback.

Our partners, customers and users know best what they need, and we’ve learned to not ask for their feedback only after our products are complete.

We have also made much faster and more effective solution creation possible via Minimum Viable Product models, which achieve a better balance between developing perfect solutions, and developing practical, timely solutions. We have embraced intelligent technology re-use and faster integration of acquired technology and IP. And we’re accelerating a more DevOps-model of feature development that is inclusive of development, operations and test teams.

These aren’t easy changes to make. However, in this era where businesses are disrupted in months and entire industries transformed in a handful of years, they were critical changes for Cisco, and powerfully effective changes for many of our customers. Interestingly, many of our customers are now shifting their own engineering organizations in the same direction, and we’re thrilled to be helping them along.

The Cisco Virtualized Managed Business Services solution, with the multiple customers we are announcing at Mobile World Congress, epitomizes the new approach.

It combines the industry’s richest portfolio of homegrown virtualized network functions with the user experience of the Meraki Managed Cloud. It incorporates innovations conceived by Cisco as part of the OpenDaylight Linux Foundation collaborative project and couples them to the service orchestration capability acquired from Tail-F and a new end-user portal we created to deliver outstanding customer experiences.

How we built it matters immensely, but what matters more is how quickly we built it. The platform was delivered in just six months from inception to first customer shipment. I believe we’ve long had the best engineering team in the industry. Now we have one of the fastest and most adaptable too.

And we are driving profitable business outcomes for our customers right now, today. The business services I described above, as well as a new ‘intelligence in motion’ cloud service that we will announce next week, are already being deployed in minutes rather than months, dramatically reducing operating costs and accelerating revenue generation.

If you’re heading to Barcelona, I hope you’ll stop by Cisco’s booth at stand 3E30, Hall 3 in Fira Gran Via to find out more for yourself. We look forward to giving you a warm welcome!

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks much Rob. What a great story for Business Development.

  2. Wow.. what a great story you shared with us. Very productive content. Business Development Services Providers

  3. So how one can organize this in short time period. Suppose I want to initiate it for my services of Gatwick airport parking

  4. They will need to bring new offerings to market to combat the escalating over-the-top service disruption phenomenon. Juniper Research claims that voice and messaging traffic lost to OTT mobile internet application providers

  5. You’re absolutely right David. In fact, two of the announcements we made at Mobile World Congress this week show how we’re working very collaboratively with DT and Telstra to accelerate speed-to-market and rapid product development. We really believe a Dev/Ops-style model can provide a competitive edge.

  6. You said "And we’re accelerating a more DevOps-model of feature development that is inclusive of development, operations and test teams." Clearly, a DevOps methodology is going to be beneficial to Cisco service provider customers as well, particularly within the rapidly evolving mobile networking arena. They will need to bring new offerings to market to combat the escalating over-the-top service disruption phenomenon. Juniper Research claims that voice and messaging traffic lost to OTT mobile internet application providers — such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype — cost mobile network operators $14 billion in lost revenues globally in 2014, that’s up by 26 percent since 2013.

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