Cisco‘s transformation into more of a software company will kick into action on Wednesday morning. At Cisco Live in Milan, Italy, the company plans to formally announce its new licensing models, which will collectively use the Cisco ONE brand name.
Cisco’s penchant for selling all-in-one packages — the “end-to-end” play that involves selling systems that cover nearly the entire network — is still there, but it’s now described as a “focus on selling outcomes,” a phrase multiple executives used in a press briefing earlier this month. Expect to hear it from Cisco a lot this year.
Breadth will be Cisco’s weapon, in terms of portfolio but also in terms of deployment models, because the company can intertwine software that’s residing on different clouds (the Intercloud strategy) and, now, blend them with on-premises services (the Cloud Managed IT strategy, which is also being announced Wednesday as an extension of the Meraki acquisition).
“I think a lot of the software players may struggle moving here as fast as we can,” says John Brigden, senior vice president of strategy and operations.
A Different Sales Model
The Cisco ONE name first appeared in 2012 as the Open Network Environment that was Cisco’s answer to software-defined networking (SDN). Now it’s come to represent the company’s self-proclaimed makeover, where services and software will take precedence over the product numbers of routers and switches.
The point is to avoid the “circular behavior” of making customers buy new hardware to get new features, Brigden says.
“We’ve been a big software business for a long time, but we made that software look like hardware. When that box wore out, we made you re-buy all that,” says Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Cisco’s enterprise segment.
Nowhere will this affect Cisco more strongly than in the sales organization. Cisco is a sales-driven company, a point of view that comes down from CEO John Chambers, who was a salesman himself and, by all reports, still relishes his chances to contribute on that side of the business. Many on the sales team have probably fallen into comfortable patterns of selling the latest line-card upgrade and, every few years, the newest, shiniest router. Now they’ll be selling software suites, often with perpetual licenses, that won’t be tied to particular pieces of hardware.
It’s a different world for them, but a familiar one for Soderbery. He doesn’t come from a hardware heritage; his resume includes 10 years at enterprise software companies such as Symantec and Veritas.
So, his job is to make Cisco behave more like those companies. Asked about how Cisco’s sales organization is taking to the new changes, Soderbery responds that everything’s sunny — but he does admit the change will take effort. “Now a lot of our work is, how do we evangelize and drive the work into the Cisco field organization” and the reseller community, he says. “We’re working through all that.”
Cisco ONE software will start with a fundamental networking suite that includes the basics: security, management, analytics, energy management — and, of course, the Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) that’s at the heart of Cisco’s SDN strategy. Further suites tackle specific domains, such as the enterprise cloud or the WAN.