Yvette Kanouff took over Cisco’s service provider business in March 2016 after Cisco restructured and expanded the service provider group to include core routing, switching and optical networking, network and service virtualization, and service provider networks including cable, wireless, and cloud. She also oversees the company’s video software solutions.
SDxCentral’s Editor-in-Chief Sue Marek recently caught up with Kanouff to discuss the challenges facing today’s service providers, the potential 5G offers, and what Cisco is doing to unravel the complexity of the network. The following interview has been edited for clarity.
You’ve had some declines in the service provider business. What are you doing to improve that area?
Kanouff: There are three big trends happening in the business as a whole. First, and most obvious is that bandwidth continues to increase and the revenues of our service providers is not increasing along with that bandwidth growth. The unlimited programs show a constant need to increase capacity without growing the revenue accordingly.
Second, is that the complexity at scale is continuing to be at the forefront. And third, this relentless competition that our service providers are faced with. Those are the three issues driving any discussions that you can have.
As a result, we have to massively disrupt. And we’ve had many disruptive stages. We have had the IP opportunity, which Cisco played a massive role in that. There have been real technological opportunities, but this is an industry shift and it’s a must for us to do massive disruption.
That first one: bandwidth is growing and revenue is flat. If you look at our VNI data, by 2020 mobile traffic will grow 7x, cloud traffic will grow 4x, and half of the devices will be IoT [Internet of Things]. The train is moving and it’s moving fast. Cisco has to disrupt the status quo. We are doing a huge amount of innovation to redesign how space is optimized, and battery is optimized, and throughput. We have to design systems in a different way.
It’s a very different ecosystem that we have to build for. And the way we have to design systems given the flat revenue is that we have to save a lot of opex [operating expenses].
Do you feel like the service providers are on board with this disruption?
Kanouff: In some cases – take what we are doing from virtualization and separation of CMTS [cable modem termination system]. In some instances, there is a physical limitation and we are out of building space. We have to do something and design our systems differently. In those types of disruptions, our customers think it is great and appreciate that we are looking at design differences because they are out of space and capacity.
Some customers want Cisco to help them address these issues, and they are counting on the vendor community and us to help them drive the changes and the new platforms. And some service providers are very aggressively helping and we are doing co-development with automation. We used to talk about software-defined networking [SDN], but that whole topic is moving to automation. There is ruthless simplicity of operations.
Which service providers can really do DevOps? Engineering and operations are still separated. That is a big culture shift.
You mentioned automation. Instead of talking about SDN, should we be talking about automation instead?
Kanouff: Well SDN is a big term and automation is part of that. Most people talk about it in terms of disaggregation and virtualization. CMTS is an example of what is happening aggressively and we are pushing that hard. When you have core routing aggregated with other functions, it’s natural for us. That is an active process. What we have done with virtualization of the packet core, we have been doing that for some time. The stage we are in now is to simplify complexity.
We call it ruthless simplification. We are taking everything that has had huge sophistication and move that from configuration. We can configure with our great orchestration platforms, but we want to move that to programing the network. There is a whole shift that is happening, moving to automated networking and programmable networking.
Tell me about Cisco’s view of 5G. A lot of operators talk about spectrum, latency, and bandwidth. How do you define it?
I hear that as well. I think it often sounds like we are only doing this for the bandwidth growth, and there is so much more. The important part of the story is how are we transforming our services? How does 5G transform what we do? You hear more spectrum so there is more bandwidth and throughput. There is low latency and so we will have things like mobile edge compute. If you look at VNI data, the metro is growing fast.
From the Cisco perspective we are looking at what the consumer gets from 5G. In terms of virtual reality and augmented reality, those are not just about games. It is about how we transform collaboration. This is a different way of working, and this needs a new network. The exciting thing about 5G is not spectrum but the new services you can have. I don’t think we talk enough about that.