Cisco’s putting on its big Cisco Live conference next week in Las Vegas. And while the company sometimes springs random or unexpected news on participants, people-watching is always a guaranteed part of the fun.
This is the first Cisco Live conference with Chuck Robbins at the helm, playing the role of Silicon Valley rock star. For 20 years, former Cisco CEO John Chambers charmed audiences. So that’s a tough act to follow.
But since Chambers turned over the reins last July, Robbins has been making his own mark. He announced a big partnership with Ericsson for one thing. And he’s made some executive changes.
Most recently, David Goeckeler has rather quietly risen to a position that almost looks like “right-hand man” to Robbins. Goeckeler’s new title is senior vice president and general manager of the networking and security business group.
But Who is Goeckeler?
Until a couple of months ago, Goeckeler was SVP and general manager of just the security business group at Cisco. The addition of “networking” to his title encompasses quite a lot of Cisco’s business. According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s a 16-year Cisco veteran, and he’s now responsible for more than $28 billion of the company’s global technology business.
If that’s $28 billion of annual revenues out of about $49 billion total annual revenues, that means Goeckeler is overseeing more than 50 percent of the company’s business.
As of March, it looked like Cisco was reorganizing its engineering groups into four major units: networking, security, cloud, and applications/the Internet of Things (IoT). But now, it looks like there are three major units, with networking and security being combined.
In June, Goldman Sachs hosted some investor meetings where its analysts spoke with Goeckeler. He told them Cisco is focused on driving synergies between the security and networking groups, according to a note published by Goldman analysts. He also said the Insieme business unit now reports to him, after the departures of Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero, and Soni Jiandani.
Security & Networking
Goeckeler primarily spoke with the Goldman analysts about security, telling them Cisco is focused on building a portfolio with both organic and inorganic investments.
There were a lot of inorganic investments in 2016, according to this list of acquisitions compiled by Kerravala:
- Tropo (Collaboration, Cloud, Programmability)
- Piston (Cloud)
- Open DNS (Cloud, Security)
- Maintenance Net (Business Model)
- Pawaa (Software)
- Portcullis (Security)
- ParStream (Analytics)
- Lancope (Security)
- 1 Mainstream (Cloud video)
- Acano (Collaboration)
- Jasper (IoT)
- CliQr (Cloud)
- Leaba (Core)
- Syanata (Collaboration)
- CloudLock (Cloud, Security)
Goeckeler told the Goldman Sachs analysts that large networks are burdened with deploying security products from 50 to 100 vendors. Cisco sees an opportunity to approach customers with an integrated portfolio to reduce the complexity.
The company is also shifting to software-based security, which provides regular recurring revenue as opposed to hardware refreshes that occur every three to five years.
As to why it makes sense to combine security and networking under one executive, it might be because security is driving larger networking sales. “In several accounts, Cisco [is] upselling customers to upgrade their network infrastructure as a part of security deployments,” according to the Goldman Sachs report. “In some instances, a security opportunity in the millions of dollars pulls through much larger networking revenues, as large as 10 times in some cases.”
Don’t Forget Cloud
Of the 15 acquisitions during Robbins’ tenure, six are related to Cloud, the business unit headed up by Zorawar Biri Singh, who is also Cisco’s CTO. (The third major business unit – IoT and applications – is led by Rowan Trollope.)
At Cisco Live, Singh will lead a session about next generation data centers and cloud where he’ll perhaps explain how these cloud acquisitions will play into new products for Cisco.
A few weeks ago, Cisco rented out space on the top floor of the World Trade Center and invited New York City analysts and media to the event where it unveiled the Tetration analytics and monitoring platform. Normally, analytics and monitoring is not considered the most glamorous technology. It’s unclear why Cisco felt the need for such theatrics to tout the platform.
“It was a sort of a confusing project,” says Kerravala. “Every reporter I talked to didn’t really get it at first.”
Tetration is an analytics platform to monitor every action in the data center. It’s based upon a 39-rack-unit appliance that’s installed on-premises. Tetration costs $3 million, and customers have to buy new Nexus switches with it, as well.
What could Cisco announce next week that would really make tech people gasp? Getting into the storage business would be a showstopper, for sure. But that’s just a jab at Cisco’s lack of storage products. We’ll have to wait for next week to see if there are any truly big reveals from Cisco Live.