On the other side is tomorrow’s market, the Internet of Things. Cisco wants to drive its familiar technology into this space--Internet Protocol and all the legacy hardware and software expertise Cisco has built around it.
Corporate execs often cite the $180 billion of installed Cisco infrastructure around the world. I contend that badge of honor can also be an albatross around its neck, the heavy legacy crown of the innovator’s dilemma.
So defending IP makes sense. IP is the electricity that drives the Internet today. But it just isn’t the reality of the fledgling IoT world.
You wouldn’t know it from listening to Cisco’s presentations, but even its key IoT customers such as Canada’s BC Hydro utility do not yet use IP in their smart meters.
Cisco is working on BC Hydro and a handful of other utilities to adopt IP. If it is wildly successful perhaps it will have ten million IP smart meters installed at the end of the year. But it’s worth noting there are already nearly 2 billion non-IP smart meters deployed today.
A couple decades ago, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf became a tech folk legend for his T-shirt that said “IP everywhere.” It was funny and it was right then. Today Cerf works for Google, a company that uses a lot of IP, but isn’t wedded to it—anywhere.
Explore the emerging IoT world a bit and you will find a little startup company in England called Neul that started the Weightless Special Interest Group to promote IoT on TV white spaces. It does not use IP and it already has 617 members. It is just one of dozens of IoT efforts trying to pioneer the next big thing--ubiquitous computing.
Cisco needs to be more agnostic if it is to navigate its way into the future. It could learn a lesson from Samsung.
Samsung has become the world’s largest IT company and the second largest semiconductor company. In my opinion, one reason it has risen to such heights (besides a lot of good government nurturing you won’t find outside Asia) is due to the fact it is agnostic. It doesn’t need technology to be red or blue or green, it just makes what people want.
Cisco needs to let go of IP and IOS and ASICs. If it is to continue to be a communications king, Cisco needs to become as agnostic as Samsung and just do what is right for its current networking users and the IoT networks to come.
Or it can hang on to what it owns until it is overrun by the hoards. Interestingly, when I drive through the giant Cisco village along San Jose’s Tasman Avenue I have always been struck by the resemblance of its austere stone buildings, one after another, to a kind of modern Roman Empire.
Good luck, Caesar.