The Power of Presentation

I’m a bit confused about Cisco sometimes. Concerned, even.

I just attended an online event which they held called “The Power of Participation”. Well the replay to be precise, which was well marketed, features a nice web front-end, a neat 3D video for a competition and, the meat of the event, a very, very dry “on the couch” powerpoint presentation.

Maybe it’s just me and my short attention span, but really this death by powerpoint thing just doesn’t grab me. Cisco presentations often do this to me, but when I was an employee I assumed it was just the style of internal sessions. I’m rather shocked to see that Cisco wish to present themselves to the outside world as, frankly, rather dull.

It’s a shame, because there are some great messages in there which are dying to get out.

But before I cover any of that, I *hate* what the marketing folks do to technology. I *loathe* when someone who is supposed to be telling me about something, how it works and why I should care, troubles to tell me how “excited” they are by it at every opportunity. But hey, maybe that’s why I was a Systems Engineer and not an Account Manager. I also hate contrived buzzwords and phrases, especially those presumably meant to make us cringe. Surely it’s intentional? No? Ah. Sayings like “the power of the AND”. Cleverly, they’ve latched onto the idea that something which only does half a job is sod all use, it must do x AND y. Well done folks. Then there’s “DataCentre 3.0”. I actually did a websearch for datacentre 3.0, thinking maybe it was a crummy market term rather than just one used by Cisco. But no. The top results were from Cisco sites, just below them was an article from TheRegister referring to the Cisco technology with a derisory “ugh”.

I’m not alone.

Anyhow, just as this event buried the useful information behind buzzwords, marketing obfuscation and tedium, I’ve buried in this post some thoughts about what they were actually announcing.

The key theme is the borderless network, a borderline annoying buzzword but a viable concept, and how it relates to the datacentre.

In our mobile world we can’t let security get in the way of our increasingly mobile business activities. Being able to only access key systems from inside a corporate firewall is nuts. Now, to a large extent the problem went away with effective remote access solutions using authenticated and/or encrypted access with technologies like IPSEC and SSL. It’s straightforward to connect to your corporate network from almost anywhere (unless your broadband supplier blocks VPNs). Now you’re on the network with, potentially, full access.

But the world is changing. Has already changed. The biggest issue for networking is cloud services.

A business may once have owned and managed all its own IT resources – corporate directory, financial systems, education systems, and of course telephony. Today, a business could outsource all of these things and get them all from different suppliers. The businesses owned assets are also really just another cloud service, albeit with a single customer. Ubiquitous, secure access to services, regardless of where they are hosted, is the goal. There is also a subtext of ensuring the security of the user’s end device itself – eg: ensuring that the device is in a fit state of security to access the services or network, no nasty viruses, maybe some hard disk encryption, etc. Because the end device might not always be owned by the business – in fact, I expect a growing trend in the use of personal devices for business use – this is important and not exactly easy. Finally, that device might be a Windows 7 PC, even a Mac – great – but if it’s an Android smartphone, Apple iPhone, or ABCXYZ Whizzphone – don’t Google it, I made it up – then what? Ubiquitous access regardless of device is the Nirvana.

Cisco’s borderless network framework is aiming for this, and allied to the datacentre capabilities it’s a good story. You would have to be mad to buy based on the marketing, but you would also have to be mad to overlook a company with a history of grabbing market success in nearly every area it has played in. And just as once you would have felt job security from buying IBM, today Cisco is also a sensible bet.

I can’t agree with the presenters when they say that this was one of the most significant launches that Cisco has ever made, but the devil is in the detail. Which I slept through. However the ability to build, from a single vendor, a competent multi-service infrastructure, based on virtual computing resources, is a powerful message.

A final point. The title of the event was “The Power of Participation”. The Chambers video at the end summed up a bunch of concepts which certainly didn’t leap out at me from the powerpoints, but which are fundamental. Teamwork. Collaboration. Seamless Networking. Virtualisation. Not just within an organisation, but also across organisations. Chambers, significantly for me, featured alone without aids of any kind against a pure black background. Which I guess is why he’s CEO.

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About mikbarne
I'm a writer and freelance communications and collaboration consultant with nearly 20 years experience in UK telecommunications, specialising in VoIP, Unified Communications and Collaboration, and building effective communications architectures. Visit my Google+ Profile

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