RSA Conference 2010: The dream at the heart of Cisco's vision

News by Paul Fisher

Cisco yesterday announced AnyConnect Secure Mobillty. A suite it says that will combine the endpoint, the network and the cloud within one package driven by IronPort hardware.

Cisco yesterday announced AnyConnect Secure Mobility. A suite it says will combine the endpoint, the network and the cloud within one package driven by IronPort hardware. The assembled journalists, bloggers and analysts were treated to an impassioned demo around the concepts by Tom Gillis, VP and general manager of Cisco's security technology unit, who joined as part of the IronPort acquisition in 2008.

The product demo painted a world where pressurised business people no longer had to worry about complex access controls to VPNs. They just connected and were instantly more successful, better looking - even got bigger hotel rooms.

The reality for most mobile workers (which is everyone these days) is a nightmare. Cisco to its credit is aware of the challenge. Its projected figure of 1.3 billion mobile devices moving into the enterprise in the next three years is probably bang on. The world is now mobile. But it doesn't end at the enterprise anymore.

What was discussed after the presentation suggests Cisco is making the right moves with AnyConnect. It's agnostic. It understands that platforms don't matter anymore. It understands the full implications of consumerisation. Tom Gillis is known for his enthusiasm for Apple ('All Apple, all the time'). His whole demo was based around an iPhone, it's apps and a MacBook - but if the dream is achievable it could just as easily be a BlackBerry and a PC. The bit in between that you can't see is the bit that Cisco needs to get right.

If understanding social-technical shifts qualifies you for success it has a chance. When Cisco says that the workplace is transitioning, that the differences between employees and consumers are breaking down and that organisations and their customer relationships are breaking down too, they are right. The borders are blurring everywhere. Cisco bought Flip last year - no one could understand why. Perhaps Cisco understands better than the analysts.

"HTTP is the new TCP - the protocol on which all applications are now running," said Gillis.

John Stewart, Cisco's thoughtful CSO went further: "It's no longer appropriate to talk about consumer and enterprise. It's no longer appropriate for IT to decide what jewellery people can wear - that's not endurable. The iPhone was a black swan event," he said.

There is a way to go. On the bus after the event an analyst turned to me and said: "None of my customers will allow an iPhone into the enterprise." That's a reality check I guess, but Cisco should chase its dream.


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