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Interview of Everything: Cisco CEO Chambers on white boxes, SDN, leadership and the cloud

John Gallant | May 6, 2015
Outgoing Cisco CEO John Chambers says Internet of Everything starting to live up to its promise.

Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers
Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers at Mobile World Congress 2015.Credit: Stephen Lawson/IDG News Service

Little did we know that our interview with John Chambers at Cisco's Texas Data Center Day in April might be our last with him as the company's CEO. As we learned this week, he'll hand the reins to Chuck Robbins in July, though will remain the company's chairman and become its executive chairman as well. He'll also hand Robbins the challenge of making Cisco the No.1 IT company by forging ahead with its data center, cloud and Internet of Everything initiatives. Chambers discussed those topics and more with IDG Enterprise VP and Chief Content Officer John Gallant.

A while back you talked about your goal of becoming, I think the term you used was the most important IT company at that time.

No.1 is the way I defined it in terms of the importance to the customers. The No.1 IT company isn't by volume, it's in relation to business customers because those are my customers, not the consumer. Who do they view as their most important partner? That's my definition of the No.1 IT company.

That was a big goal. Where do you stand?

It was very similar if I were to draw a parallel to 1993, when we said we're going to change the way the world works, lives, plays and learns, and the Internet is going to be at the core of that. Everybody said that's really catchy marketing, John, but you know you're a router company. And yet, I think you would probably say we did that more than any other company. When we originally said we were going to become the No.1 IT company people said "Yeah, that's cool but unlikely."

And if you watch, every transition now is off the network. Almost every move in the market is either a move to align with where Cisco is going or to align to compete against us or to utilize that technology. So to say we were in the right spot at the right time would be an understatement and our strategy around architectures and how you tie this together to get business outcomes is working. I can't mention the companies, but you're seeing $100 million complete network upgrades. Not just to upgrade the network, but to position for the Internet of Everything, business transformation, security, etc.

The Internet of Everything took a little bit longer to take off than I thought because we started on this eight years ago and I had to buy people drinks then or even three years ago to get them to talk to me about it. Yet between CES of last year to this year, it went from being a surprise, to being everything this year.


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