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Cisco As A Powerful Ally And Contributor To Big Data Initiatives In ASEAN

Big Community had an opportunity to interview Dave West, the Chief Technology Officer for Cisco APJC (Asia Pacific, Japan, China), on their latest in Big Data Analytics at their office here in Kuala Lumpur.

We were treated to conducting the interview in their state-of-the-art Tele-Presence conferencing room which was recently upgraded and looking fantastic. The room features 3 large screens that link to the callers in high definition using high speed connections, making the interview that much more conducive an environment to conduct.

Moving into the interview, we asked Dave if Cisco are looking at Big Data as a business avenue to drive into or is it just a hype now to be involved in Big Data.

“As companies look at digitization, and digitizing their business, they are seeing digital disruption happening in the market. Cisco is clearly a major player in helping our customers catch this digitization wave. And Big Data is a part of all of that.”

With that being the case, Cisco sees the need to provide capabilities right from the workspace, all the way to the cloud, be it private or public and provide the Big Data capabilities to support their clients.

“We have been delivering big data capabilities to support providers for many many years. So Big Data is not a hype or a buzz word. We have built it into our infrastructure as part of how we deliver the next generation data center capabilities”, he added.

He goes on to explain how for the past several years, Cisco have been delivering converged infrastructure stacks that are fully optimized and built for Big Data. Working with EMC in the market, they delivered their Vblock solution which combines compute, networking and storage. They have also worked with NetApp and developed NetApp FlexPod.

Looking across the spectrum, Dave says these examples clearly show the depth at which Cisco is involved in Big Data solutions. He adds they have recently announced two converged infrastructure stacks; Flash Stack with Pure for the enterprise customer and Smart Stack with Nimble for the mid-market customer. They see the need to continue to invest to deliver these capabilities as the market continues to expand in the area.

He points out that a recent study by Forrester of leaders in Big Data, Cisco was named as one of the top leaders in the field in terms of being able to deliver the right infrastructure. This, he says, is due to the investments they have been making over many years and as a result of that, they have also become a private cloud leader.

A differentiating aspect that he believes Cisco has in the market, is in their partnering model.

“Cisco is built on a channel ecosystem partner model. We see new ISV’s and new providers who are going to be strong players in the Big Data market such as Cloudera, MapR, Horton Works. They are Big Data software players. What we can do is optimize our infrastructure for their software environments and for their applications”.

On top of that, he says they have a big focus on security across the data center which is one of their greatest differentiating elements. Their ability to deliver end to end security, as well as pervasive policy in the data center around Big Data stack.

“If you look at data collected in Big Data, you are collecting a lot of vital information. Through the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which is our pervasive data center policy security model, it allows us to consistently drive policy across networking, data and storage, done from an application centric compute. With that model, as we look at moving into Big Data and optimizing infrastructure for the customer and their applications, security becomes a very critical component”.

With converged being able to scale up and scale out, security is a major issue that Cisco is able to monitor and control through their model.

As customers and clients move towards IoT and quite possibly 50 billion devices by 2020, the analytics required for those devices to work optimally, Cisco has a direct influence in that area as an IoT leader with 2 important components.

“With any plethora of information, either automation, healthcare and many others, the interesting part is you have to be able to collect the data from those devices to make rich powerful decisions. Transport becomes really important. Compute capacity to be able to analyse from all that data is the second part. We are doing exactly that. Our investment around IoT is not on the end devices per se alone. It is really around transport, the ability to process, the ability to scale up and scale out, because they (the client) might not just invest in private cloud but they might also invest in public cloud”.

He says that they arrived at this through extensive study and analysis of what is happening with their customers in Big Data.

Turning the discussion to the topic of the Internet of Things and its effects on business, he says that IoT is pervasive across all types of businesses. There is digital transformation across many different verticals whether in manufacturing and mining or in health and pharmaceuticals where IoT can monitor the delivery of products from product inception up to delivery to the pharmacy or hospital, This makes sure the product wasn’t tampered and delivered safely to the client.

“It’s amazing to see”, he muses. “All this data has to be stored somewhere. Sometimes we get very fixated on the end devices, the reality is, the real magic happens when you collect all that data to make better sound business decisions. That’s why we are so focused around digitization. We want Cisco to be on the platform for customers that digitize. The reason we are able to do that is because of the depth and breadth of our portfolio”, “from datacentre all the way to the workspace. Cisco is going to play an active role in helping you get there”.

UCS being their number one compute platform, number two or three worldwide he points out, has a unique differentiating angle of how they have gone to market around Big Data and converged infrastructure. The strategy was to optimize their offering by combining with the best in the market, combining network capabilities and putting it together in one stack allowing the customer to integrate seamlessly without the hassle that usually comes with using just one vendor with one expertise.

Their recent acquisition of a public cloud provider CliQr Technologies, Inc, now called CloudCenter, gives the customer the option to burst out from their private cloud and gravitate to public cloud should the need arise. In fact, whether the data sits in a datacentre, a private cloud, or a public cloud, they are able to manage, deploy and drive policy with that data through their CloudCentre across applications with this solutions.

“We have a robust and rich portfolio for the datacentre for the customer that differentiates us from others in the market”.

Dave mentions their Big Data partners in the region include MapR, Horton Works, SAP and that they have a close working relationship with many ISV’s in the region. They also encourage startups and new ISV’s through their DevNet program. This helps the new ISV’s to understand Cisco’s software and build a rich ecosystem that everyone benefits from.

“It’s not just Cisco alone. All this gets done through partnerships and working with ISV’s in building robust models to help us and our customers be successful in the market. If we don’t have a partnership with somebody and our customer needs us to, we are very flexible in helping them and taking a new software component that our customer is working with and bring it to UCS and run it with UCS, and work with them through that process”, he admits.

Being personally deeply vested in startup communities, Dave says they are very supportive of startups. He says there is a tremendous startup community in Asia, however he feels that there is a lot of focus on the customer rather than business focused.

“There’s definitely a maturing  startup community that’s happening in Asia”, he says while mentioning the total revenue reported from startups has reached 18 billion in capital. He adds that Malaysia and Singapore too are very focused with investments in manufacturing for startups. However due to the lack of talent infrastructure, the region has a lot of work to do.

“If I was a graduate in university, I would definitely be looking at the data science field. The future is about analytics and you’re going to need data scientists to be able to do that and it doesn’t matter where you go across the world, including Asia, there’s not enough of them. It’s up to companies like us, and governments, and industry to work together in partnership to really help build curriculum and help build the talent across all the countries in Asian”.

Currently they are building a model to identify up and coming ISV’s with new and evolving startups that have interesting softwares so they can begin to work with them by leveraging on the Cisco platform. To make it easy for the startups, they have created a network developer environment to allow other developers to come together and enhance their software product.

“Nine of the last 12 (Cisco) acquisitions were software (companies). We then take all of those rich software tools and make it available to those ISV’s so they can program and build hooks between their software and our software”, he added.

The inroads that Cisco are building for the ASEAN region in the Big Data environment and ecosystem, is nothing short of inspiring. Having the chance to really understand the perspectives they take on the future of Big Data in the region, has hopefully been able to inspire more companies, both in and outside of the region, to further boost their own initiatives and find common grounds to work in collaboration with government authorities and industry leaders, to bring fruition to these endeavours. Especially in the area where their contributions can assist the startup community.