Big data, big plans for Cisco’s services chief

MONTREAL – Edzard Overbeek, the senior vice president of Cisco Services, was relatively unknown until the company put forth his name as a potential successor to the Cisco throne; currently held by John Chambers since 1995.

In 2014 Overbeek was named as a possible successor to the 65 year-old Chambers along with Chuck Robbins and Canadian Rob Lloyd. But at the Cisco Partner Summit he told CDN that wasn’t his focus.

In a wide-ranging interview conducted at the Partner Summit, Overbeek did not shy away from talking about replacing a high tech legend in Chambers, but what he really wanted to discuss was how big data is transforming the services market and how the channel can take advantage of it.

CDN sat down with Overbeek to discuss this topic along with a potential run for the top job at Cisco.

The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: Big data is one of those mega trends but last year CDN conducted a join CIO survey with sister publication Canadian CIO and found that one of the challenges facing this group is the people who are being tasked with the captured data. Many CIOs believe they are not well equipped to analyse data and could lead to making the wrong decisions. How do you view this?

Edzard Overbeek: It’s a real worry and many companies and countries realize today that the currency of the 21st century is data. This question has to be answers. There are some professionals and some companies that will not let the data leave their premises, while others are more flexible. Part of the acquisitions we have done with companies such as Metacloud with managed services and on-premise and now open stack is going to solve this and now we can have full data and full security. We can also manage that on behalf of the channel partner or have it resold through the partners or companies can do it themselves.

CDN Now: You said during your keynote address at the Partner Summit in Montreal that a new approach is necessary for reaching and analysing the data, which I gather is the challenge with unstructured data. What is Cisco offering here?

E.O.: Really it is about streaming data on the router and let’s assume we are right and there will be 20 billion devices about to be connected or let’s go lower to 10 billion or even five billion it’s still huge amount. They will all have propriety protocols and be able to capture data in that device. That data never goes out or into one silo or not available to others. What is going to happen is they will all talk and if we think we have the biggest data flush today it’s just a start on what digitalization is? In a classic example, look at the way jet engine are produced. A jet engine takes in 1TB per hour of data. So if you have four on a plane and that plane is flying for 12 hours how do you compute that? You need real time streaming of the analytics and what we do is communication technology to store it. If the engine in slower what happens when the plane lands? Technicians puts a USB stick in and do maintenance on that slow jet engine. They put what they find into a PC and see if it needs to be tweaked and you go from there. But what you want is to have your airplane optimized. That will mean more profit for the airline. Communications with the airport have to be in real time. Same for the hanger crew on site; they can refuel and fix the engine at the same time. Now you have an airplane in production with zero operational cost. This is how you have to think of it. Real time analytics that is pre-emptive and predictive in a self-learning and self-healing way. It will not have any human interface and then you can start to deal with the gazillion bytes of data on the Internet.  You can’t begin to solve that problem with a human interface.

CDN Now: How are you aligning Cisco Services with channel partners?

E.O.: For me the channel is the most important route to market. That will remain a strategic objective from Cisco and for me try to further expand that. We need to be realistic to market forces and customers today want more skin in the game and that means having Cisco involved in a direct relationship. We have no direct strategy, but we can facilitate this with channel partners. The front-end will be different. In the apps we are building with partner it actually goes deeper with the channel and if we provide the financing and technical support they will be ok. So we believe the shift will not be that big.

CDN Now: Is the data analytics portion of the whole Internet of Everything market opportunity an easier way for the channel to get into this $19 Trillion opportunity?

E.O.: I think personally if I were a channel partner I would double down on this. The momentum is here and it’s clear that the Internet of Everything and digitalization of business and countries is going to happen. It’s more a matter of when then whether. The channel should prepare themselves. We see these market transitions and will try to help the channel with new programs.

CDN Now: Your name has been mentioned as a possible successor to John Chambers. I can only imagine if you get the post of CEO you would be in the unenviable position of following a business legend. Chambers at one time had Cisco as the most valuable company in the world. How do you look at it?

E.O.: We have such a great leadership team and I’m not the only name that was put forth. I can tell you it’s not my focus. I know that sounds weird, but it’s not my purpose. We are currently in the midst of the biggest transition in business and society and it just started. Everyone has to focus on that. I am leading the services team and if I do a good job the board and John may consider me. But for now it’s not what I focus on and we are all trying to make this transition work.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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