Strong religion - Interview: John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco

Strong religion - Interview: John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco

New technology is changing the rules of the networking game, and routing giant Cisco Systems is now trying to dominate areas such as switching.

President and CEO John Chambers has held the position for the past year, which has seen Cisco buy a clutch of smaller vendors. Australian Reseller News correspondent Michael Parsons spoke to Chambers about competition in the internetworking arena.

Australian Reseller News: Switching was supposed to supplant routing, but routing's never been so popular. What's going on?

CHAMBERS: It's not routing or ATM switching or Fast Ethernet: it's really internetworking that's winning. We heard the critics and we were going to go with a combination of routing and ATM switching.

ARN: So which technologies will dominate?

CHAMBERS: It will be a combination. Fast Ethernet next year (1997) will outsell ATM at the workgroup 10-to-1, and for each set of Fast Ethernet switches we sell, it pulls a 7500 router. So there are places in the Internet where switching is more effective and where routing is more effective. People forget that a router is a switch with a lot of software. If all you want to do is move cars around the information superhighway, then a switch is fine. If you really need a software intelligence to make decisions, then you need the routing, or a combination of the two. Routing is growing well and will continue to grow in spurts as the infrastructure gets built out. Our company will use a combination of routing, switching and hubbing: We have no particularly strong religion.

ARN: How is the product mix shifting between core routers, edge routers and switches?

CHAMBERS: The switches are the fastest growing sector. Our switching products are currently generating more than $US600 million on a run rate of more than $3 billion. Routing and switching are going to blur.

ARN: Does that mean that the demand for high-end routing is slowing down?

CHAMBERS: We continue to see good growth in routers, but if we are doing our job well, we are becoming a total internetworking company. We have not seen high-end routing slowing down, but it is not growing at the same speed that switching is. Pundits see high-end routing doubling in four to five years - although we can't forecast 120 days out, so I don't know how they do that.

ARN: How low will you go in the consumer market? Will you launch pocket-size home routers for viewing World Wide Web pages?

CHAMBERS: Mixed routing and switching and hubbing will occur at the low end as well. We intend to go to the desktop. You should look for us to expand our relationships with Intel, Sun and others. We are interested in the home through our partnerships. When you think of the Internet, you think of names like Netscape. In fact, we handle 80 per cent of the traffic.

ARN: Your acquisitions have made some people scratch their heads. Why did you buy Kalpana when most think Alantec had more sophisticated technology?

CHAMBERS: We offer the broadest range of functionality in each area. There are going to be certain companies that want a chassis-based, modular approach. That's why we bought Crescendo. There's a stackable solution, which we've accomplished with Kalpana, and there will be others who want a much better price point, and that's Grand Junction. You will see our software move through all these different levels. That's a much better line than Alantec has. We offer the broadest line and we have achieved the biggest market share, and the combination speaks for itself.

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