Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: Get ready for the network’s next act

Cisco’s annual user event, Cisco Live, is being held in Orlando, Florida, this week. While Orlando is home to DisneyWorld, Universal Studios and other places where fantasies come true, the one thing that isn’t make-believe is the turnaround of Cisco since Chuck Robbins took over as CEO. When the baton was passed to Robbins in August of 2015, Cisco’s stock was trading at about $25/share and had been moving sideways for years. Today, it’s trading at about $45/share and at a 17-year high, and the turnaround is well underway.

Cisco goes back to the network

How did Robbins get Cisco’s mojo’s back in such a short period of time? The answer lies in its roots and a refocus on the network. In fact, when Robbins took over as CEO, I wrote a post outlining some priorities for him as he stepped into the role. My first point was to approach IT through the lens of the network. In the years leading up to the transition to Robbins, I felt Cisco had tried too hard to prove itself as a server and traditional IT vendor instead of staying true to networking.

Since then, Cisco has gone back to what made it great in the first place — being the world’s largest and most important network vendor — and it has driven a tremendous amount of innovation into it, including its recent intent-based networking (IBN) solution.

‘Networks will power the future’

At the 2018 edition of Cisco Live, Robbins’ message to the 26,000-plus attendees was that the network has never been more important and that we sit on the precipice of the networks next act. During his keynote, he made the statement that “Networks will power the future,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Almost all of the enabling technologies of digital transformation, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing, are network-centric. There isn’t a company today that isn’t highly dependent on its network, and in many cases, the network is the business.

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