Networld+Interop - Cisco CEO: Enterprise security more than just firewalls

After giving his keynote address at yesterday's Networld+Interop conference, Cisco Systems Inc. President and CEO John Chambers told a press panel that IT managers won't be able to build better security solely by restricting access to applications.

"You have no choice but to make things more accessible if you want to increase productivity," he said.

He made clear that Cisco's goal is to build security into all phases of network infrastructure so users will have multilayered defenses backing up increasingly distributed applications. Companies, he said, can't hide behind firewalls and expect to achieve the productivity needed to improve their own bottom lines.

Bob Gleichauf, chief technical officer at Cisco's security division, talked about how the company is now trying to provide "transactional security" so users protect individual operations rather than set broad policies that could block future growth.

Customers are still showing signs of resistance to large-scale security spending, he said. "People have balked at security," he said. "They haven't worked it into IT budgets."

Cisco executives on the panel said one item that has ticked up in priority more than security is resiliency -- a company's ability to rebound from catastrophe.

Mike Volpi, a senior vice president in Cisco's enterprise group, argued that server uptime and cyberdefenses aren't necessarily the cornerstones of a secure business. Users, he said, need to think outside the server "box."

"Things happen to that box, 9/11 happens," he said.

Chambers also offered his thoughts on the national economy. "It's what we call a 'show-me' economy," he said. "Until [companies] see their own business and revenues pick up, they're not going to spend."

Small businesses will likely be the first group to show signs of recovery, he said, followed by enterprises and then service providers. Chambers also said he believes that a rebound in the manufacturing industry will likely have the greatest effect on the tech economy.

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