Cisco's new CTO talks first impressions

The new CTO's assessment of Cisco

It's been three months since Padmasree Warrior left Motorola to become Cisco's CTO. Since then, she's not been available for interviews -- until now. Jim Duffy caught up with her at the Cisco Live! customer conference in the US.

What's your assessment of Cisco's technology direction in the three months you've been CTO?

Cisco has a lot of technology depth. It is very good in having a deep understanding of some of the core domains that Cisco serves, like routing, switching, security, understanding what's involved in bringing different types of networks together. It is also very good about thinking and being ready and being willing to change for the future. There's more thought and hunger to understand software as a service and mobility, which is my background.

Where is the company weak?

The opportunity or the difference that I find from the companies that I've worked with in the past -- Cisco is very good at catching transitions as they occur. What we need to get better at doing is painting a picture of what the vision should be and actually creating a transition ourselves. Not just catching them but actually how do we create a transition? ... We are beginning to do that with the concepts around visual networking. That's an area where Cisco is painting a vision for the future and leading, because no other company talks about visual networking. And I like that word a lot because it combines video with social networking concepts.

What are your priorities?

To really crystallize and help Cisco beyond even the strategy; put some metrics in place to drive growth. A framework for metrics around the 22 company priorities for the year. How do we know when we've crossed the chasm? Because all of those are different: Green is different from visual networking is different from collaboration. So part of my role is to put concrete operational metrics around future growth strategies.

The second focus area is to work a lot with customers, to understand their needs going forward. How can we build to the future that together we create.

The third thing is to look at disruptions: What's changing in the industry in terms of the compute model, in terms of understanding the disruptions, and then putting our plans in place.

I strongly believe visual networking is a major priority because it enables us to do so many things so differently. Of visual networking as broader than video, video is a subset of it.

Collaboration is another one. Collaboration to me means two things: One is sharing ideas when we're in a business environment; but the other is actually not just sharing ideas but working to develop business processes together, not just within a company but intercompany.

Virtualization is the next priority. Virtualization enables us to do more things in the cloud., bringing strengths to the enterprise but protect some of the things we have in the current traditional model for large enterprises.

Mobility is also going to drive some of the focus. To me, mobility is different from the mobile device itself because mobility really means having access to information and content; Green will be focused on just because sustainability is going to be such an issue for the whole world; Globalization in terms of not just talent but more as market opportunity -- how can we innovate in India so we can take that solution quicker to the buyer rather than doing it from here.

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