Cisco looks for recovery

Although the networking market may get worse before it gets better, all signs suggest that the industry is slowly finding its feet again, according to Cisco Systems Inc. President and CEO John Chambers, who spoke at the company's Worldwide Analyst Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

In the future, profits will be driven by "wave after wave" of new applications in every industry type, Chambers said Tuesday. But he also admitted that the company must do a better job of selling to ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers).

To that end, the San Jose-based networking company recently took a stab at repositioning its edge, core, and long-haul optical strategy with the introduction of its COMET (Complete Optical Multiservice Edge and Transport) portfolio.

The suite, which consists of one new and nine pre-existing optical platforms in Cisco's product line, is aimed at providing better service density, speed, and capacity. It also promises to let users scale their networks as high-bandwidth technologies (such as gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel) come online.

One new product was announced: the ONS 15808 DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing) platform. Aimed at service providers, the 15808 transmits data over long-haul distances, boasting enhancements in channel spacing, channel capacity, bit rates, and transmission distances.

On other fronts, Cisco continued to forge ahead with its initiative to push intelligence to the edge of the network. Seven new intelligent Ethernet switches were announced, including three new members of the Catalyst 3550 line and four new Catalyst 2950 switches, which offer the same basic services as the 3550 family, but are more affordable.

Cisco also announced enhancements to its Catalyst 4000 switch, which will provision gigabit Ethernet to the desktop at a price low enough (US$208 per port) for enterprises to be deployed at every desktop, according to Mark Foss, product manager of Cisco's gigabit switching group. The switch is aimed at wiring closets and branch offices.

Some CEOs at the Analyst Conference echoed Chambers' enthusiasm for the future of the networking sector.

"We're spending ahead of the curve," added Martin Feinstein, chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based Farmers Insurance Group. "If we need to spend money on IT infrastructure, we're quite willing to spend it, because we think we're going to get a good return on it pretty fast."

But not everyone agreed with Chambers' rosy predictions of future profitability. The next few years could produce "strong winners and big losers", according to Bhawani Shankar, an analyst at Gartner in Stamford, CT, due to the economic downturn that will hurt the eight leading vendors (Alcatel, Cisco, Ericsson, Lucent, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel, and Siemens) for at least the next year.

Also, carrier consolidation means there will be fewer customers to sell to, Shankar said.

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