Cisco CEO John Chambers' keynote speech at Interop Tuesday focused on universal interactivity, no matter where the players are and what device they're using.

"Collaboration over IP based networks will drive productivity, when you have connections from anywhere anytime, whether consumer or enterprise", he said.

Chambers - who traditionally describes the future of networking over the next few years at this show-opening event - said his remarks related to the next three to five years.

"We’re talking about transitions towards a network that enables interactions needing to change three to five years ahead of those needs. A key technology in this world of unified communications will be virtualisation, going beyond videoconferencing but changing the underlying business process. If not productivity will suffer."

"Unified communications and collaboration will not just be about IP-based applications", he said. "Instead, it's about experience with peers and customers. Half of the productivity gains will come from human-to-human collaboration."

By unified communications, Chambers said he was talking about quad play - video, voice, data and wireless - and was encouraging enterprises to move in that direction.

Chambers said that homes and businesses alike would adopt these technologies. Businesses will do so for competitive reasons, and consumers because they will need to tie together multiple connected devices in the home.

He said it called for an intelligent information network. "It's about a layer that allows functionality at the network level to be seen at the end user level - and it's got to be easy to use: two clicks or two numbers to be punched in."

Chambers also predicted a strong future for virtualisation. "We will see complete virtualisation of storage, servers, processors and applications", he said. "Freedom from hardware dependence means faster rollout. It'll happen first in the data centre to make storage and processing virtual, and over time it will change the way we understand computing."

He also touched on security and said, predictably enough since it's a drum that Cisco has been banging for some years, that protection against viruses and so forth needs to be embedded in the network.

"We need to move security, advanced technology and services into the network, to take those applications into the network. To do this, we need an architectural, not a pin-point approach - ie not piece by piece", he said. "Whatever the industry, the challenges are the same. It’s about the integration of VOIP, wireless, SAN etc where those things blur together. In future you won’t know the difference between them. You have to catch those transitions and the courage to invest in them."

Chambers also demonstrated the power of pervasive networks in the transport industry. This will use networked sensors and real-time video to enable central management of transport end points such as trains, lorries and aeroplanes, allowing more efficient use of resources, said Chambers.

In an upbeat ending and referring to the savaging the network industry underwent five years ago, he said: "Networked IT is back and will change the way we do business, learn and play."