Cisco CEO John Chambers today outlined his vision for the future of the IT industry at VMworld in San Francisco.
His theme was the need for organisations to ditch the command and control model and start collaborating instead, using Web 2.0 technologies and virtualisation.
In his characteristic evangelical style, Chambers wrapped his vision with the example of Cisco itself, which he claimed drove productivity and profitability by cutting across organisational silos.
Chambers said it was about a "wave of collaboration across barriers and content. There will be a wave of productivity that will change how we work and the very nature of work itself."
"It's about going across silos, driving the company in any direction it needs to go," he said. "This is where IT becomes sexy again, where the sizzle comes back," he said.
Then Chambers returned to what has become, for him, a familiar theme. He said the enabler was the ability to hasten the speed of change, which he acknowledged is uncomfortable for most people. "We hate change," he said.
He said: "The vision isn't about the next 12 months but the next five to ten years. It's about how you differentiate, how you provide flexibility, and react to change.
"You need to implement technology to assist that, to catch market trends not 12 months out but five to ten years ahead of time."
The problem, said Chambers, is that Web 2.0 is "not really being used in the enterprise. It needs virtualisation of resources on a global basis. This means technology such as wikis and FaceBook.
Using Cisco as his example, Chambers said that the processes that support Cisco's corporate acquisitions used to take 45 days but now they take eight as a result of using "a bunch of collaborative technologies."
He said: "Our datacentre strategy saved $200m and saved having to build a new datacentre for four years because we connected everything to enable collaboration between our storage, networking and server groups.
"It's about convergence of voice, video and data all stored in places you have difficulty getting to, such as in the home on small devices. To get to that data, it also got to be CEO idiot-proof, using one click access."
All this will be enabled by unified communications, he said. "Find me, follow me, get access to anything you want," was how he described it.
Chambers said: "Consumers will drive the evolution of this technology they'll will drive into the business with a vengeance."
Openness and security are key attributes, said Chambers. "It must be open - closed architectures are gone forever - and must be safe to keep things running in the data centre and stop it leaving in an unsafe way."
"It's not just a concept. In the last nine months we've driven this through our organisation. And everything will be virtual within two years. We'll communicate within our company using Web 2.0 technologies by the end of the year."
He also talked about how the message needs to be communicated from the CIO to the CEO. "The opportunity is about telling the CEO in a language he understands how to deliver quickly the infrastructure he needs to make the business grow," he said.
Chambers predicted big leaps in economic growth if his prescription is adopted. He said that in 1997 he told Alan Greenspan, then head of the US Federal Reserve that the economy could grow at 3.5 percent by using IT. In fact, said Chambers, the outturn up to 2004 was five percent annually, after which growth flattened out.
Chambers predicted that: "You will see a second phase of innovation via virtualisation and collaboration - data, voice, video, across any combination of data type, any device, and any network.
"Organisations that learn to collaborate across functional hierarchies will lead in this industry," he said.
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