Cisco: Google Wave Completes Us

Cisco is striving to redefine itself as a vendor connecting inner and outer clouds, thus reasserting its relevance in the context of a fluid Web-driven IT world increasingly dominated by the likes of Google, Salesforce, Oracle and IBM. It also hopes to parlay its legacy of infrastructure expertise into a reassuring presence, particularly for veteran IT administrators struggling to balance their in-house infrastructures against the cost-savings and potential efficiencies of cloud computing.

CTO Padmasree Warrior, who is emerging as the company's most visible spokesperson not named John Chambers, explained that Cisco intends to help customers link their existing IT infrastructure with cloud-based computing assets. "We can't ignore that there are public clouds out there," Warrior said, noting that while customers may use cloud-based infrastructure for some purposes, they won't trash existing data centers in which they have already invested hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. "The question is how do you federate between all those clouds... The network is the key," she said during a WebEx meeting with reporters and analysts today. Warrior even coined a new marketing phrase -- heavens help us -- by calling this connectivity the "intercloud."

Warrior shared the video link with Doug Dennerline, senior vice president of the company's software collaboration group, who said that, in comparison to Google, Zoho and other online collaboration tools vendors, "we understand the enterprise in a meaningful way."

Dennerline, who is being allowed to emerge from under Chambers' shadow, noted that Google's Wave collaboration apparatus is a "validation" of Cisco's WebEx Connect, which, like Wave, is a Web-based platform allowing developers to create collaboration tools. According to Dennerline, Cisco will continue to provide customers with enterprise-level versions of Web 2.0 applications. "We're going to continue to reinvent ourselves in terms of how people interact," he said.

Cisco is putting forward a false dichotomy in pitting what it portrays as the wild and woolly Web with sage enterprise technology -- as IBM developer Kamil Julian notes on his personal blog, enterprise applications don't have higher scalability or security requirements than enterprise applications -- but its arguments will certainly resonate with a large portion of its customer base. And Cisco will certainly provide important connections between the cloud infrastructure and in-house data centers for as long as those continue operating.