Nov 07 2013

Cisco’s Frank Palumbo Wants to Transform the Enterprise

The networking giant offers several products that can help companies shift as they move to the cloud and deploy data analytics.

Frank Palumbo, senior vice president of global data centers at Cisco Systems, and his sales teams are “maniacally” focused on operational transformation.

Just what does he mean by that?

It’s about using converged networking infrastructure that integrates servers, switches and storage to improve performance and maintain consistently high IT service levels.

“The reason we’ve jumped so far this fast is because of the operational transformation and being able maintain your operational model yet move forward … while keeping things simple,” Palumbo says. “To give you an example of what I’m talking about, if you look at most enterprise-class data centers and their servers, most of them have five to seven connections in them. With Fibre Channel over Ethernet, I’m bringing those down to two — a primary and a backup.”

And according to Palumbo, the results have been profound as companies deploy converged technology infrastructures and move their organizations to the cloud.

Palumbo talks about why this is the most exciting time to work in technology.

Brightstar, SAIC and NTT Data reduced infrastructure costs by 30 percent. Thieme Medical Publishers and Seven Corners insurance run disaster recovery operations 50 percent faster. Molina Healthcare, Heritage Auctions and Future Farmers of America report that it takes 90 percent less time to deploy applications. Travel industry services provider Travelport reduced its power and cooling costs by 60 percent. EMC, Boeing and auto finance company Credit Acceptance increased application performance by 30 percent.

“That kind of performance is why we’ve been winning in the marketplace,” Palumbo says. “If we can’t lower your cost...[or] do something that operationally transforms your business, we’re not going to win.”

Speeding Up Efficient IT

Palumbo says Cisco engineers are working on “service profiles, “ which maintain a company’s operational model but gives it the ability to move faster. He says, for example, if a company’s web server or database server requires a certain BIOS or storage setting, Cisco’s engineers are looking into how they can set that up in a silo, deploy it in a centralized pool and allow the group that’s provisioning the server to still take advantage of those computing resources.

Moving forward, Palumbo says Cisco will continue to innovate around 40- and 100-Gigabit Ethernet products and the company’s open network environment (Cisco ONE technology), which combines networking hardware, improved ASIC chips, embedded software and management tools.

In the ongoing industry discussion about software-defined networks (SDNs), an increasingly popular approach to networking in which networks are managed by centralized controllers, Palumbo maintains that it takes more than just software to manage a network. Cisco ONE includes a controller for fabric services, along with a series of open APIs and development kits.

Palumbo highlights the innovative new data center technology Cisco is offering.

Cisco also plans to forge strategic partnerships, even among its competitors. For example, Cisco competes fiercely with Microsoft for unified communications and collaboration business, but Palumbo also points out that Cisco works very closely with Microsoft in the data center.

“We partner,” he says. “We’re not going to put you in a situation where we cannot talk and connect and integrate other people’s stuff in a way that really means something.”

To learn more about Frank Palumbo and Cisco's vision for the future of IT, visit his leadership session.For more insights and ideas from leaders in technology, check out the rest of the Bring IT On Leadership Series.