Cisco Composite at BBBT: Supporting the Internet of Things

Last Friday’s BBBT presentation was by Cisco Composite. Composite Software was a company in the data virtualization space until it was bought by Cisco last year. The initial problem is what is it now? My internet search bubbles up two pages:

  • The old company’s site which looks like it hasn’t been updated since last year. There’s no copyright year at the bottom and the news page includes articles only through 2013.
  • The Cisco page which has nothing of use on it.

The presenters assumed folks at the BBBT knew who they were because of a previous presentation, but the group’s grown a lot in the last year. The people should have started with a basic overview of product and company. Bob Eve gave an introduction, but it was very brief and made too many assumptions. Composite was in the business of providing access to disparate data sources in a way that allowed business applications to leverage that data into information and then insight. Think of them as ETL without the L. So why did Cisco buy them?

The confusion was slowly cleared up over the course of the presentation and Q&A. The data visualization tool is being incorporated into Cisco to help create a full solution offering for the Internet of Things (IOT). Mike Flannagan, General Manager, Data and Analytics Business Group, showed a good slide that I think is too crowded to really show in the blog format, but provided three different layers for Cisco’s strategy for delivering enterprise solutions. From bottom to top, they are: Ready to build, ready to integrate and ready to consume. From network management components at the bottom to solution sets such as Connected City at the high level, it’s a well thought out approach for a major organization to provide flexibility and control across markets.

Mr. Flannagan’s key point is that that IOT means the amount of data flowing through networks has massively increased and will continue to do so, and that edge devices, the network and the applications they support all have to adapt to meet the changing environment. While that might be obvious, there’s an old saying that common sense isn’t. It’s good to see the Cisco is looking at the full range from edge to application, and not just concentrating on the network.

Jim Green, former CEO of Composite and now CTO, Data and Analytics Business Group, Cisco, gave an NDA presentation. I can’t wait until some of it is announced because a key part is very interesting, so I’ll talk about it at some point – just not today.

Kevin Ott, General Manager, Data Virtualization Business Unit, focused on the massive amounts of data sources that have to be comingled in an intelligent fashion. He has one of the best graphics I’ve seen to show that, displaying just some of the no-SQL technologies in the market today.

Cisco no-SQL market graphic

Some no-SQL options…

However, then he brought up something that made my marketing mind shudder. Kevin rightfully pointed out that there are lots of clouds, not just the Cloud that’s marketing. Individual sets of servers inside and outside corporate firewalls. He posited that some term in needed to refer to the entire set of networked things and came up with Intercloud. What?!?!? We have had this thing called the internet for quite a while now. Back when we old client server folks were drawing clouds to represent the internet while designing systems, we knew that the cloud referred to the internet. There’s no need for a new term. I know many in marketing love to invent words, but there’s just no need in this case.

Summary

The network is a key component in today’s information infrastructure. The explosion of Cloud applications combined with the supernova of edge device growth in the Internet of Things means that a networking company must adapt if it is to help the industry and itself. While the key component of Cisco’s plan to do so is not something I can yet discuss, and while the presentation was a bit disjointed and some concepts still need clarification, I can state that it seems as if Cisco knows what it’s doing in this arena.

Their own problem seems to be they don’t yet have their message together and coherent. Hopefully that will be fixed in the near future, and I’ll watch it carefully. The right mindset and solution are necessary, but not sufficient. They need to communicate better.

Cisco Composite is on the right path to helping Cisco build a strong and holistic set of offerings to help us manage the information explosion across the internet, from edge devices to the BI applications for the business knowledge workers.

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