NetEvents 2006: Cisco Crumbs are Tasty & Filling!

“Cisco may be lording it over the enterprise table, but the remaining crumbs are big!” was the opening message at this year’s NetEvents European Press Summit at the Hotel Quinta do Lago, Portugal. The keynote presentation by Jeff Prince, CTO and Chairman, Consentry Networks, addressed the daunting prospect of starting a business in the shadow of a company that owns 72% of the switching and 88% of the router market, is number 1 in VOIP, wireless, and storage – and even dominates markets where their own products have yet to be launched.

Those remaining “crumbs” add up to some $3 to 4 billion in the switch market alone, explained Jeff. What’s more, it’s the start-ups that generate the real sea changes in the market – often being bought by Cisco as a consequence. Following his survey of past and current sea changes, those who would dare to be unconventional enjoyed some sound advice on “beating the odds” from the ASIC mastermind with 20 years experience in enterprise networking – including founding Centillion, selling it to Bay Networks, co-founding Foundry and launching the third highest IPO in US stock market history.

Among Jeff’s list of current sea changes was a shift in emphasis from connectivity to services – mobility, optimization, security and control – and the challenge of perimeter control. This set the scene for the two following NetEvents debate sessions on Network Access Control (NAC) and “Making the multiservice LAN work safely securely and efficiently” – introduced and chaired by Jeremiah Caron from Current Analysis.
Responding to Jeff’s theme, Jeremiah asked “if we want it to work end-to-end, and Cisco offer all that’s needed, shouldn’t we just buy Cisco?” to which Dave Endler from Tipping Point, and Chairman VOIPSA, pointed out how security is better served by common standards than by a monopoly.

Jan Guldentops, Director, BA Test Labs, chaired the security debate and pointed out that ten years had passed since he first debated security at NetEvents – so what has been the progress? One answer from Juniper’s Peter Crowcombe was that, whereas bandwidth and other performance issues were up against mere physics and the limits of technology, security was a struggle against a far more complex opponent – human ingenuity. Johan Beckers from Internet Security Solutions also drew attention to the problem of over-zealous NAC, or “self-imposed denial of service”.

The morning concluded with two further debates – on Traffic Management and on Carrier Ethernet Access to the Last Mile. In a concise and witty presentation, Steve Broadhead from Broadband Testing Labs outlined the problem of “chasing bottlenecks” in the dynamic application space. He then introduced his panel and went on to lead a lively debate on the merits of accelerators and intelligent cache systems, network load balancers, test equipment and policy-based gateways.

In the Carrier Ethernet debate, introduced by Carsten Rossenhövel, MD of the European Advanced Networking Test Centre, delegates were challenged to explain how carriers can leverage layered services to increase revenue, and present the business case for scaling this service architecture throughout the access network. With Craig Easley from Actelis and Gary Bolton from Hatteras Networks on the panel, bonded copper solutions got a good airing. The debate was kept firmly grounded by the presence on the panel of MEF Chairman, Mike Tighe, and Bob Mandeville whose Iometrix laboratories are currently responsible for Carrier Ethernet conformance testing.

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