Networking more widespread than you think: Cisco CEO

LAS VEGAS — If you’re lining up for drinks in a busy hotel, it’s not very convenient if there’s a pillar smack dab in the middle of the bar.

But what if the building engineers don’t think of this problem until the design phase is nearing completion? Finding out whether

you could remove the pillar without making the building unsafe could be a very time-consuming process, says John Chambers, president and chief executive officer of Cisco Systems Inc.

In his keynote address Tuesday at the Networld + Interop trade show, Chambers used the scenario of a pillar blocking a bar as an example of how software and networking technologies can help companies in all industries save money and improve their business processes.

In the case of the company building the hotel — a hypothetical example shown in a video demonstration — an engineer entered a request to remove the pillar into computer-aided design software linked to a messaging program.

The architect received the message and used several computers linked by routers to run a computing-intensive simulation program in order to figure out whether the building would still be structurally sound if the pillar was moved.

Chambers, who addressed an audience of about 2,000 networking and telcom professionals at the Las Vegas Convention Centre, said many experts believe the benefits of networking have been largely confined to three major industries — IT, retail and financial services. Chambers disputes this notion, arguing that other industries, such as construction, can save money and improve their business processes through the use of technologies — for example, combining voice, video and data on to the same network.

Using networking technologies like converged voice, data and video networks, and Web commerce, can help save money and improve business processes, Chambers said. He noted his own company saved US$1.94 billion during the 2002 fiscal year by improving business processes. For example, Cisco handles more inquiries using Web forms instead of having service representatives talk to clients on the phone. The company has been able to move employees from existing areas into new lines of business, such as networked storage, Chambers said.

Cisco has also “out-tasked” about 90 per cent of its manufacturing operations, Chambers said. He doesn’t consider the operations as being outsourced, he said, because Cisco gives its suppliers more strategic direction than it would if it were outsourcing the manufacturing jobs.

The Networld + Interop exhibition floor closes at the end of the day Thursday, while the conference continues Friday.

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