This is Roland Acra’s third run at Cisco. He’s left the networking giant and come back twice, this last time to run its Data Center Business Group.
He joined the company for the third time in 2016 because he had some ideas for applying all the recent advances in data analytics and machine learning to managing enterprise networks, he told us in an interview for the latest episode of The Data Center Podcast.
At the time Cisco approached him with a potential job offer, he had been busy refining an idea for a startup that would apply analytics to data coming out of data center systems or networks in general to do thing like preventing outages and optimizing performance.
“When I found how much commonality of thinking there was between where Cisco wanted to go – and these were some software products, of course – and where my ideas were, I said OK. I would have a bigger platform and a lot more muscle and speed to realize the ideas that I was very excited about.”
Fast-forward to now, and the analytics capabilities in Cisco products like Tetration, its software platform that he says is now used by hundreds of customers, are a fruit of those ideas.
In his role as senior VP and general manager of Cisco’s Data Center Business Group, Acra is a key mover in one of the biggest shifts in the company’s history. In a market where much of the recent innovation has been driven by the internal infrastructure teams behind hyperscale cloud platforms like Facebook’s, Google’s, and Microsoft’s, proving their worth is a daily battle for old-guard enterprise technology vendors like Cisco.
For Cisco specifically, this has meant placing a lot more focus on software and services. The company is no longer thinking strictly in terms of tightly integrated software and hardware stacks; more of its software now supports non-Cisco hardware; soon, it will also support the world’s two biggest public cloud platforms: Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure; more and more of its software is now being sold as cloud-based subscription services not unlike Salesforce or Office 365.
On this episode of The Data Center Podcast, we talk with Acra about what role Cisco sees itself playing in today’s market and what that has meant for its technology and product strategy. Listen or download below via Soundcloud. Listen on iTunes. Listen on Stitchr.