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Cisco’s Successful Launch at ISC

I was still harboring a lingering doubt when I walked into the ISC registration area to pick up my badge and head into the Cisco keynote marking the company’s offical launch into the physical security market.  Cisco was, after all, taking a huge risk.  Guido Jouret, CTO of Cisco’s Emerging Technologies Group was going to give a presentation on Cisco’s vision regarding security and communcations.  And I don’t know about you, but I have found that more often than not, IT geeks have a nasty habit of making disparaging remarks about physical security.  I’ve heard it from the mouths of Oracle, Symantec and coutless other IT execs regerring to knuckle-dgraggin security guards or other signs of "disgraceful" disdain for technology.  Imagine if Jouret had mispoke and let any of those kinds of sentiments slip – the entire industry would have turned its back.

The other risk Cisco took was talking "over" the audience. It is a natural tendency for IT folks to fall into the opaque language of IT-speak, which commonly alienates a non-IT listener.

So here we were – a physical security audience listeneing to an IT industry executive (a CTO no less) talking to us about "our" industry. The chance of failure was titanic.

After the keynote, I took a barometric reading.  Folks all around me used words like "smooth," "eloquent," and "Sensitive."  When was the last time you heard a keynote speaker at a security show described as "sensitive?!"  Heck, I usually have to have a buddy from Jersey translate for me!  Jouret surprised everyone by articulating the Cisco vision without even a hint of the snooty superiority we often hear from IT folks.  He even handled some tough questions from the audience with calm confidence – so much so that many of us couldn’t tell that he was completely new to the physical security world.

When I thought I was hearing a complaint from the attendees, I came to find that it was a neutral comment.  "The presentation was very ‘Cisco-y’"  Several folks commented that there was an unusually heavy emphasis on Cisco and its branding. Like a sales pitch.  HID or Bosch never could have gotten away with that. But actually those same folks were actually somewhat grateful to hear this mysterious giant now lurking in our midst apparently openly revealing itself – demystifying – exposing itself to our inquiry and crutiny.  Again, a big risk, but one that paid off.

Later in the day I visited the Cisco booth and could not imagine how any more ISC attendees could pack themselves in. Even the Cisco execs were banished from the booth, forced to conduct their meetings in the aisles around the crowd.

So it’s official. Cisco is now a member of the family, a physical security vendor.  What a ride it’s gonna be.

Categories: TechNews
  1. RKB
    March 30, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the note, Steve. Good to hear your perspective on the keynote, since I couldn’t make it to Vegas this week.
    Just imagine what the industry will look like if Google decides to join in, too, applying some of that search brain trust to pour through millions of hours of video instead of millions of web pages.

  2. March 31, 2007 at 9:13 am

    Steve, I got a similar impression from Cisco this week. I was curious as to your thoughts on IBM also making a presence.

  3. John Honovich
    March 31, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Hi Steve,
    I find it curious that you would think the “entire industry” would have turned its back if Cisco acted arrogant.
    Imagine if Cisco offered ground breaking technology that radicaly reduced the cost of security systems and solved critical business problems that no one was able to do before.
    I am sure many (including myself) would be less than happy if Cisco is arrogant but I think what really counts is how much value Cisco generates for security customers.
    From what I saw (as one of the many to visit their booths) their value proposition is very weak. I am not saying it’s bad, just that it is far less sophisticated and more expensive than other players in the space Cisco targets such as Genetec, DvTel and Verint.
    After the initial publicity, I think Cisco will get deals (because they are Cisco) but I think Cisco will find it surprinsingly tough to compete on the details and economics that drive real customer purchasing.
    That being said, I think Cisco has already accomplished its true strategic goal.
    When John Chambers talks about video being the killer app, it’s the killer app for selling Cisco’s core products – routers, switches, etc. Cisco’s entry provides further validation for network video that drives sales of Cisco core products regardless of what physical security vendor an organization uses.
    And, of course, if Cisco really wants to dominant physical security, they will do what they normally do, buy a company that can provide a ready made solution.

  4. March 31, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks for the great comments!
    I’ll put up a post soon about IBM. The top execs were there in force this week.
    John, your points are well taken. Imagine if Cisco had been perceived as arrogant or insulting and only displayed a weak value proposition. Hmmm.
    Cisco has dipped a toe in this market and for sure the value proposition has a long way to go before it is sexy.
    Keep the comments coming.

  5. April 3, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I don’t think Cisco will have anywhere near the stronghold on the physical security industry that they had on the data networking business. There are simply too many established market leaders already, whereas Cisco was the front-runner in the networking explosion of the 90’s.
    That said, Cisco will make (has already made) a big splash simply because they’re Cisco, and this is a natural extension of their core business. I think they’ll almost instantly be a major player, but perhaps more importantly I think their presence will spur improvements from existing players and yet-unheard-of startups. Competition stimulates innovation, and there are no bigger competitors than Cisco!

  6. April 4, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Sounds like they were very successful at the first major hurdle, articulating their vision for people who are experts in the field.
    Of course proof will be in the follow up and that won’t be fully demonstrated until companies start using their services. But it’s really hard to do something if you are unable to define it. So, this is promising.

  7. Ken
    June 12, 2007 at 11:20 am

    I am a member of the Cisco Physical Security group, do you have any feedback on how we can ensure we do not come off as arrogant to the traditional Physical Security industry?

  8. June 12, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Sure. Do you want it alphabetically or categorically? The landmines are numerous. Grabbing a genuine phys sec person like Bill Stuntz to lead your group is one excellent step. email me directly if you’d like to talk further. steve@securitydreamer.com

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