Why is there all this drumming in my head? Is it the amazing things that were said at the Cisco Live conference in Orlando at the end of June, or is it the aftermath of my sitting too close to a line of percussionists who were drumming the crowd into a state of heightened enthusiasm as 20,000 of the faithful waited for John Chambers’ keynote to begin?
Let’s go with the former — that the drumming is the result of the amazing things that were said, including the strong focus that the Cisco Live conference had on the Internet of Everything (IoE). John’s keynote kicked off the conference, and John spent a lot of time talking about IoE. I wasn’t surprised when he speculated that IoE represents the fourth wave of the Internet, since we are always being told that some new technology or way of delivering technology is the “next wave” of IT. What did surprise me was when John said that IoE would have more impact than the combined impact of the three previous waves of the Internet. Between the drumbeats in my head a couple of obvious questions were surfacing: How does John define the “three previous waves of the Internet”, and what exactly is IoE?
According to John’s keynote, the first wave of the Internet was characterized by providing basic connectivity, and email was the killer application. While he didn’t specify a timeframe for any of the waves, I would say that the first wave began in the early 1990s. He went on to say that the second wave was characterized by the networked economy, and focused on digitizing business processes. That makes sense to me; in my mind the second wave began to get traction in the late 1990s. He then stated that the third wave of the Internet was characterized by immersive experiences, and featured social networking and digital interactions. That also makes sense to me, and to my way of thinking, the third wave began several years ago.
Part of the challenge with getting our heads around the meaning of the IoE is that it is easy to confuse the IoE with the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Cisco, the IoT is the connection of all machines, devices, sensors, automobiles, cameras, and other things to help customers improve operations and save resources. In contrast, Cisco defines the IoE as bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before. As I mentioned, John didn’t specify a timeframe for any of the waves, however, he did reference a study that Cisco conducted which indicates that the IoE is poised to generate at least US $613 billion in global corporate profits in calendar year 2013. So, while I don’t feel comfortable stating when I think the IoE wave began, Cisco believes that the IoE wave is well on its way.
So what’s the impact of IoE on you? Clearly, it means a lot more packets transiting your networks. However, as John explained in a separate meeting, he sees a need for the network to do a lot more than just move around more packets. In John’s vision, the network will be intelligent enough to extract valuable information from the packets and feed that information into tools, such as Business Intelligence tools, that are developed by Cisco’s partners.
Like all of us, John isn’t always right. He is, however, right a lot more often than he is wrong. So, while it is not clear to me if he is right about the IoE and the huge impact it will have, one thing is very clear to me: Once again, John Chambers is marching to the beat of a different drummer.