Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Cisco Revamps Switching Products in Attempt to Fire Up Sales

  • New offerings seek to improve management of complex networks
  • Company sees potential market gain for largest revenue unit

Cisco Systems Inc. is adding intelligence, management ability and security into new internet switches in an attempt to fire up demand for its largest source of revenue.

The company will next month begin offering the Catalyst 9000 range of switches -- equipment that connects and directs data sent between computers -- adding new functions such as the ability to easily centrally manage networks and monitor traffic patterns to optimize them and make them more secure.

The new technology is needed to cope with the flood of new devices being connected to networks and the difficulty that creates for those who manage those networks and keep them safe from attack, Cisco said. The company is trying to provide customers with an incentive to buy new hardware, as sales of the equipment that provides the backbone of the internet stagnate.

“We have a pretty incredible data set which is all the network traffic,” said David Goeckeler, general manager of Cisco’s Networking and Security Business. “We’re going to provide visibility into that traffic to our customers. Things you couldn’t see about your network before, now you can see.”

While companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and other operators of large data centers, are moving away from the expensive combinations of software and hardware that have made Cisco one of the largest technology companies, there’s still a giant market for businesses who don’t have the expertise or resources to do their own networking, Goeckeler said.

Goekeler’s boss, Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins, is trying to recast his company as a provider of services and software while reducing its reliance on one-time sales of hardware amid technology changes in networking. At the same time, the company still gets a huge chunk of its revenue from hardware that isn’t producing the growth that historically attracted investors to the company’s stock.

Cisco’s pitch for the new products is that the software and switch equipment will make life easier for companies that still need their own networks of computers.

By analyzing patterns of traffic, rather than inspecting the content of data streams, Cisco equipment users will gain the ability to better recognize when their computers are under attack. They’ll also be able to better recognize when, for example, an area of an office’s WiFi network is overloaded and needs more bandwidth. The new gear and software will also allow better management of connections, which will let systemwide rules be set up quickly without reconfiguring individual pieces of equipment.

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