NETWORK Expert: Cisco and the Great Drive to Convergence

THE EVOLVING CONVERGENCE of physical security and information technology (IT) continues to change the landscape of manufacturers providing products and solutions.   Traditional IT vendors such as IBM, EMC and Hewlett-Packard all have products and...


THE EVOLVING CONVERGENCE of physical security and information technology (IT) continues to change the landscape of manufacturers providing products and solutions.   Traditional IT vendors such as IBM, EMC and Hewlett-Packard all have products and initiatives to address the security market. Networking giant Cisco Systems, San Jose , Calif. , recently joined the fray with the potential to drive game-changing impacts.

A couple things make Cisco's security venture worth noting. Cisco has a successful history of convergence with other applications, and the company may be in a unique position to drive technical standards that can benefit the physical security industry.

The foundation of the Cisco physical security business is based on two acquisitions.   In March 2006 Cisco acquired SyPixx Networks, a Waterbury , Conn. , manufacturer of encoder products that bridge analog cameras with IP networks. In June 2007, Cisco acquired Broadware Technologies, Santa Clara , Calif. , a provider of open platform video management software. Together these two companies provide Cisco with a portfolio of products that include video encoders, decoders, recording platforms and video management software that is compatible with third party network cameras and video encoders.   

 

Will Cisco change the game?

Will Cisco forever change the security game? Time will tell. The combined physical security organization is part of Cisco's Emerging Markets Technology Group (EMTG). The EMTG is responsible for incubating Cisco's future billion-dollar businesses.    In addition to physical security, the unit includes businesses that are developing IP solutions for emergency communications interoperability, the TelePresence meeting and communication system, and Cisco Digital Signage, a comprehensive solution for centralized management and publishing of on-premise digital signage displays.

According to Bob Beliles , senior manager of Marketing for Cisco's Physical Security business, the company has actively seeded the group with people from the network side of the house. According to Beliles , this infuses new ways of thinking into the development of the security products. Beliles himself was with the IP telephony group at Cisco and he views networked video as much more than a “pipe” to transmit video from point A to   B .   According to Beliles , Cisco prefers to view the network as a “platform” that integrates security with other systems such as building applica tions, telephony and business systems.  

Guido Jouret , chief technology officer (CTO) of Cisco's Emerging Markets Technology Group believes that networking will change physical security by “taking proprietary and closed systems and moving them to standards-based environments like Ethernet and storage area networks.”   Building security solutions on standards-based components will allow Cisco's integration partners to move “up the value chain” by focusing not on connectivity and storage, but on the end user applications that solve business problems.

What makes Cisco's view noteworthy is that Cisco took a similar view of office telephony in the late 1990s, investing in that business when PBX and Key Telephone Systems dominated the market for enterprise telephony.   In 2004, the worldwide sales of IP Telephony systems exceeded those of traditional analog PBX systems and never looked back.   According to projections by IMS Research, Austin , Texas and security industry analyst firm J.P. Freeman Co. Inc., Newtown , Conn. , a similar crossover will occur when network camera shipments exceed those of analog cameras for video surveillance and security applications.   It's not a matter of if but when the actual crossover happens.

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