I just returned from the SaaS Summit organized by OpSource in Monterey, California (more on that later) and a lot of the discussion turned to Cisco’s WebEx acquisition and what it means for SaaS and the high-tech industry in general. Most of the reasons cited for Cisco’s move to acquire WebEx by experts were around the following themes:
- Cisco is driven by the growth potential of selling services directly to corporate customers
- Cisco is moving into IP services to compete with Microsoft’s move in IP TV etc.
But one of the key points seem to be missing in this discussion. I am of the opinion that commoditization of its core router business as evidenced by Huawei’s success in China and global aspirations, and potential for other disruptors such as open source routers running on commodity hardware may have given the added impetus for Cisco to move up the stack. After all, there are several risks to the strategy to move into applications including Cisco becoming a competitor to its large Telco and service provider customers. I am certain that Verizon and Vodafone of the world that are looking to sell value added services on top of their very expensively built networks will not find this move friendly.
Emerging Markets Demand Pay-as-you-go:
Another way of thinking about the Huawei impact is to think about the fact that consumers (individuals and corporate) are not always willing to spend millions of dollar up front to build out networks and realize the value over time. It is much easier to sell pay-as-you-go services in emerging markets where capital is often limited. In fact, if Cisco succeeds in this strategy, it may inspire other high-tech vendors to move to subscription pricing and SaaS model for emerging markets.
Services not Servers:
The WebEx acquisiton could also be seen as the begining of the move to selling “IP services” rather than do it yourself IP boxes to telcos and corporates. You can call this a Solutions strategy, an IP Services or SaaS strategy, or pehaps even hardware externalization or hardware-as-a-service . In the sense that rather than a corporate or telco buying Cisco hardware to build out a new Voip, web conferencing or video conferencing servic, it would now just buy a service. Nicholas Carr questions eloquently “Is the server industry doomed?” in this blog post where he talk about compute servers. I would extend the same argument to “IP-Services Servers” from Cisco.
What do you think about the China/Emerging Markets angle to Cisco’s move? How will Telcos like Verizon and BT respond to this?
(As with all posts, these are my personal opinions.)