Constellation Insights

John Chambers' legacy at Cisco: After more than 20 years as either executive chairman or CEO of Cisco, John Chambers is stepping back from his duties. Chambers will not stand for reelection this December to Cisco's board, which intends to name CEO Chuck Robbins chairman as his successor.

At the time Chambers was appointed CEO in 1995, the networking giant had $1.2 billion in revenue. It now generates nearly $50 billion annually, driven by an eye-popping 180 acquisitions during Chambers' tenure as CEO. That growth strategy has continued under the leadership of Robbins, who took the CEO job in 2015.

Not every acquisition has been a success for Cisco. Critics often point to Chambers' decision to abruptly kill Flip, the consumer-oriented camcorder Cisco bought for $590 million, as an example of a misfire. Significant deals made under Robbins' watch include the $1.4 billion purchase of Jasper, maker of an IoT platform, and the $3.7 billion Cisco plunked down for application performance monitoring vendor AppDynamics.

Revenue has fallen for the last seven quarters, but Cisco has been beating analyst estimates for earnings per share.

POV: It's not as if Chambers' departure comes as any surprise, given it's been two years since he stepped down as CEO. (In the meantime, Robbins has overseen a retrenchment of Cisco's strategy with a focus on next-generation networking and multi-cloud management.) But it still marks the end of an era.

"John Chambers wrote the playbook for massive growth by acquisition in high tech," says Constellation founder and CEO R "Ray" Wang. "His leadership over the years at Cisco was unparalleled in driving scale, improving margins, and leading the market in financial engineering. His legacy will be known as one of the legendary Silicon Valley leaders during the golden age of networking."

The only down side will be the highly competitive, Game of Thrones-like environment Chambers is leaving behind. "That will need some healing under Chuck Robbins to reinvigorate the culture," Wang says.

Vertica 9 unveiled post-Micro Focus acquisition: Earlier this month, HPE completed the $8.8 billion spinoff of its software assets to Micro Focus. Now the latter has taken the wraps off Vertica 9, the latest version of the analytics database platform. Here are the key details from its announcement:

Vertica provides organizations with a single, unified analytical database that supports all major cloud platforms, all popular data formats, enhanced integrations with Spark and Kafka and an analyze-in-place, unified architecture that enables businesses to monetize their data assets with cloud elasticity – regardless of data location.

The new release triples load performance, dramatically increases query performance with Flattened Tables, and extends concurrency by up to 60 percent. In addition, Vertica 9 natively integrates with key ecosystem technologies and open source innovation, including Microsoft PowerBI, Cloudera Manager and Apache Spark 2.1.

Vertica has also added support for Google Cloud Platform in this release, and is rolling out a beta version of its Eon Mode. This separates compute and storage, allowing for just-in-time provisioning on analytics jobs, which can save customers money.

In addition, Vertica 9 features a new set of machine learning algorithms, additional data-prep tools and a new writer tool for Parquet, the columnar storage format associated with Hadoop File System.

POV: Vertica 9 will be generally available in October. That's roughly a year after the release of Vertica 8, timing that suggests the Micro Focus spinoff didn't cause excessive distractions at the product engineering level.

The beta release of Eon Mode represents where Vertica is playing catch-up to others in the market, says Constellation VP and principal analyst Doug Henschen. Snowflake Computing was among the pioneers of separating compute and storage decisions when it was founded in 2012 and it has since been followed by Teradata with its IntelliFlex architecture, Henschen adds.

This separation will ease flexible cloud deployment, but Vertica 9 also makes it easier to deploy on the AWS, Azure and Google clouds, by way of cloud-native marketplaces/launchers in bring-your-own-license (BYOL) approaches, Henschen says.

However, Vertica still doesn’t offer its own Database as a Service (DBaaS) offerings. Constellation sees DBaaS as increasingly popular, as these options tend to be highly automated and save customers from having to deal with routine and repetitive database admin, patching and software-update tasks.

Vertica remains a popular choice for its massive scalability and advanced analytical capabilities, often showing up as the embedded data platform behind third-party SaaS offerings, such as Datorama, Domo and GoodData, Henschen adds. The EON architecture and streamlined BYOL options are positive moves, but Henschen notes in his Constellation ShortList for Hybrid and Cloud-Friendly RDBMS, getting into the thick of the hybrid cloud competition demands multi-cloud database services, preferably managed by the database provider.

The machine learning advancements and other new features extend Vertica's capablities for cloud and IoT use cases, but they were put in place under HPE's ownership, Henschen notes.

While Vertica has synergies with the Autonomy search and machine learning platform Micro Focus also acquired from HPE, the rest of the portfolio focuses on DevOps, hybrid IT, security and risk management. Micro Focus officials have characterized Vertica as a growth engine for the company, it's possible Vertica could be spun out yet again, he adds: "I’m looking forward to seeing what the new Micro Focus does with this valuable asset."

IBM rolls out physical cloud migration offering: Bandwidth remains an obstacle when it comes to moving large data sets to the cloud. To get around the problem, vendors including Amazon Web Services and Google have been pushing physical data migration options—in AWS's case, it's a tractor trailer called Snowmobile, albeit one aimed at petabyte-scale data sets.

Now IBM is getting in on the trend with Mass Data Migration, a service that uses $395 portable storage device with up to 120TB of capacity. The devices include 256-bit encryption and UPS next-day air service. It's possible for the devices to be sent out, their data migrated to IBM's cloud, and returned to the customer within a week, according to a statement.

IBM claims that it is offering more storage per dollar compared to competing products. The devices are available in the U.S. now and in the European Union soon.

POV: Network speeds are too slow to move customer data to the cloud, so IaaS providers have to create these rugged temporary storage appliances to help with the process, says Constellation VP and principal analyst Holger Mueller. "The interesting question going forward will be whether these are going to be 'dumb' storage devices, or easy to deploy, rugged servers that can capture data—e.g. at the IoT edge—and offer lightweight processing on site," he adds. "The good news for customers is they are getting more choices, and easier way and faster ways to move to the public cloud."