Cisco’s track record with software tells us the company will not survive the shift to software-defined networking

It hasn’t happened yet. It’s another of my predictions. But it suddenly struck me this week, as I read about the latest developments in cloud networking. Five or so years from now, the day will come when Cisco will have shrunken almost to nothing, eaten by software.

Marc Andreessen’s phrase, “software is eating the world,” coined for a Wall Street Journal article last August, succinctly captures the single most important trend in our world today — not only in computing but in the entire field of business. It’s the driving force behind the rise of what I callfrictionless enterprise — the new way of working and doing business enabled by software that leverages the connectivity of the Web plugged into the power of today’s intelligent electronic devices.

At the beginning of the week, I read Cade Metz’ Wired article about Nicira, under the provocative title, Mavericks Invent Future Internet Where Cisco Is Meaningless. It was an eye-opening introduction to the emergence of the new field known as software-defined networking (SDN): “a new breed of computer network that exists only as software, a network you can control independently of the physical switches and routers running beneath it … a world where networks can be programmed like computers.”

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