C-level briefing: Cisco’s New Global CTO Biri Singh tells CBR about his objectives.
Biri Singh is new to Cisco. So new, in fact, that he is still counting the days that he has been there. It’s 72, in case you are wondering.
Despite being the new kid on a block where many people have lived for years, Singh is in a critical role.
One of the key things Singh and his engineers are looking at is, inevitably, security. "We break it down into what is the threat landscape in a network," he says. "what are the threat levels at the next generation of endpoints?"
He’s talking thermostats and cars, not laptops and mobile phones, and the scale of the task is enormous. "We do 1.2 million malware detects daily, we do 7 million filtering blocks daily," Singh says, outlining the infrastructure Cisco has to put in place to protect its customers. "We’re one of the few with this capability worldwide at this scale" he says, proudly.
Security, particularly as Cisco moves into the IoT space, was always going to be high up Sings to-do list in his new job. He said: "I think [security] is easily the number 1, or 1A, priority for me. It is already a board level conversation. It’s not that it’s becoming one, it’s been one for 2 or 3 years."
Singh sounds a warning to C-suite and boardroom occupants in other firms who do not put security at the top of their agenda. "I think if that’s not changing, those management teams will get changed," he says.
Singh is also firm in his convictions on technical matters: "This whole disagregation point of view that you’re seeing, I think you’re going to see it settle down and pull back, it’s been hyped up for the last couple of years. It’s fine, it’s startup culture and all that."
While he thinks that it’s right to try and be able to softwarely programme the infrastructure, he questions those who blithely add complexity to their networks. "Right now there is a lot of companies throwing z,y,z solutions without reallying thinking about that the network admins and next generation data centre folk will now have even more complexity to manage," he says.
What then, is he trying to get done in his first year? Singh says he hopes that after his first 12 months "I think you’ll see us being acknoledged as a very trusted brand," in the security space.
He also says: "A year from now I think you’ll see us full blow going into data centre and cloud orchestration, an IoT future for the next 20 year. Our analytics becoming real time, predictitive, real time machine learning."
Singh is part of a notably diverse leadership team now at the helm of Cisco. "It’s really part of the culture," he says, "it goes back to the way John [Chambers, former CEO,] is as a human, he is a fantastic, collaborative, highly empathetic person….I love it, it’s very diverse." He says that this diversity spreads across Cisco’s whole operation, in a way that he has not encountered at other large organisations.
He is the CTO in the burgeoning regime of Chuck Robbins, who he says is "a fantastic CEO in the making."
Cisco says it’s evolving, and Biri Singh and his team will be right at the heart of that change.