I spent the last few days at Cisco Live, Cisco’s customer event, and C-Scape, its analyst event. At both, I had a lot of one-on-ones and walked away with a better sense of what is working well at Cisco, and what is not working so well. I also had a bit of a surprise. I met with a fascinating guy, Yogesh Kaushik, who is the senior director over Tetration Analytics. The product evidently started out as a security tool, but Cisco found that it also did wonders for difficult application migrations. A couple of big customers pushed the firm to pivot to this opportunity. It’s quite a difference in mission, though Tetration Analytics probably still will also be a ground-breaking security tool.
Before this week, I’d never heard of Tetration Analytics; I assumed it was another analytics tool that could be applied to a large data set. But this tool specifically identifies anomalies, which is why the initial focus for it was on security, as a forensics tool. If you were to have a breach and wanted to figure out what caused it, this tool is apparently amazing, rapidly going though massive amounts of traffic data to find related anomalies so you can quickly (almost instantly, depending on the depth of data analyzed and the performance of the platform) identify the cause.
But here is the really interesting part: When you migrate an old application, what many have found is that the links and dependencies often kill the migration. Firms have particularly discovered this when migrating apps to Amazon Web Services (AWS). They move the app, then it fails, because policies, links and dependencies in the application weren’t identified and corrected. According to Cisco, some pretty massive AWS migration failures have occurred of late because firms have started to try to move older applications.
Apparently, with Tetration Analytics, you can invasively scan these legacy applications to identify all of these dependencies, links and policies, and then ether choose to correct them or decide the migration is too much trouble. Given that many legacy applications were created by people who are either no longer with the company or dead, I expect the latter choice may be surprisingly attractive.
Having this information ahead of time prevents the embarrassing and wasteful effort of trying to migrate something and failing, or migrating something and causing a major system failure. Neither of these is particularly good for a career.
My expectation is that we’re only tapping the surface of what this tool can do. Cisco plans to turn it into a full platform, wrapping it with an ever increasing number of developers, both inside and outside of the company, who will attempt to get to its full potential.
Startup Mentality in a Large Company, Cisco
One of the other interesting things that struck me during my meeting with Kaushik was how much what the team was doing reminded me of a startup: less focus on defined process, documentation, and compliance, and far more focus on the problems to be solved and moving the ball forward. I see small, problem-oriented teams rather than massive orchestrated productions, and a ton of trial and error, as opposed to the more typical extreme efforts to avoid being seen as making a mistake. I actually think this effort could at some point become a template for how big companies can promote innovation inside.
Wrapping Up: The Tip of the Iceberg for Alternative Uses for Tools
This makes me wonder how many other applications and tools could have alternative lives doing something other than their original mission. For instance, I’m convinced that the small supercomputer that NVIDIA has created for autonomous cars, the Drive PX, would also make one heck of a physical security tool because it can actually interpret what it sees and is designed not only to update itself based on what it learns but to teach its peer computers in real time. Just think: Where could you use a computer that could see, interpret, reach? Manufacturing lines, defense systems and compliance systems come to mind.
I expect millions of tools are currently underutilized because they have been placed solidly in one bucket, when their breadth of use could be far greater. Something to noodle on this week.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+