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Cisco again looks to debunk the multivendor network

Jim Duffy, Network World | June 16, 2011
In its second attempt to debase arguments that a multivendor network is more beneficial to users than a single-vendor infrastructure, Cisco this week hosted a webcast of two customers discussing the merits of their all-Cisco networks.

"We did not have the expertise on hand," he said. "It was only through our partnership with Cisco that we could really sit down and design and develop a network to do what we needed it to do."

Grocer and retailer Tesco couldn't relate to the multivendor scenario. When asked how a multivendor implementation would inhibit what it's trying to do, CIO Mike McNamara said, "I don't know, because I don't have one."

Tesco has 5,000 locations worldwide, employs 500,000 people and serves 30 million customers. It is the third-largest retailer in the world in terms of revenue.

The company uses Cisco TelePresence for intra-company collaboration, and is outfitting its stores with Wi-Fi so customers can get ready Internet access for product and store comparison information.

Tesco invested in an IT infrastructure overhaul four years ago in order to be more responsive to technology and social networking-savvy customers, and to reduce travel time through collaboration. It virtualized its server farms and upgraded its Cisco network to support TelePresence and other video-intensive applications.

"It gives us an enormous advantage," McNamara said of the company's IT and network infrastructure. "It's left our competitors a few years behind me."

McNamara said Tesco has an "obsessive customer focus," and that has necessitated the network upgrade and strategic relationship with Cisco.

"We follow the customer," McNamara said. "We have a real culture that embraces and desires change."

He noted that customers are now walking around Tesco stores with smartphones, doing comparative price shopping and reviewing online customer reviews. As customers peruse goods on Tesco shelves with "computers in their pockets," Tesco officials need more time to attend to their shopping and technology needs.

TelePresence helps in that regard by cutting travel costs by 70% for Tesco executives, McNamara said. Tesco is using that and other video technologies in its stores and offices to "humanize" its business, he said.

"We're starting to use video to talk to people more often, and more informally," McNamara said.

And in addition to cutting travel expenses, TelePresence has helped Tesco executives better prepare for meetings with other officials around the world.

"We used to have to spend time in darkened rooms going through budgeting spreadsheets" upon arrival at a Tesco location, McNamara said. "Now I can do all that before I go. It's as good as being in a room with us."


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