Home' Technology Review : March April 2009 Contents Q&A
President Obama pledged dur-
ing his campaign to appoint the
nation's first-ever chief tech-
nology o cer. As CTO of Cisco Systems,
a leading maker of the Internet's routing
and switching equipment, Padmasree
Warrior is a leading candidate for the job.
Warrior sees a federal CTO as helping
revitalize the economy by suggesting
how information technology can lower
health-care costs, revamp the electrical
grid, and improve education. Whether
or not she ends up in Washington, she
is already in a position to help chart the
future of the Internet through Cisco's
networking strategy and investments.
She recently spoke with David Talbot,
Technology Review's chief correspondent.
TR: Are you going to be the first national
Warrior: I can't comment on that.
Your name is all over the media, and you
aren t denying it.
[Laughing] That's the media's issue,
What should the federal CTO do? What
should be the priorities?
In terms of the top areas of focus, the
first is to work on e-government initia-
tives, allowing government to be more
e cient and open. The second area
is to leverage innovation to boost the
economy. The third area being talked
about is cyber-security.
If you look at President Obama's
agenda for technology and the impor-
tance he feels it has in terms of putting
the United States back as a technology
leader---and leveraging technology to
boost the economy---the CTO can have a
huge impact in that agenda.
Cisco's CTO tells us what role her federal counterpart should play.
Photograph by HOWARD CAO
But how, for example, does more
broadband installation boost the nation s
economy, beyond creating one-off
There are many areas we can look at,
such as modernizing health care---for
example, a doctor could interact with a
patient by videoconference---and mak-
ing the energy grid more e cient with
smart-grid technologies. Collaboration,
virtual networking, and visual commu-
nications will be the e-businesses of the
next decade, and this will drive produc-
tivity. To do all of that, we need to have
broadband connectivity nationwide.
Cisco is planning to make more acquisi-
tions in the area of video. What is the
future of networking?
One of the things we see happening is
combining video communications with
social networking---what we call "visual
networking," which will change the way
we do business and communicate with
our families. Initially, teleconferenc-
ing was for business meetings, but we
see it moving also into the consumer
space and into new areas like health care
and education. Some things have to be
done to change infrastructure to allow
this to happen, like putting intelligence
in the network so it can recognize an
HD-format video and adjust network
characteristics as needed without com-
promising the quality of service.
Speaking of putting intelligence in the
network, Internet security is worse than
ever, isn t it?
Security threats have moved from
spam, and a few smart people break-
ing into networks for fun, to becoming
far more organized. Now you have bots
that you didn't know existed. The whole
issue of network security is so much
more than having a firewall to protect
your device. As we move toward cloud
computing, we believe the network has a
strong role to play.
What is the future of networks in India
and other parts of the developing world?
Video and collaboration are impor-
tant in emerging as well as developed
countries. And more than half of the
world is connected via a mobile device.
My own view is that very soon the term
"mobile Internet" will be redundant.
The Internet will be pervasive, mobil-
ity will be built into it, and people will
expect Internet access no matter where
they are and across any device that
they possess. As we introduce more
personalized applications and high-
definition video, we need to think about
the network playing an integral role via
prioritization, bandwidth, and more
IT systems already produce 2 percent of
the world s greenhouse-gas emissions.
Won t more IT inevitably mean more
Information technology will drive us
to become more sustainable, not less
sustainable. Computing will be much
more energy e cient. Tele-presence will
reduce travel costs and carbon footprints.
Applying IT networks will enable the
creation of smart buildings and smart
transportation systems. And if you look
at the network and how many billions of
people and how many more billions of
devices will connect, we think there is a
huge opportunity for the network to play
a role in terms of monitoring, managing,
and reducing energy consumption.
But can you get rid of skips in voice calls
and jitters in streaming video?
Quality of service continues to be
important. One of the things we believe,
that we've put a lot of e ort into ...
[A minute later] Hi---sorry, I didn't plug
in my cell phone last night!
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