Did Cisco just make a big Blockchain mistake?

We are currently finalizing a new report on Enterprise Blockchain. This research has allowed us to spend time looking at the market globally, its trajectory, and its potential value. It has also allowed us to talk to both vendors and users of Blockchain to understand and codify the core use cases. There have been some surprises along the way. We have uncovered some significant projects that previously we knew nothing about and to explore the differences in how different geographic regions are embracing Blockchain (or not). As with any research, you hopefully start with a blank canvas and fill in the blanks along the way; surprises are standard. But the fact that Cisco has virtually abandoned its ambitious Blockchain efforts was the biggest surprise of all.

At a time when IBM, Oracle, SAP, Samsung, and many others are forging ahead and seeing early success, Cisco put the brakes on. The surprise gets compounded by the fact that in our research, we were particularly excited about the innovative work that Cisco was doing. In essence, they were extending Blockchain to the network infrastructure. A bold and gutsy move that arguably only a firm with the size and scale of Cisco could even envisage. Cisco was also running confidential Blockchain pilots that sadly we can’t discuss, that broke new boundaries. They were making a lot of progress and were set to raise the global bar at a network, IoT, and infrastructure level. But they stopped. Though much of the work was under wraps, Cisco announced it plans to open-source some of its work. Other vendors in the space should watch with interest and grab the opportunity to leverage that work, trust us; it’s impressive.

It’s a baffling decision and from our perspective looks like a rare commercial error for Cisco. Undoubtedly there were commercial considerations that came into play that forced the hand. Maybe the payoff was too long term for their liking. But for such a large company it’s hard to see how the effort and the potential long term payoff didn’t merit further investment. Cisco’s loss will be somebody else’s gain. But at another level, it does seem to be another example of a North American based tech firm favoring the short term over the long run. For those doubting me, look at the Enterprise Blockchain work going on in China, Japan, South Korea, and the UAE to see what long term transformation and huge rewards they see.

There are still many that doubt the value of Blockchain, and that is their prerogative. But then again many doubted the value of the internet…. That turned out to be another long term investment that paid massive dividends in the end.

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