A piece of Silicon Valley springs up on Ireland’s west coast

16 Sep 2010

Cisco’s 170-strong R&D operation in Galway has played a key role in the networking giant’s latest technology strategy. Head of the operation Mike Conroy says the days of linear email are coming to an end.

Most workers are overwhelmed by irrelevant emails. Do you think technology has failed in its purpose to keep people more organised?

The linear email environment we all love – and hate – is no longer relevant. In Galway, we have worked to ingrain social media into collaboration in the workplace and have contributed to Cisco’s Quad strategy around the future of communications.

With Cisco Quad, companies can bring their existing communications, along with social networking, content management and business systems, into an integrated experience for end users in browser and mobile clients, including the iPhone and iPad.

This is about real-time communications where workers can communicate as part of communities irrespective of location. Other things that we’ve worked on include company policies around security and this is important when you consider the proliferation of devices – such as the Apple iPad and Cisco Cius – and pushing that from a web perspective.

Cisco invested €3m in the Galway operation, can you explain what kind of R&D work happens there?

We’ve been working on elements of the new Cisco Quad portfolio including integrating technologies like instant messaging, persistent chatrooms, click-to-call functionality and all these other elements that are pervasive in the consumer environment like Skype and Gmail, and bringing that phenomenon to the enterprise.

People will no longer be communicating by linear inbox in the future but by joining various communities related to their projects or areas of expertise just like they would join a group on Facebook or LinkedIn today. People will be interacting through a combination of text, voice and video and will subscribe to subjects they are interested in or working on.

Ireland has invested substantially in creating its own R&D base. Do you think there is enough interaction between multinationals and local research groups?

Definitely. We have a lot of active projects with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at National University of Ireland, Galway and the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group at Waterford Institute of Technology on the development of Quad, the semantic web and other projects.

The Irish research groups in these institutions would feed directly into research at Cisco’s corporate research lab in Silicon Valley. SFI-funded research is having a meaningful impact. These researchers are at the top of their game working with the Cisco research team. It helps to position us favourably globally in terms of talent and university interaction.

What are your growth projections for the Galway operation?

We are currently at 170 people. At the time we decided to locate here we built a facility for 240 people and I have to say we are on track with our projects. We are busy delivering an important aspect of Cisco’s collaboration software.

Galway is becoming a major technology hub with companies such as Cisco, Avaya, SAP, NetIQ and EA Games locating here.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years