Menon says sustainability is also a critical issue that needs to be addressed. The ICT industry is known to generate about 2-3% of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, equivalent to the airline industry. To address this challenge, the next generation of the internet must be sustainable by design. One focus is streamlining the internet infrastructure into a single network layer, which will simplify the network, reduce costs, and create sustainability benefits by reducing the energy consumption by 30-40%, according to Menon.
This is one part of the solution, and Menon stresses the importance of industry collaboration to address the significant environmental challenges—from resource consumption to electronic waste and emissions—and create a more sustainable model for the future of the internet. Looking ahead, Menon believes Cisco has the potential to be a catalyst for transformation and the responsibility to bring everyone along.
Menon also holds an important role as a Board Member of the Cisco Foundation, tackling similar challenges. “At the Cisco Foundation, we address economic empowerment, critical human needs, and education, and we have made a renewed and bigger commitment towards climate and sustainability,” he says. “We also fund social entrepreneurs who are addressing systemic issues like creating new technology that will liberalize or open up markets where there are currently closed systems.”
It is still early stages for what will become the internet for the future, which will require major investments in transforming legacy infrastructure, streamlining networks, and building new capabilities to deliver digital services.
“Those kinds of transformations take about roughly 10 years, and we’re at the start of that journey,” Menon says. The supply chain challenges that many companies have experienced due to the pandemic haven’t put the brakes on Menon and Cisco’s progress. Instead, he says it has inspired them to find new ways to bring products and services to market faster. “Because supply chain and manufacturing are so tightly integrated, it forced us to re-engineer and re-innovate, and to be agile again.”
Menon’s team is also focused on incorporating and anticipating new technology trends, such as Web 3.0 and the metaverse. “The principles of Web 3.0 are embedded in our design of new technologies for the Internet for the Future,” Menon says, pointing to blockchain as a key technology in many of Cisco’s offers and solutions. The metaverse, he adds, will require massive computing power, new applications, networking, and cybersecurity, and delivering on the promises of the metaverse will mean partnering closely with hyperscalers and cloud service providers.
But for Menon, reimagining the internet for future generations is not just about the technology. It is about establishing clear principles for who we want to be as a global community and a chance to remedy existing inequities.
“The current model for the internet needs a rethink,” Menon concludes. “We need to address the major issues from the past and invest in more fair and inclusive technology, smart public policy, and human-centered design to take the internet for the future to a new, higher success trajectory.”
Michael Kearns, a Director in Brunswick’s Singapore office, worked more than 25 years as a journalist and editorial leader, including serving as CNBC International’s Vice-President of International Digital and Strategic Partnerships. Cecilie Oerting is an Associate at Brunswick also located in Singapore.
Illustration: Melinda Beck