Summarizing Major News Items from Cisco Live 2021  | #conferences2021 | #cybersecurity | #conference

Last week Cisco held its annual Cisco Live 2021 user conference, and this year’s edition was a bit different than previous years. The first change was similar to last year, where the event was in all-digital format, given the current pandemic. The second change was that this was the first truly global Cisco Live.

In years past, the company held Cisco Lives in different regions of the globe. This year, the company held a single event and streamed sessions out at different times for time-zone purposes. Because of this, the company could deliver a single and consistent message to all its customers, everywhere.

During her opening address, Cisco Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Gerri Elliott mentioned that the total attendance for the event would be more than 100,000 people in about 200 countries. Typical attendance at Cisco Live is in the 20,000 to 25,000 range, and that was its biggest show. With a bigger event and audience, one would expect some big news, and there certainly was a lot of it. I provide a detailed analysis of all the major news in this week’s ZKast video, done in partnership with eWEEK eSPEAKS.

Here are highlights of the news:

Update on corporate social responsibility programs 

In addition to the product announcements, Cisco also gave an update on its social responsibility initiatives. Five years ago, CEO Chuck Robbins stood on stage and gave the company a goal of positively impacting 1 billion people globally by 2025. During his keynote, he mentioned the company had now reached 575 million, well on its way to the goal. I’ve had many conversations about this number with Tae Yoo, Cisco’s SVP of Corporate Affairs, and she told me the company is very critical about what it counts and does not count, and it’s expecting to make a real impact.

There is no greater equalizer in the world than the internet and education. Cisco’s products have helped bring the internet everywhere, and now its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are doing the same with education, and that’s good for everyone.

Cisco introduces Network as a Service and Cisco Plus

Last week I provided a detailed writeup of this news for eWEEK. For those that have yet to read the story or are looking for the crib notes version, Cisco is now enabling customers to purchase infrastructure “as a service.” This means paying for a complete solution as a utilization-based subscription. The first such offering will be Cisco Plus Private Cloud, which bundles Cisco storage, servers, network servers and third-party infrastructure and software. Later in the year, Cisco will introduce Cisco Plus SASE.

Deeper ThousandEyes integration 

In 2020, Cisco purchased internet monitoring provider ThousandEyes. Most management tools are focused on monitoring the corporate network, but ThousandEyes provides visibility of internet traffic. Given businesses are increasingly cloud-centric, the ability to see past the traditional company edge is necessary to understand SaaS performance. Cisco announced the integration of ThousandEyes with the Catalyst 900 switching portfolio as well as its AppDynamics Dash Studio.

Expanded SASE architecture

SASE (secure access service edge) is the latest and hottest buzzword in networking. The term was coined by Gartner Research and describes technology that can deliver network and security services from the edge. In my opinion, the Gartner definition is very limited and only addresses the needs of small and medium distributed organizations.

Cisco’s SASE architecture is much more comprehensive and helps businesses secure an expanding attack surface of users, devices, applications and data. Its SASE architecture compliments cloud-delivered services with cloud-managed, on-premises infrastructure and adds the necessary observability to ensure application performance remains business class.

A redesign of internet infrastructure

Cisco’s vision of an inclusive future is powered by high-speed internet access being made available to everyone. During his keynote, GM of Mass Infrastructure Jonathan Davidson mentioned that there are currently 3 billion people that still do not have high-quality internet access. The acceleration of digital transformation and 5G can close that cap, he said.

However, current service provider networks can’t keep up with the growing demands. Cisco announced something called Routed Optical Networks, which simplify service provider networks through the use of Cisco’s silicon, optics, software and systems.

Passwordless authentication

There has been little innovation in authentication since the birth of passwords more than 60 years ago. Passwords have never proven that useful, because people and companies continue to be breached. Cisco Duo now offers passwordless authentication enabling users to bypass passwords and securely log into cloud apps via security keys and platform biometrics, such as Apple TouchID and FaceID as well as Windows Hello.

Webex innovation helps fight video fatigue

It seems many of us spend much of our time on video calls, but do we know if we are productive? Are we aware of exactly how much time we spend? Probably not. Cisco introduced something called Personal Insights that helps users understand their meeting habits and provides recommendations on how to be more efficient.

For example, users can see exactly how much time a week is spent in meetings and in which meetings they were active participants. They can also see with whom they meet most often, as well as a wide range of other information.

This isn’t a Big-Brother type of dashboard from Cisco. Instead, the data is meant to be consumed by workers for their own use. In the future, Cisco is planning to roll out Teams and Organizational Insights, but GM of Security and Collaboration Jeetu Patel–who recently joined Cisco from Box–assured the audience that privacy is Cisco’s No. 1 concern.

New Cisco DevNet developer centers

Cisco’s DevNet developer program was designed to enable Cisco engineers to increase agility. At Cisco Live, DevNet announced three new DevNet Developer Centers:

  • Infrastructure as code. Cisco will sell HashiCorp Terraform Cloud Business with Cisco Intersight. The combined solution delivers hybrid cloud automation, in which Terraform can provision and manage private data centers running Intersight.
  • SASE Developer Center. This provides developer resources to help customers create SASE solutions with SD-WAN, Meraki, Umbrella, Secure Access by Duo, AnyConnect, ThousandEyes and other technology. The developer center offers automation use cases for integration of Cisco Secure Access with SecureX and other tools. This lets customers build bespoke security capabilities with Cisco SASE.

Updates to DevNet SecureX Developer Center. This features a SecureX orchestration lab as well as a Learning Lab for third-party security tools. Customers also have access to sample code using SecureX threat response and threat orchestration workflows.

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