Last year’s Cisco Live keynote address in San Diego represented a changing of the guard. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco for 20 years, passed the torch to incoming CEO Chuck Robbins. Beyond this significant moment in Cisco history, the keynote largely revolved around the digitization of business processes and how Cisco customers should get ready for this transformation. But there was little discussion about how customers can actually transform their company into a fully-digitized business engine. In a sense, Cisco had no roadmap.
Fast forward to this week's Cisco Live 2016 in Las Vegas, and Robbins has had a full year at the helm His keynote Monday focused on the same digital transformation theme, but contained more substance. Attendees were given a view into how Cisco aims to bring customers into a fully digitized business world.
Robbins emphasized that transforming legacy business processes into fully digitized solutions will require IT departments to make a large number of important architecture decisions in a very short period of time. If IT decision makers don't act fast, they risk falling behind the competition.
A Cisco customer poll showed that 84% believe technology has become the No. 1 driver of business change. The IT department has transformed from a cost center to an enabler of strategic strategy, and finally to a place where IT can provide a business differentiator, Robbins said.
But the problem is, there hasn’t been a roadmap to follow. This is where Cisco hopes to have a seat at the table as a strategic partner.
Cisco’s strategy is known as the Digital Network Architecture or DNA for short. DNA, which Cisco announced earlier this year, is a framework the vendor wants organizations to embrace as part of an overarching IT foundation. DNA is all about unleashing the power of analytics, leveraging automation through policy, and providing unprecedented visibility using the network as a sensor, Robbins said.
If these concepts sound vague, they’re meant to be. This is because your analytics, your automation policies and what information you want to see out of your network are going to be completely unique. DNA is a flexible solution that forms to customer needs in a digital world.
In his keynote, Robbins talked about some specific acquisitions, business partnerships, and new products that fall within the umbrella of DNA. The acquisitions included Jasper, CliQr and Lancope. Attendees also viewed a video with Apple CEO Tim Cook, who talked about on how iOS 10 will tightly integrate with Cisco networks to provide improved VoIP calling experiences and integrated “fast lane” QoS for business critical applications.
One of the new products showcased during the Monday keynotes included Cisco Cloud Defense Orchestrator. This cloud based and security-focused product helps give network security administrators visibility into security policies. With the end-to-end visibility, administrators have the ability to push new security policy in real time, from a single location.
Another new product is Stealthwatch Learning Networks License, which is based in part on technology from Cisco's Lancope acquisition. This software integrates inside existing ISR branch routers in a WAN through a simple license and firmware update. Stealthwatch Learning Networks provides advanced threat protection by leveraging your network as a sensor. The idea is that with this branch office security, you have the ability to secure your network to the point where you have a powerful, flexible and intelligent security architecture from end to end.
Cisco also announced Umbrella Branch, which is based on Cisco's acquisition of OpenDNS, also runs as software on ISR routers. It's designed to give enterprises a way to protect their branch networks when users don't have a VPN, such as guest WiFi users.
Cisco's strategy is clear: It wants to gain the trust of customers to the point where Cisco works hand-in-hand with IT departments in assisting with those decisions, using the DNA roadmap it's provided. It's a bold strategy, and one that may turn off some IT departments that want to maintain full control of their digital destiny.
But at the same time, if you were to choose one technology company to follow, Cisco's track record in predicting the future of enterprise IT is nearly impossible to beat.