Cisco All-In On XaaS, Observability, And Collaboration At Its 2021 Live! Conference

Cisco Live! 2021

Last year, Cisco Live! 2020 was one of the first big tech shows held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week I attended the second and what will hopefully be the last virtual Cisco Live! event to learn about all the latest from the networking powerhouse. Cisco Live! 2021 had no shortage of announcements to comb through. Today, though, I wanted to focus on those that particularly caught my attention, all of which, in my opinion, demonstrates a focused effort to meet the demands of the rapidly transforming IT landscape. 

ThousandEyes integration

The network administrator’s task of monitoring, detecting and remedying critical network issues has always been a challenging one, but as operations have crept beyond the traditional boundaries of the corporate network, it’s only become more complex. With much of the workforce transitioning to more flexible, remote models, the public internet and cloud solutions present whole new frontiers to keep an eye on. To that end, Cisco announced several new software-delivered solutions designed to provide better visibility across organizations’ networks, leveraging software gleaned from the company’s August 2020 acquisition of ThousandEyes.

The first new offering, ThousandEyes Internet and Cloud Intelligence in AppDynamics Dash Studio features ThousandEyes’ network and internet performance metrics within AppDynamics Dash Studio, what Cisco calls “a next-generation dashboarding experience.” And I agree. By combining these offerings, Cisco will deliver one common operating language to network, application and cloud teams for issue isolation and resolution.

The second offering also leverages ThousandEyes’ Internet and Cloud Intelligence but instead integrates it with Cisco’s Catalyst 9000 switches, the 9300 and 9400. Cisco’s Premier and DNA Advantage customers will gain native access to ThousandEyes on the Catalyst 9300 and 9400 switches without additional costs. Together, ThousandEyes Internet and Cloud Intelligence in AppDynamics Dash and the Catalyst integrations represent “the industry’s first enterprise-wide full-stack observability offering,” according to Cisco. I’d say that it looks like a powerful combo, especially when you add it to Intersight and Hashicorp for hybrid visibility.

Don’t even try multi-cloud or modern devops without a capability like this. 

Cisco Webex

On a different note, Cisco also announced several updates to its Webex collaboration platform, designed to better meet the needs of the new hybrid work model brought on by the pandemic. Webex’s new People Insights feature particularly interested me. Designed to do exactly what it sounds like, People Insights provide users context and insight into the people attending their meetings and other events. Users of Cisco Webex, Cisco Webex Meetings, Cisco Webex Events and Cisco Jabber will now have access to “comprehensive, real-time business and professional profiles of meeting participants.” 

Cisco designed the People Insights profiles with privacy and data protection specifically in mind. The feature only culls publicly available information from profiles—essentially what search engine results turn up—but if users opt into the Directory Connector, they may also view internal company directory information from those in the same company. The database does not populate profiles from any sites with paywalls or logins, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Also, this feature gives users a glimpse into their public digital footprint. Cisco says users can also edit their profile to change their photo, employment history, educational background and more.

Cisco Plus

Perhaps the most significant piece of news from Cisco was the unveiling of its new Cisco Plus brand, which the company describes as a complete flexible solution-as-a-service, spanning both networking hardware and software. On a macro scale, Cisco Plus appears to be symbolic of the company’s direction and the industry as a whole. XaaS offerings (everything as a service) have become more prevalent as providers seek to deliver their solutions faster and easier, and customers aim to simplify their digital transformation and cloudification. 

Though Cisco says Cisco Plus will eventually offer various services under its umbrella, the new brand notably contains Cisco’s entry into the NaaS (networking-as-a-service) world. This is exactly what you would expect, right? Networking, specifically, is becoming less and less constrained by the boundaries of traditional private infrastructure, expanding outwards to the public internet and the multi-cloud universe. These new frontiers require a rethinking of how we consume and manage networking and security at all endpoints and in between. While other providers have delivered network components via cloud-based services, it has at best been a fringe business in networking as a whole. Cisco is seeking to change the conversation and propel NaaS forward. 

To lead off, the company announced two Cisco Plus services. The first is Cisco Plus Hybrid Cloud, which features Cisco’s entire data center compute, networking and storage portfolio, and various third-party software and storage products. The second introductory offering revolves around Cisco’s SASE (secure access services edge) components, providing SD-WAN, the company’s Umbrella security software and more, on Cisco Plus’s as-needed, pay-as-you-go basis. While Cisco projects availability of the subscription service at the end of 2021, customers can acquire all of Cisco’s core SASE components now, with the promise of an easy transition to the subscription service when it becomes available. 

I have to do a lot more research before I can intelligently say it stacks up to offerings from HPE, Dell Tech and Lenovo, but will loop back when I do. Regardless, these XaaS is exactly what IT wants and am pleased to see Cisco start in a good place that, of course, makes sense. Cisco is no rookie to software or as a service as it has a massive software and security subscription business already. The company gets subscriptions.

Wrap up

Cisco’s James Mobley nicely summed up what Cisco Plus means for the company, explaining, “…At Cisco, we are further differentiating our offers by shifting our focus from products to outcomes and experience that drive productivity, customer satisfaction, cost savings and revenue acceleration.” This makes complete sense. 

In my estimation, as-a-Service is where the industry is headed and is an intelligent pivot for Cisco. The offerings unveiled at Cisco Live! 2021, from added network visibility to new remote collaboration features to NaaS, all speak to Cisco’s willingness to adapt to the changing IT landscape. Thanks to its pole position in networking and security, it has the gravity necessary to pull the rest of the enterprise networking crowd along with it.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.