Big technology shows are back in Las Vegas! For 2022 shows have taken on a hybrid twist. The Cisco LIVE 2022 event hosted sixteen thousand in-person attendees and many more watching the live-streamed event from everywhere. I attended remotely while Moor Insights & Strategy principal analysts Matt Kimball and Will Townsend were at the show live in Vegas.
Unified experience - focusing on simplicity without compromising power
Cisco talked a lot about the "unified experience" and the notion of agile technology. Technologies that are not just powerful but agile such that IT teams can build resilient, proactive infrastructure - a laudable goal indeed!
When the technology delivered is too complex and error-prone, then the IT experience suffers, which, in turn, degrades the end-user experience.
Cisco has a focus on simplicity without compromising power. The path forward is with a platform strategy that embraces the cloud. In this article, I will cover new steps in that strategy with Cisco's new cloud management capabilities and a new Cisco ThousandEyes product for advanced optimization of WAN performance.
Cloud management for Cisco’s entire networking portfolio
Cisco is embracing cloud-driven automation with cloud management for the majority of Cisco’s networking portfolio. The cloud management solutions will support Cisco Catalyst, a brand that covers network switches, wireless controllers, wireless access points, and Cisco Nexus switches designed for the data center.
Cisco acquired Meraki, a cloud-managed networking company, in 2012. The Cisco Meraki management platform now supports Cisco Catalyst. The Meraki dashboard will show the location of every device in the network, including detailed topology giving the user complete visibility into every switch, whether it be Meraki or Catalyst. Cloud monitoring exposes poor configurations, traffic flows, and every connected client and allows basic troubleshooting such as cycling a port. The next step beyond cloud monitoring will be complete cloud management with the ability to fully configure and manage switches and wireless networks through the Meraki dashboard. For example, a VLAN mismatch alert would be easy to solve because the device is fully-managed. Identifying the root cause is easy, as is implementing the recommendation implemented. Configuration and port changes happen with a button click in a fully managed environment. Management is at the whole network level rather than a set of individual devices. For instance, you can roll out segmentation changes to your entire network with a single click.
A year ago, Cisco consolidated all Nexus toolings into a unified capability called Nexus dashboard. Nexus Cloud is the Nexus dashboard in the cloud. Logging into Nexus Cloud, you are presented with a guided journey to perform tasks such as adding Cisco ACI fabrics or Nexus switches. Selecting an ACI controller will automatically cause Nexus Cloud to claim all related switches. After the setup, Nexus Cloud displays all of the sites, gathers telemetry from every device in the network, and delivers automated correlation. With the dynamic topology, endpoints, servers, and switches are visible, avoiding siloed management and replacing network diagrams with outdated information.
Nexus Cloud has an upgrading capability. Nexus Cloud will create an upgrade plan that minimizes downtime based on natural redundancy and switch roles. This upgrade plan can be executed with a single click saving countless hours of manual effort. Further launches of Nexus cloud will record energy consumption trends and offer recommendations to achieve Net Zero sustainability goals.
ThousandEyes and Cisco’s vision for predictive networks
Cisco acquired ThousandEyes in 2020. ThousandEyes provides a common operational language with visibility to all layers of the stack from devices to the application and derives intelligence from the underlying data to accelerate the time to the root cause of issues.
ThousandEyes WAN Insights is a new technology that moves from a reactive stance to a proactive model. Digital experiences are becoming more complicated, and from an SD-Wan (software-defined WAN) perspective, the global policy needed to define the right level of digital experience is incredibly complex. But even then, using technologies today, there is a reliance on that policy to react to resolve an issue. And at that moment in time, even the fastest reaction is a degradation in the digital experience. ThousandEyes WAN Insights provides the ability to identify systemic issues across the network and generate the necessary recommendations to remediate those issues before the problem impacts users. Recommended actions come from a policy tuned to individual users in a specific location and application type.
The technology requires ingesting a tremendous amount of data and applying it to different predictive models. It leverages predictive modeling to identify then forecast the individual issues and then present them to the user through a set of recommendations. As those recommendations are applied, the models can understand and validate the improvement so that you can see the actual improvement across your network.
ThousandEyes Hybrid Workforce Digital Experience provides visibility down into the last mile to the individual user. Through a set of vantage points on the users’ laptops, ThousandEyes can view metrics from devices such as CPU metrics, local Wi-Fi capabilities, and local end-users ISP through the application. Hybrid work does not have the same ability to troubleshoot end-user devices when not physically in the office. ThousandEyes can automatically monitor every WebEx session, including the ability to detect the network endpoint dynamically and to be able to test that endpoint - a set of capabilities that Cisco announced last month. ThousandEyes now integrates into the WebEx Control Bub. ThousandEyes brings end-to-end visibility to the entire network path and digital dependencies that impact performance and the user experience.
Administrators have complete path visibility across the network to identify the network dependencies and impact on performance in the user experience. The IT operations teams and help desk have the necessary information to diagnose and troubleshoot user digital experience issues.
It has taken a while, but Cisco has progressed in transforming and integrating the product portfolio in the cloud. Bringing the Catalyst technology, arguably one of the most powerful campus networking equipment, and Meraki, a simple cloud management platform, makes perfect sense. I'm left scratching my head as to why it didn't happen sooner. Having worked at technology companies over 20 years, I can tell you this is hard. Moving Nexus management into the cloud as a fully cloud-managed platform, just like Meraki, was another no-brainer and will simplify the future world of managing data center fabrics.
Finally, with ThousandEyes, we see an example of how to deliver insights leveraging machine learning. ThousandEyes might be the first example of predictive network intelligence that goes beyond understanding what is happening and what might be wrong to predicting outages that have yet to happen and allow you to remediate in real-time.
It has been a while, but we are now seeing the fruits of two Cisco acquisitions in Meraki and ThousandEyes. Who says you can’t have power and simplicity? Yes, please.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.