Cisco Live EMEA 2023—Simplicity, Security And Sustainability

By Will Townsend, Patrick Moorhead - November 15, 2023
Jonathan Davidson, Cisco LIVE EMEA 2023 CISCO LIVE

It’s been a considerable time—since 2020—that Cisco held its signature Cisco Live event in Europe. This month, I had the good fortune to attend the event and spend time with the company's executives and customers in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. A lot has evolved recently for the stalwart networking and security infrastructure provider, and this latest event reflected these changes across three themes: simplicity, security and sustainability. I want to share my insights accordingly.

Simplicity

Simplicity was the first of the three "S" themes at Cisco Live EMEA. Much of Cisco's growth over the years has been through acquisition, and invariably this strategy introduces complexity in rationalizing product portfolios and eliminating overlap. Some bifurcation has served Cisco well, especially in offering two flavors of SD-WAN with Meraki and Viptela. One size does not fit all, but Cisco can do more to help customers find their way to what is right for them.

In the first day keynote session, Jonathan Davidson addressed the need for simplicity. Davidson took responsibility for all of Cisco networking in August of last year when Todd Nightingale left the company to become CEO at Fastly. Davidson was a natural choice, having led the Mass Scale Infrastructure business, which includes routed optical networking solutions and the company's service provider portfolio anchored by 5G offerings. A few years ago, I sat down with Davidson and published my insights about his background and his journey through his tech career. If you’re interested, you can find that article here.

Cisco’s commitment to simplification is reflected in the handful of news releases at the event. My biggest takeaway was the company's announcement of three significant portfolio enhancements. First, deeper integration of ThousandEyes intended to drive incremental business value and functionality. Second, an expansion of its Industrial IoT capabilities, and third, an SD-WAN fabric leveraging its Viptela acquisition. These updates position Cisco to deliver end-to-end connectivity, visibility and security for highly distributed network environments. It also logically follows Cisco's announcement last year to broaden Meraki's cloud management capabilities to the well-respected and prolific Catalyst portfolio, traditionally employed on-premises. You can find the press release here if you want to learn more.

Security

Cisco is no stranger to security. Its Talos Intelligence Group represents one of the world's largest commercial threat intelligence teams. However, the company has struggled to deliver a cohesive strategy for monetizing its investment in security. One of the challenges has been a considerable churn in its leadership, but that is changing thanks to an executive who has rejoined the company. In January, Tom Gillis was appointed senior vice president and general manager, returning to Cisco after his departure nearly a decade ago.

Gillis aims to reinvigorate Cisco’s security portfolio by taking a holistic, end-to-end approach anchored by a security cloud architecture that sits above the networking infrastructure layer. This single-platform approach aims to knit together Cisco's depth in connectivity, zero trust and application security to simplify deployment and management while providing improved visibility to the entire threat chain. It should also serve as the bedrock for improving SASE functionality. This strategy creates new functionality to provide business risk observability, risk-based authentication and a new cybersecurity readiness index. On the surface, it's all very compelling. You can find the press release here if you want to learn more.

Sustainability

Denise Lee, an executive who previously led Cisco's small business portfolio, now leads the company's sustainability efforts. What strikes me as most impressive is the tangible programs Cisco delivers, while many other companies only make broad and vague net-zero commitments. The World of Solutions tour brought this home for me.

Cisco offers refurbish, reuse and recycling programs and provides simulators that demonstrate carbon emission offsets in easy-to-understand, illustrative terms and energy savings accelerators that equate to tangible cost savings for its customers. You can find the press release here if you want to learn more.

Wrapping up

Cisco had quite a lot to talk about at Cisco Live EMEA, and I expect the infrastructure giant will do the same at Live Americas in Las Vegas in early June. Its simplification, security and sustainability efforts should further its momentum, especially in terms of its opportunity to take more market share in cybersecurity. The latter represents a tremendous upside for Cisco, given the current geopolitical climate. New leadership in key positions, especially with Jonathan Davidson, should also position the company for future success. It’s not all about products and services; strong bench strength is equally important.

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Will Townsend manages the networking and security practices for Moor Insights & Strategy focused on carrier infrastructure providers, carrier services, enterprise networking and security. He brings over 30 years of technology industry experience in a variety of product, marketing, channel, business development and sales roles to his advisory position.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.