Over the last few weeks, I attended Cisco Systems’ virtual DevNet Create and Partner Summit events. The networking infrastructure giant made several key announcements—let’s take a closer look.
Typically held in Mountain View, CA, DevNet Create is Cisco’s signature developer event. Cisco founded its DevNet developer community back 2014. Led by executive Susie Wee, the community has grown to support an impressive half million developers, eclipsing all of its competitors’ similar programs combined. I had two observations after speaking with Ms. Wee and her team. First, they shared anecdotally that network automation deployment within Cisco’s enterprise install base is experiencing significant growth given Covid-19 and the need to support remote staff. I am not surprised—automation can improve service quality for applications, speed up device provisioning and allow IT staff to focus on more value-added services for end-users. Second, Cisco has witnessed the developer extension of its technical network designer certification program ramp dramatically. As proof, DevNet has provided over 6,000 developer certifications since its inception, making it the fastest certification ramp in company history. That speaks volumes to the value that developers place on Cisco.
Cisco Partner Summit
The Cisco Partner Summit is typically held in Las Vegas every fall. This year, the virtual version brought together over 11,000 of Cisco’s certified partners from 152 countries. The Partner Summit is an important event for Cisco, given that over 90%+ of its sales happen through the IT distribution channel. This year’s event theme was “Future Ready," with tracks spanning broad innovation topics, business impact opportunities and specific regional updates. CEO Chuck Robbins and much of his executive leadership team participated in the two-day event. Todd Nightingale, who leads enterprise networking and cloud, spoke to the criticality of network automation and security in light of the pandemic. Liz Centoni, Cisco’s lead of emerging technologies and incubation, touted Cisco’s holistic approach of managing networks across hybrid, multi-cloud and app-centric infrastructure. Maria Martinez, who leads customer experience (CX), explained how the company's CX vision is helping its partners grow their businesses, in some cases, by 50% or more. I believe that the company’s CX focus is a key differentiator and should continue to drive both new subscriptions and renewals. Finally, global channel leader Oliver Tuszik highlighted Cisco's Mass-Scale Infrastructure business unit success—$1B in bookings over the past year and 15%+ YoY growth beyond the service provider market. I am not surprised given Cisco’s recent wins with AT&T (for IoT portfolio support) and Verizon (for mobile edge computing).
Key product announcements
There were three major product announcements at the Partner Summit that I found compelling. First, Cisco announced a set of innovations designed to simplify its security portfolio, including SASE and Zero Trust. Cisco launched SecureX this past June and has seen a tremendous uptake of nearly 1,000 new customers per month. I view this announcement as a fine-tuning effort and evidence that Cisco is leveraging its financing arm to make customer deployments more affordable.
Second, Cisco announced a complete overhaul of its partner program. Over the next year and a half, the company will consolidate a dozen disparate programs into one, unified program—a move Cisco believes will drive more simplicity, differentiation and tighter alignment. Cisco also introduced its new partner experience platform, PXP, that will unify several tools, applications and portals into one unified platform. Cisco says this should improve new partner onboarding, provide insights into new opportunities and incentives and create a more cohesive partner ecosystem longer term for improved collaboration. I would concur.
Third, Cisco announced an initiative to improve its support of public and private cloud operations. Cisco Intersight will simplify hybrid cloud management by connecting private data centers to private clouds. Cisco Nexus Dashboard aims to help IT operators manage multi-cloud data center networks spanning on-premise, edge and cloud. Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) seeks to facilitate and simplify management of IoT endpoints via the cloud while providing consistent policy management. ISE is available now, and both Intersight and Nexus Dashboard should be available before the end of the year. I believe these enhancements will help Cisco's customers adapt to business disruptions, accelerate their cloud adoption journey and transform IT operating models.
The fourth announcement at the Partner Summit concerned Cisco's legislative and judicial operational support. My principal Patrick Moorhead covered that announcement here, if interested.
Suffice it to say, Cisco shared a lot of news over these past two virtual events. I continue to be impressed with the company’s pace of innovation and its pragmatic approach to simplifying connectivity solutions on both the enterprise and service provider sides. I believe service providers and 5G represent tremendous growth opportunities for Cisco, particularly with the recent operator wins in the U.S. I would not be surprised if the company explores the private cellular networking opportunity to supplement its footprint with Wi-Fi. Cisco is investing heavily in partners and developers to support its significant install base and to add new customers. The balance of new product announcements and programs should serve as a solid foundation as the company heads into an uncertain 2021.