Observability, Security And Merakification Headline Cisco Live! 2022

By Patrick Moorhead - July 25, 2022

I attended Cisco Live! on June 13-15 in sunny and hot Las Vegas, NV. It was great to finally return in person and spend time with Cisco executives and customers at the networking giant’s signature event. Now that many of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we live in a hybrid work world. Thus, it was not surprising that many of the themes at this year’s event revolved around the new work normal. My firm's Founder and Chief Analyst, Patrick Moorhead, recently published his insights from the event. If you are interested, you can find that article here. With that said, I would like to provide my own summary of the announcements that I found compelling.

A world of (innovative) solutions

On my arrival day, I spent time in the Cisco Live! tradeshow area, organized around the theme “World of Solutions." I found it interesting that a handful of companies at the event could be considered competitors with Cisco, such as VMware, but this is often the case in the technology world. Two areas stood out for me, of the several I toured. The first was a demonstration of intelligent building management that married Cisco’s depth and strength in IoT with its DNA Spaces platform. I continue to be impressed with the maturity and functionality of DNA Spaces, the company’s location-based services offering. DNA Spaces supports the deployment of flexible workspaces with capacity monitoring, HVAC, lighting and access point management to reduce power consumption for sustainability considerations. Cisco claims that it has digitized an astounding 6.6 billion square feet worth of enterprises—a solid proof point to its success.

My second visit was to the DevNet Zone. If you are unfamiliar with DevNet, it is Cisco's developer community support organization. DevNet provides many resources to spur developer innovation on its platforms,from open APIs to blueprints to sandboxes for testing. I once wrote that DevNet was Cisco's best-kept secret (you can find that article here), but that's no longer the case. The DevNet team continues to facilitate upskilling in critical areas such as automation, analytics, microservices application development, IoT solutions and more. It may be challenging to quantify Cisco's return on investment with DevNet. Still, as a former channel sales and marketing executive, I view it as a way for Cisco to convince partners to lead with it versus other competitors. 

Keynote insights 

Cisco held two consecutive days of keynote and main stage sessions. The first day was product and solution-focused, while the second day emphasized demonstrations. I will focus on my observations from Day One, which opened with Cisco Chair and CEO Chuck Robbins speaking to some of the company’s challenges, including supply chain interruptions, inflationary pressures and other macro-economic factors. Mr. Robbins then transitioned to a fascinating discussion with Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley. It is no secret that Ford is moving aggressively into electric vehicle (EV) production with its Mustang Mach E and F-150 Lightning. The key to that transition is building the digital infrastructure necessary to support EV upgrades and enhancements post vehicle delivery. Cisco is a strategic partner in Ford’s EV journey. In addition to providing critical networking infrastructure, Cisco is integrating Webex into Ford vehicles to facilitate remote work and connect Ford customers to its call centers and dealer network.

Not surprisingly, security was also front and center at Cisco Live! Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s Security and Collaboration Lead, made the point that over 3500 cybersecurity point solutions exist and customers require an easy button to navigate them while ensuring proper cybersecurity protection. I could not agree more. I attended the RSA Conference earlier this year and left the event well-aware of how crowded the security space has gotten. I believe that Cisco is on the right path to simplify the deployment and management of security by leveraging API interfaces and the Cisco Security Cloud,announced at the RSA Conference. I plan to go deeper on the Cisco Security Cloud announcement in my recap of the RSA Conference—stay tuned for that article in the coming week..

The Merakification of Catalyst and more 

As always, this year’s Cisco Live! was a showcase for the company's latest product and solution enhancements. Todd Nightingale, EVP and GM of Enterprise Networking and Cloud, literally dropped the microphone on stage when announcing Meraki cloud management support for the Catalyst portfolio. The “Merakification” of Catalyst was inevitable—network operators require the flexibility to manage an enormous Catalyst install base both on-premises and remotely. It likely also offers Mr. Nightingale great satisfaction since he joined Cisco as part of the company’s acquisition of Meraki nearly a decade ago. I believe it’s a solid strategy to leverage the strengths of both Meraki and Catalyst and provide Cisco’s customers choice in a management platform. That also aligns with the company's dual-path SD-WAN offerings, in which Viptela supports more complex network topologies while Meraki targets simpler, more straightforward ones. Bottom line, customer choice and flexibility is always a good thing. 

Full-stack observability was another theme at the event and Chief Strategy Officer Liz Centoni spoke on the main stage about integrations spanning AppDynamics, Intersight and ThousandEyes. In regards to the latter, I’m pleased to see Cisco further integrating the ThousandEyes acquisition into its other business areas. One of the related announcements was a WAN insights platform that leverages the ThousandEyes architecture to optimize SD-WAN performance with Viptela as a start. From my perspective, Cisco timed its acquisition of ThousandEyes brilliantly, buying it during the throws of the pandemic in 2020. I believe that it is paying dividends given the emergence of hybrid work and the need for visibility beyond the confines of the traditional campus and branch. I also expect if Cisco can integrate the same capability into its private 5G-as-a-service offering, it could substantially differentiate that offer from the volume of others in the market such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) GreenLake 5G as-a-Service. 

Wrapping up

I did not cover all the announcements at Cisco Live! (you can find them here) but the ones described above demonstrate the company's vision to simplify network management, provide actionable insights through robust observability and deliver a best-in-class customer experience to support business requirements and positive outcomes now and into the future. Cisco is executing on many fronts but could still refine what it is doing from an automation perspective. That is a relatively straightforward issue to resolve in my mind, and I expect Cisco will get there over time through further roadmap refinement or acquisition. That said, it is great to be returning to in-person events and Cisco Live! delivered on its vision to unify customer experiences and support hybrid work in a post-pandemic world.

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

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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.