Cisco Systems Strives To Bring Simplicity To Hybrid Multicloud Networking, Security And Observability

By Patrick Moorhead - June 22, 2023

This week is Cisco’s turn to take over Las Vegas, with Cisco Live 2023 attracting 20,000 in-person attendees and nearly a million online viewers. Chuck Robbins, chair and CEO of Cisco, started the proceedings by highlighting the vision for Cisco’s portfolio to become simpler, more inclusive and sustainable.

What follows is a recap of new announcements from day one of the show covering observability, networking technologies and generative AI services (no surprise!). Moor Insights & Strategy Modern Work Principal Analyst will be covering Day 2 announcements that focused on collaboration and contact center

Full-Stack Observability (FSO) Platform

Cisco announced the Cisco FSO Platform, an open, extensible, API-driven platform built on OpenTelemetry. This platform enables the collection and analysis of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) data generated by any source.

This is important because IT teams must ensure that problems at the network or application layer do not lead to security or performance issues, while developers must create well-behaved and secure applications. Observability reduces friction between these two groups by unifying data, analysis, actions and practices. Done right, observability increases operational efficiency and lowers business risk.

The FSO Platform is vendor-agnostic and collects data from applications, networking, infrastructure, security, cloud, sustainability and business sources. The system produces in-context, correlated and predictive insights, reducing the time required to resolve issues. The platform is extensible, allowing developers to build custom observability solutions, for instance to monitor and analyze APIs.Cisco has already built several applications on the FSO Platform. An example is Cloud Native Application Observability, a performance monitoring solution for cloud-native applications with business context. It enables informed decisions about digital experiences, performance alignment with end-user expectations and better security.

Other modules include Cost Insights, which provides visibility into application-level costs alongside performance metrics; Application Resource Optimizer, which shows Kubernetes workload resource utilization; Security Insights, which helps DevOps and SecOps teams locate, prioritize and eliminate threats, vulnerabilities and data leaks on cloud-native infrastructures; and Cisco IT AIOps, which collects data relevant to infrastructure, network, incidents and performance of a business application all in one place.

At the event, Cisco shared several examples of partners that are already building out solutions and business use cases. These include vSphere Observability and Data Modernization from CloudFabrix, which enables users to view vSphere data through the FSO Platform and correlate it with Kubernetes and infrastructure data to generate insights and recommended actions across infrastructure and the containerized application stack. Evolutio Fintech is an observability solution to help create business insights by monitoring KPIs based on data ingested, such as payments and credit card authorizations. Kanari Capacity Planner and Forecaster provide visibility into time-series data associated with capacity planning and forecasted events with risk factors determined through predictive machine learning (ML) algorithms.

With the fractalization of infrastructure and applications, full stack observability is mandatory for a modern enterprise. Observing across the hybrid, multicloud landscape is a requirement as well.

Cisco Networking Cloud — a commitment to simplifying IT

The promise of Cisco Networking Cloud is a unified management platform for both on-premises and cloud operating models. Cisco Networking Cloud combines Meraki, ThousandEyes and Cisco Catalyst into a single platform. Innovations include single sign-on (SSO) to simplify access across Cisco networking platforms and an API key exchange/repository that makes it easier for Cisco networking platforms to connect and exchange data through automation.

Cisco ThousandEyes has also expanded visibility, automated insights and seamless workflows to assure digital experiences across any network, whether on-premises or in the cloud.

As with observability, networking support for the hybrid, multicloud is a requirement now and in the future. I have yet to talk to any large enterprise that doesn’t use more than one IaaS provider that uses different networking for each cloud. This is unsustainable and Cisco is offering a solution, one that simplifies cross-cloud.

Generative AI-powered security

Cisco previewed generative AI capabilities in the Cisco Security Cloud. Cisco Security Cloud will leverage a generative AI-powered policy assistant that enables security and IT administrators to create security policies and best evaluate how to implement them across the security infrastructure. In the first implementation—available later this year—customers can quiz Cisco’s AI Assistant to evaluate and produce more efficient firewall policies, leveraging existing rulesets in Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center.

Cisco’s AI Assistant will support customers’ security operations centers (SOCs) so they can detect and respond to threats faster. When an incident occurs, the assistant will examine events across email, endpoints and the network to describe what happened and its impact. Analysts can then interact and reason with the assistant to determine the best remediation approach, leveraging an extensive knowledge base of potential actions while also considering the analysts’ input. The event summarization feature will be available by the end of 2023, with the remaining capabilities coming online in the first half of 2024

New security enhancements

Cisco also announced enhancements to the cloud-native application security solution Panoptica. Panoptica will provide complete cloud-native application lifecycle protection from code through development to production runtime in distributed multi-cloud environments. This tie-up is a good one and again supports the hybrid-multicloud.

Meanwhile, the new Cisco Secure Access is a security service edge (SSE) solution that offers frictionless access to information across any location, device and application through one platform.

On the hardware side, Cisco’s new Secure Firewall 4200 provides seamless connected experiences for end users at the office or on the road alongside Cisco Multicloud Defense, with the intent of improving security in any environment.

Analyst Wrap-Up

While Cisco’s core business is still networking, I like it that the company continues to invest in hybrid multi-cloud, security cloud and full-stack observability. The future of IT is hybrid, with infrastructure and applications spread across on-premises, colo and public clouds. Networking and observability likewise need to be hybrid and multi-cloud—which is why the Cisco Networking and Security Clouds makes so much sense.

I also like that simplicity will continue to be a big theme of future product value propositions because for decades that was not the case. Indeed, it is laudable that Cisco admits its role in creating sometimes excessive complexity over the years. At Live 2023, Cisco is taking another step to unify its networking portfolio toward an eventual single management platform and a consistent user experience across its networking, security and other portfolios. I look forward to that day—and know that many of you do as well.

While I knew that Cisco already embedded AI into many of it products, it was nice to see the continued call-outs as enterprises want to make sure that their technology providers can keep them more competitive with the “magic” of generative AI. Security and observability are low hanging fruit and I saw what I needed to see to convince me that Cisco would be quick enough to market.

Strategically, I think Cisco Systems is positioned well for the future.

It is focused on high-margin businesses and has created software and services it can monetize regardless of where a workload sits, be it on-prem, at the edge, in a colo facilities, or in the public cloud. Oh, and don’t forget that all those places need connectivity.

As a trusted provider to big enterprises and governments, simplicity is music to customers’ ears. Organizations have too many disconnected “best of breed” security and observability capabilities that need to be integrated. This takes enterprise time, resources and by the time “best of breed” tools are integrated and fireproofed, the holistic enterprise is insecure as its on disconnected, three gen old point products. I look forward to getting more details on the company’s quantum security efforts given the importance of this now.

Cisco CEO and Chair Chuck Robbins opened up the show reiterating the Cisco mission to “securely connecting everything to make anything happen.” From my analyst point of view, this is exactly what the company is doing.

 

Patrick Moorhead

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.