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Insights from Cisco Partner Connection Week 2018

Servers, Storage and Networking | Posted on April 13, 2018

In April, Cisco’s Partner Connection Week 2018 (PCW) was held in sunny Nassau, Bahamas. The fantastic Bahamian weather was appropriate to the occasion, given that this year’s PCW was full of good news and inspiring ideas. It was a valuable peek into Cisco’s present and future.

Although the event covered a wide array of subjects, the overall theme was how Cisco is enabling the changing environment of IT. Enterprises around the world are going hybrid. They’re looking to combine the control of on-premises management with the flexibility of the cloud. And that change can’t happen without network readiness.

With Partner Connection Week, Cisco gave us a look at how they’re developing the kind of network that can help the enterprise achieve huge transformations. It reminded us of how excited we are to be a Cisco partner, and what our collaboration with them can do for companies like yours.

It’s Not About Network Security, It’s About Secure Networks

Of course, as soon as you think about network readiness, the word “security” leaps to mind. Cyber attacks are constantly becoming more sophisticated. They’re launched by more organized groups of malicious actors, instead of lone hackers. Cisco witnesses 20 billion threats per day across their networks, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told Fox Business Network. This is an astonishing figure. It’s almost six times higher than the number of Google searches conducted daily.

How do we deal with this? Some answers came from Alfred Huger, the VP of Engineering at Cisco. He introduced an idea that should be common sense but isn’t always.

Huger said that, rather than think of security as a series of single moments, we should look at security as a constant. It’s not about a series of individual actions, like stopping a threat or making a rule. It’s not about slapping on solutions one by one. It’s about having integrated solutions that deliver constant security throughout the network. In an ideal world, “unsecured network” would be a contradiction in terms.

The good news is that now the network itself can help. Cisco is fully integrating AI and machine learning into its products. Now, each new attack on a Cisco system becomes a new opportunity for adaptation. The network, after all, is the common denominator in nearly all cybercrime, and that means that Cisco networks are full of useful cybercrime data. Smart networks can use that data to produce deep, sophisticated knowledge of all the latest threats. For example, AI helps Cisco’s DNA Center product detect malware in encrypted traffic before decryption. That’s something that’s never been possible before.

Making a Complex World Simple

However, as important as security is, it’s not the only consideration. Perhaps an even more important factor is simplicity. All of the security utilities in the world can’t make a difference if they’re too complicated to use, or too costly to maintain. This is one reason why simplicity was a mantra throughout Partner Connection Week. And a brilliant presentation on that specific subject was given by Todd Nightingale, SVP & General Manager at Cisco Meraki.

The complexity of IT is increasing year-on-year. Recently, the cloud was an interesting futuristic idea. Now, it’s taken for granted that enterprises will want to test applications on-premise, put them on the cloud, and access them from Macs, PCs or their mobile devices. Meanwhile, billions of new devices are added to networks every day, and that rate of change is only accelerating.

Ideally, enterprises should be able to harness the power of that complex environment with elegance and ease. As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but no simpler.” Simplicity, Nightingale said, was the goal of Cisco Meraki from the beginning. The developers of Meraki assumed that complex data and complex functionality will only be adopted if they’re presented simply.

As a result, Meraki is simple as can be. Meraki can manage and monitor huge numbers of devices anywhere as if they were sitting right next to you. It frees administrators from expensive controller appliances or opaque management software. It takes the incredibly intricate security machine that Cisco offers, and puts it in a box that you can plug in and turn on.

Automation Enables Intuition

Ultimately, by automating security and embracing simplicity, Cisco is reaching for an intuitive future. It’s a world where embracing digital transformation will seem like a natural evolution, rather than a scary leap forward. The mark of truly great technology, after all, is that we don’t have to worry about it. In Cisco’s vision of what a network should be, we can spend our time thinking about what we’re building with our beautiful new tools, rather than thinking about the tools themselves.

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