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Cisco Live 2018: Cisco Returns to Its Roots With the “New” Network

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins stood on stage this week at Cisco Live! in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 attendees and boldly said, “The cloud wouldn’t be possible without the network.” That’s certainly a striking statement coming from an executive charged with transforming Cisco from the traditional infrastructure powerhouse we’ve been accustomed to in decades past. It’s definitely a tough task to accomplish for a publicly-traded company, but if you’ve been following Cisco’s earning reports lately, Robbins has been demonstrating some success, specifically in the analytics space.

(Photo credit: Cisco Live!)

If you’ve watched or attended previous years’ keynotes, I’d say there was noticeable change in the messaging at this year’s event. The fact is that today’s IT landscape with public cloud, SaaS-based apps, IoT, and user mobility have fundamentally changed how we approach network and security architecture. Networking is at the heart of stitching modern application architectures and this is a reality that is 100 percent undisputed and was continually reinforced throughout this week’s breakout sessions.

One of the defining moments during Robbins’ keynote was when he revealed a slide displaying, “The Good Old Days [Are Over].” You could sense the hesitation from Robbins before he displayed the bold statement, not knowing how the crowd would react. Personally, I enjoyed this moment because it shows Robbins isn’t afraid to talk about the current realities within the industry. Data center, as we know it, is no longer the centralized home for apps and data—and it makes no sense to architect your connectivity and security this way.

The most notable difference in this year’s messaging at Cisco’s flagship event was the backseat that CloudCenter (CliQr) took. The once-prized acquisition seemed, at times, to be nothing more than a footnote. I often “eye roll’ when I see traditional data center and hardware manufacturers trying to claim they can help customers with their public cloud strategy. But if you buy into Robbins’ messaging now, Cisco is laying claim to what they’ve always done well: networking and security.  

This was representative in the technical breakout sessions, as well, with Cisco speakers instead recommending native cloud tools for multi-cloud networking (i.e., AWS CloudFormation and Azure ARM). It was refreshing to see that stance from Cisco, given you normally see traditional data center manufacturers trying to improperly insert themselves into public cloud orchestration.

Lastly, there’s been a lot of attention around Cisco pivoting to more software- and subscription-based business—and it shows with the portfolio they’ve been building around analytics and machine learning. Cisco DNA Center took center stage in Robbins’ keynote, but when you include Tetration, AppDynamics, and Business iQ, they represent the suite of tools that produce true business outcomes. Couple that with how Cisco is also using telemetry and analytics within their security portfolio (i.e. TALOS), and I think it’s safe to say Cisco is showing true competency within the ever-growing analytics space.

Some other important takeaways I gleaned from the event include the following:

  • ACI has now surpassed NX-OS net-new deployments (60/40) and I would certainly agree given what we’re seeing in our client base.
  • There has been a heightened focus on programmability, particularly with the exposed APIs in the Catalyst 9Ks.
  • Cisco announced a partnership with Google Cloud, highlighting the integration of Kubernetes on Hyperflex.

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