Cisco Live! 2021: Key Takeaways from the event

By Robert Price

Cisco definitely “turned it up” this year. Despite the pandemic, the first global virtual event delivered over 450 sessions to the attendees. Throughout the event, there were numerous announcements and Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins discussed how Cisco is driving “an inclusive future for all”, and that his biggest challenge as CEO is dealing with uncertainties like the COVID pandemic.

This year, the event really focused on our now fully interconnected world. Moving from product capability to full stack outcomes, providing smart, safe and interactive spaces; integrated collaboration tools; application outcomes and of course, security. Cisco’s developing technologies are preparing businesses for the “next normal”, as it was referred to by several speakers during the event. Cisco believes that your organisations will not return to their pre-pandemic state, and now - as we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel - is the time to start preparing for that. Here I provide my insights into the key takeaways I took from Cisco Live! 2021 and what this means for organisations in the future.

Future of work

If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it is that work has to be something you do, not somewhere you go. For many organisations the sudden requirement to send entire workforces home placed a huge burden on IT to deliver effective home working solutions. For the most part, IT responded highly effectively to these challenges. As we return to “normal” many organisations will continue to employ flexible working policies, with 63% of employers planning to create a hybrid working environment.

Hybrid work is here to stay, the focus for IT providers must now be on making our customers business more agile and more prepared for this; to help them drive more intelligent, engaging and efficient meeting and employee experiences, and help them enable their workforce from anywhere, on any device, or at any time, as much as is possible. Collaboration solutions such as Cisco Webex Meetings and Webex/Video enabled meeting rooms will bridge this gap. With more than 400 new features either live now or coming soon, Cisco is trying to create an experience for both at home and in office workers to feel just as productive and effective as the other. Cisco Cloud Video Interop (CVI) will also provide interop between standards-based Cisco Webex Devices and Microsoft Teams.

On the flipside, as many organisations prepare to return to the office, we need to ask what that office will need to look like. The traditional hot desk may well be a thing of the past; particularly if we need to deep clean the desk environment between users. Flexible, easy to use desk booking systems may assist us in this regard; smarter buildings, incorporating sensors to monitor and police occupancy for example, or to take the body temperature of people entering the building, will increasingly become the norm.

Certain collaboration use cases could be developed alongside Cisco Wireless, Security and IOT to provide an end-to-end smart building solution. Cisco Desk Series Devices could provide one of these unique use cases, an example of this being a virtual assistant to reduce face to face contact. Desk Pro can be configured with a welcome message using digital signage and can use facial recognition to detect a person stood in front of it; this could then trigger a video call to a member of staff to answer questions or permit them into the building. Webex Room, Desk Series Devices and Webex Navigator also have sensors that are capable for providing environmental metrics around room temperature, relative humidity, sound and ambient noise levels, presence/occupancy and air quality – some of which are directly relevant for a COVID safe environment.  

Move to the cloud

It has been evident for some time that our customers prefer to consume their IT far more flexibly than before. Cloud based services, from basic IaaS services, through to full SaaS platforms, are present in most, if not all, of our customers. A hybrid cloud strategy, combining some on-prem capabilities with a variety of cloud-based services are now common. How we manage this hybrid environment is hugely challenging.

Automation and orchestration tools which allow us to quickly stand up and tear down infrastructure as required, let us mobilise workloads so we can run them where it is most efficient to do so, and to provide end to end security across this hybrid environment are critical if we are to deliver on this hybrid cloud promise.

Cisco may not be the first name you think about in cloud, but more often than not they are an invaluable partner for cloud migration needs. By delivering cloud-neutral solutions that unify and accelerate operations and help clouds work smarter. The clue is in the name – hybrid. Your organisation’s cloud journey will include multiple vendors, and this is where Logicalis can truly add value and help you integrate the right technologies for your business. We offer a tried and tested blueprint for cloud transformation that aligns IT readiness and security requirements with business strategy and objectives. 

End to end security

The days of IT security being an afterthought are well and truly behind us. Many of our customers have arrived at a point where a well-intentioned “buy best of breed” approach to security has resulted in often dozens, and in extreme cases, hundreds, of security vendors in a single customer. The problem only gets worse when we consider that the vast majority of these vendors share little or no information with one another. 

An increasing trend in IT security is towards vendor consolidation. That is to say, the delivery of a comprehensive, end to end security posture via a much smaller, and more manageable number of vendors. Cisco has perhaps the broadest portfolio of security solutions in the industry, and as such, are ideally positioned to take advantage of this trend.

Gone are the days where IT security thought a firewall was enough as a first line of defence to protect breaches. Nowadays, security needs to be multifaceted to include perimeter, cloud, identity, application-level security and a whole host of others.

Now more than ever with hybrid working environments, the move towards zero-trust is also at the forefront of an organisation’s IT strategy. “There is no perimeter anymore,” said Jeff Fanelli, a Cisco security architect. “Not just because almost all of us are working from home but because of where applications live, the heavy use of internet services and Software as a Service for applications, and so on.”

Business Observability

If we accept the premise that for many of our customers, the application IS the business, then our ability to ensure that the application delivers an appropriate level of “experience” to those using it, has never been more important. Application experience of course relies on many factors: performance, stability, useability, and security. All of these factors will contribute either positively - or negatively - to the experience the user gets when using it.

75% of global technologists reported the pandemic created more IT complexity than ever before. The inability to manage the current complexity of IT environments is becoming increasingly difficult. We can no longer afford to ignore the inability to prioritise technology performance issues based on business impact. From business analytics to user experience to applications, infrastructure, network and security – IT need to identify the root cause and act quickly. Rapid digital transformation has added new priorities and challenges, and there is now a rise in need for full-stack observability to allow our customers to remain competitive.

As Architects of Change, Logicalis has the skills and knowledge to deliver outcomes from a full range of technology options, across multiple vendors. If you would like to speak to one of our experts to discuss your technology estate and how we can help address your business goals, please get in touch today. Email info@uk.logicalis.com and we can set up a call to understand your business needs.