It’s great to be back to another action and innovation-packed Cisco Live 2023. Continuing my tradition of posting Cisco Live Announcements/Highlights (catch Cisco Live 2022 Highlights here), I am putting together my thoughts and perspective on Top-10 Cisco Live 2023 Announcements and Highlights.
Cisco Live 2023 happened at Mandalay Bay Convention Center, in Las Vegas, NV, from June 4th to June 8th. In-person attendance was more than 20,000+ people
This year’s key theme is around the following:
Theme-1: Simplification & Unification
Chuck Robbins was loud and clear that Cisco is investing in technology and innovation to be your technology partner of choice. In Chuck’s words
Chuck emphasized that up until now, it was all a features game, but now is the time to “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify” – you are right, he used the word 3 times, and you can tell how important simplification is as a key theme in all the upcoming and future innovations that Cisco brings to market – simplifying the procurement, management, usage, and operations – the whole 9 yards. You will also see Unification as a key theme, where Cisco is trying to adopt unified management – particularly unified cloud management for some of its mega portfolio products, and you will see this loud and clear from Jonathan’s announcements around Meraki Cloud, which is a continuation of last year’s announcements.
Chuck also mentioned that customers need choice and Cisco will provide that, even though sometimes it can mean portfolio overlap or cannibalization. He quoted the example of people going cloud, cloud, cloud, but now suddenly customers are asking for on-prem.
Theme-2: AI & Generative AI
AI and Generative AI have been talking points in the Keynote and also in many innovation talks. At one point Chuck even jokingly mentioned that he was allowed to use the “AI” word no more than 7 times :-). Generative AI in particular is useful in having conversational queries and easing the experience for operators. For example, features like Cisco Networking Cloud AI/ML Design Blueprints, and Cisco SecureX SOC Assistant simplify firewall policy management with Generative AI. Along the same lines, we have recently announced our CloudFabrix Generative AI assistant to simplify many day-to-day operations in AIOps and Observability – to do tasks like creating dashboards, explaining incidents, generating pipelines, creating bots, and more. Many more Generative AI-driven innovations will emerge over the coming months and years.
It is really refreshing to see sustainability as a key theme and initiative. A company that is of size like Cisco will have obviously ESG and Sustainability initiatives from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) angle, but it was really encouraging for me to see Sustainability related initiatives getting percolated all the way thru the product and technology innovation and appearing as product features – Example: Catalyst/Nexus switch management software showing energy consumption, carbon emission details.
Now, let’s dive into Top-10 Announcements/Highlights, from my perspective – covering Applications, Datacenter and Security.
1. Cisco Full-Stack Observability (FSO)
Cisco announced the general availability (GA) of its Full-Stack Observability (FSO) platform. The FSO platform provides an enhanced and unified observability experience across services, applications, and infrastructure domains, thereby eliminating silos. FSO Platform chose OpenTelemetry as the native standard of MELT data ingestion and this opens up the possibility for comprehensive insights on the complete stack.
I see the Cisco FSO platform as an Observability Services Platform or Observability Platform as a Service (OPaaS). I see parallels to what was done in the application development space by Heroku or in the SIEM space by Splunk, but FSO is more compelling with its extensibility, and open ecosystem architecture, and is purpose-built for observability, unlike Splunk, which is geared more toward SIEM and Security. Let me give some context here. A core idea of the FSO platform is to house all the observability data and provide capabilities for partners and ecosystems to build apps and solutions on top of the FSO platform. To prove and exemplify, Cisco took on the baton to build the first couple of apps and solutions by porting some of its flagship products like AppDynamics Cloud (now called CNAO), Replex, and Opsani to make them run as first-class citizens on top of the FSO Platform.
This is very different from what was called FSO last year, and in fact, is a very welcoming move. Another very interesting aspect is how Cisco gave extensibility to the platform – allowing partners and customers to extend the FSO Platform. In fact, CloudFabrix is being announced on the stage by Liz Centoni, take a listen and CloudFabrix is one of the first design partners for the FSO Platform, to provide vSphere Observability and Data Modernization service for the Cisco FSO Platform. vSphere Observability was the first example of a Data Modernization service – where we ingest millions of VMware MELT signals into the FSO platform – by going through the process of Otel conversion, contextualization, and cross-domain linkage and making the vSphere domain available for any other apps/modules that are willing to further extend the platform experience.
2. Cloud Native Application Observability (CNAO)
What it is: AppDynamics Cloud rebranded as CNAO
My take: AppDynamics Cloud was announced a couple of years ago at one of the Cisco Live events. It is essentially a purpose-built APM solution for Cloud-native environments with a focus on containers, microservices, Kubernetes, cloud-native services and application security. With the announcement of the FSO solution this year, AppDynamics Cloud is now being rebranded as CNAO
3. Cisco Networking Cloud (Meraki Cloud) – Single Signon, Platform Navigator
What it is: Ability to X-launch many Cisco’s management software and domain controllers from Meraki cloud
My take: Cisco is embracing Cloud-first management big time. With Meraki cloud as the go-to management platform for most of the Cisco networking, compute, and data center portfolio. Initially, the Platform Navigator will provide a way to cross-launch Intersight, Thousand Eyes, Cloud-delivered SD-WAN, and more. Over time this will evolve to provide a unified user experience but initially, it will be more of a cross-launch with single-signon functionality. This means no more swivel-chair among various applications.
4. Cisco Multi-Cloud Defense
What it is: Unifies security controls across clouds and applications
My take: Cisco Multi-cloud defense is a great security solution in an increasingly hybrid multi-cloud environment where cloud workloads frequently need to access on-prem applications. The solutions provide a translation layer between your on-prem environment and any public cloud using the firewall that is deployed to provide ZTNA and other security controls.
5. Cisco XDR
What is: Extended Detection and Response (XDR) provides SIEM + SOAR functionality together to give you threat detection and response in one platform
My take: Cisco XDR is a great solution in helping SOCs efficiently deal with both threat detection and response with a consolidated platform. This is a step in the right direction to stand against the competition in this rapidly emerging XDR market. Cisco’s focus in the past couple of years was around SecureX, but now we clearly see XDR at the forefront of Security innovations.
6. Cisco Secure Generative AI Policy Assistant
What it is: Generative AI assistant to simplify firewall policy management. Available by the end of 2023
My take: This is a very good usage of Generative AI. In modern-day Firewalls, policies can become very complex and run into hundreds of thousands of rules, if not millions. With the Generative AI SOC assistant, you can have conversational queries to create or manage policies for ad-hoc situations, simulate what-if scenarios, and more.
7. WebEx Hologram
What it is: Immersive collaboration experience delivered using AR/VR technologies.
My take: Cisco is trying to provide more immersive experiences with its highly successful WebEx platform. WebEx’s name to fame was online meetings and its welcome tone that many of us are accustomed to hearing every day. WebEx is also a Teams product (think of it similar to Slack or Microsoft Teams), which is also gaining popularity among customers, and is the default communication tool inside Cisco. Now with WebEx hologram, Cisco is taking it up a notch delivering immersive experiences to address use cases around hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.
8. Cisco Outshift
What it is: New branding for the suite of products & solutions developed by what used to be called Emerging Technologies & Incubation (ETI).
Telescope: Cloud-native Application Troubleshooting
Calisti: Service Mesh Manager
Panoptica: Secure Application Cloud
Great Bear: Edge Services platform – Platform to deploy and create Edge AI and Edge Services.
My take: I first came across these in 2022 Cisco Live and they were under the ET&I division, now the division is being rebranded as Outshift. The apps seem to have matured and a lot of new features were added. I particularly checked out Panoptica and Great Bear. Panoptica provides Cloud Application Security and is being announced in Keynote as well.
Great Bear is an edge services platform, and now I am happy to see that the team is able to demonstrate some end-to-end use cases (ex: real-time object detection from video) and they even have a white-labeled server hardware that packs nVidia GPU. Looks like it supports running on Raspberry PI nodes as well. This hardened compute module seems to be ruggedized and can work in outdoor/industrial environments.
9. Cisco Insider
What it is: It is a program where there are customer advisory boards, conducts focus group sessions, shares roadmap details, solicits user feedback, runs pilot programs, and more.
My take: Initially I wasn’t really sure what Cisco Insider meant – maybe I thought it is related to finance, and hence I made sure to drop by and had a discussion at length to understand what this is all about. This is a great way to get Cisco users, customers, and partners more involved in Cisco product portfolio evolution and have a chance to influence what comes out of this great innovation engine. The program has multiple tracks like Cisco Insider – User Groups, Advocacy, and Champions.
10. Cisco U
What it is: It is a Cisco portal dedicated to learning, partner training, certification programs, and community support – all under one roof.
My take: I initially thought Cisco U stands for Cisco University, but when I spoke to some of the training partners in the booth, they said it stands for Cisco ‘You’ – nice! They are all excited about the new branding. This is a great way to bring many different learning/training programs and resources and put a structure around it and that benefits learners, community, and partners alike. The program offers 3-different plans: Free, Essentials, and All-access training plans.
Ok, that’s a wrap. Please share your Top-3 announcements in the comments, and also feel free to share any major announcements that I may have missed in other areas like Collaboration, WebEx, IoT, etc. If you would like to know more about how CloudFabrix complements Cisco solutions Contact Us