Cisco Live 2018: 4 big takeaways on the future of networks

 In Hardware, IT News/Events, Networking, News

The most surprising realization from Cisco Live 2018 was that there were no major product announcements.

This year, the focus was on partner development and aligning complementary services, leading us to believe that there will be a concentrated effort in education and adoption of their most recent announcements, including SD-WAN, NG Firewall, HCI and CI, Webex, and more.

That focus, however, left plenty of exciting developments to chew on. Here are four of the biggest advancements, trends, and discussions from Cisco Live 2018.

1. Security is being baked into infrastructure. Traditional firewalls and security measures for protecting the network were addressed, but the bigger story was having a security focus with every technology evaluation, deployment, and operation–something critical in combatting next-generation threats.

A lot of embedded security features and functionality, like encrypted traffic analysis, are available in newer products within the switching world where they haven’t traditionally been available.

Visibility and security are becoming synonymous within infrastructure. Being able to understand and visualize how, where, and when traffic moves across your network is becoming paramount to having a more secure, stronger understanding and foothold on security.

2. DevNet creates synergies that could solve some of the industry’s biggest problems. Cisco is driving a transition in how the network is managed, moving from traditional hardware-focused Command Line Interface (CLI) controls to software-focused Application Programmer Interface (API) controls. Essentially, Cisco is relying on the partner community to develop tools that enhance its product offerings.

A common theme uniting presentations and discussions at the conference was that partners should not only be using the “open” product sets Cisco is releasing to create custom applications, but to also market those branded offerings to other partners. In doing so, Cisco is empowering its partner community to create synergies in their go-to-market strategies and also offloading application R&D to the partner community.

In the industry in general, we’re going to see more and more programs like DevNet. The whole concept is about programmability and opening APIs so other devices can be used to control, monitor, and manage infrastructure.

By having companies market the services they create, they could ultimately solve some of the biggest problems in the industry by coming together around the concept of managing networks through a software-centric lens.

3. Cloud underpins a seamless management experience. As cloud adoption shifts to a mature offering, Cisco is positioning itself as the premier partner delivering a seamless experience between on-premises deployments and private and public cloud consumption across all architectures.

Cisco has strong partnerships with cloud providers but also has its own tools for moving to the cloud, and all management tools for their products are only available through the cloud.

Products like Cisco Intersight for UCS and HyperFlex allow users to manage multiple instances of their products regardless of location, and manage devices at scale through a single pane of glass. Rather than manually managing multiple instances of UCS across a plant, for example, they can be managed as a single entity.

4. Containers open up the fog computing future. When Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, and Diane Greene, CEO of Google Cloud, discussed the partnership between their two companies during the opening keynote, they generated the biggest buzz of the show.

As containers become the operating-system-level virtualization standard of choice, Google’s Kubernetes, an open-source container-orchestration system, will drive hyperactive adoption of Cisco’s Data Center converged, compute, and networking product lines.

At this point, many organizations are trying to figure out Kubernetes and how it fits from an operational standpoint as it transitions from development stages to production. It’s a new way to think about how a network operates.

But this is the type of functionality that enables fog computing, an idea that’s been talked about for a while but is still being realized. By using containers within switches and routers, you can move compute functionality closer to end devices, advancing initiatives like smart cities, driverless cars, and other IoT applications.

The containerization of compute services, whether in the cloud, talking to the cloud, or on a switch or router, offers next-generation functionality that has the potential to change how network engineers deploy and manage devices.

Looking ahead

Now that the event is over, it will be interesting to see how Cisco plans to integrate all the new technologies and acquisitions into its business model and how partners will be able to monetize those new offerings.

It also seems that Cisco’s focus on recurring revenue is being led by software, which requires a heavy coding and programing skill set that is not a part of the traditional Cisco partner ecosystem. Going forward, engineers will need to be well versed in not only traditional network deployments and operations, but also coding languages like Python.

The lack of product announcements at this year’s show put the focus on changes like that, ones that continue to transition how networks operate and how they’re managed. Fundamental concepts remain, but the overlying tools and functionality are changing at a pace that will only accelerate moving forward.

Dan Vargas, Aleesa Foltz, and Courtney Ubelhor contributed to this post.

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