Software-focused moves and certification changes: Meet the new Cisco

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How is Cisco going to approach the future?

In the past, the tech conglomerate has presented itself as the bridge between your traditional on-premises networks and your newer cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

But we’re already headed down the road where hardware becomes a commodity and software becomes king. I went into Cisco Live 2019 hoping to get a glimpse into how Cisco planned to address this impending crossroads.

I got much more than that.

The theme of this year’s conference was “You make possible.” And I didn’t think it’d be possible, but it appears Cisco is surprisingly ready to embrace the software movement.

I’ll explain what I mean with these big takeaways from the event.

Complete overhaul to the Cisco certification program

Cisco hasn’t prioritized changes to its certification program in the last 30 years. That all changed at Cisco Live.

Cisco made sweeping changes across all disciplines. For example, the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification is now moving from three exams to two exams. There will be a core exam – equivalent to the router and switch exams combined – and a specialization exam.

This was a long time coming and indicates where Cisco is heading: the software movement.

With an emphasis on DevNet and scripting certifications, Cisco sent a clear message that it’s committed to being a software-centric company. As Cisco sinks its teeth into the software movement, traditional hardware engineers must take heed and start the shift to become software programmers. Organizations will now need a whole new set of trainings.

Changing the way we communicate on a regular basis

In her keynote, Amy Chang, SVP and GM, Collaboration Technology Group, showcased the power of cognitive collaboration. Cisco is applying automation and artificial intelligence to how we communicate on a daily basis. Chang presented the scenario of a customer meeting, and how beneficial it would be to have more information about the participants – a new WebEx feature called People Insights. It pulls publicly available data from the web – everything from Wikipedia to news articles to LinkedIn profiles – and even business analytics to add context to the conversation and to reference during the meeting.

Users might not see the changes of automation and machine learning on the day-to-day networking or data side of things, but they’ll experience the benefits in a number of ways. For example, if something like Microsoft Outlook isn’t working, users will be able to go to the help desk and the problem will be fixed much quicker through automation.

With automation and provisioning at the software layer, intent-based networking will make organizations significantly more strategic. As far as consistent presence and being able to tailor your daily work and collaborating with your peers on a regular basis, that’s going to be a game-changer.

The time for an internal re-evaluation is now

If Cisco Live 2019 taught us anything, it’s that Cisco is ready to embrace change. The software movement is the present and the future, and Cisco has no intention of being left behind.

Previously, you told the network what to do and hoped it complied. Now it’s about gaining insights into how your network is operating and how your users are functioning on the network, and tailoring that data traffic to the use case.

To that end, every organization should be looking at how its internal teams and operations support their business, and how business applications can perform more efficiently and effectively on their networks. A focus on automation and operational efficiencies is a good place to start.

But your next step will depend on where you are now. Whether you simply want better insight into where you are along the journey or you’re looking to take advantage of your legacy hardware and existing infrastructure, how you move forward will depend on your business processes and user needs. Contact your SHI account executive today to get started.

Aleesa Foltz and Courtney Heisserer contributed to this post.