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June 22, 2022

CiscoLive is Back!

Bob Laliberte
Principal Analyst

Market Topics


CiscoLive returned to being an in-person event this year and customers responded positively, with 16 thousand showing up to the Mandalay Bay Resort to partake in keynotes, sessions, training, and festivities.

It was great to be in person and able to interact with members of the Cisco executive, technical, and analyst teams, as well as meet with their customers. It also provided me with an opportunity to connect with fellow ESG analysts Rob Strechay and Paul Nashawaty, who were also attending the event.

There were a number of significant networking announcements made during the event, so I will try to encapsulate them in this blog and provide my insights. They included:

  • The Merakification of Catalyst switches – Part One. With Todd Nightingale in charge of enterprise networking, we are now seeing the introduction of cloud-based management for Catalyst switches (and eventually APs) leveraging the Meraki cloud-based management solution – hands down recognized as the pioneer in cloud-based network management and well known for its operational simplicity. Now, before Catalyst users leveraging DNA Center get too concerned, this is not a forced transition to cloud-based management. Rather, organizations should be thinking about this as an augmentation – the ability to leverage unified cloud-based monitoring of Meraki and Catalyst environments – which is especially helpful to those with highly distributed environments and those with hybrid environments consisting of Catalyst switches with Meraki APs. Even when using this “monitoring” mode, organizations can still use DNA Center to manage the Catalyst environment. Over time, this cloud-based capability will include the ability to manage Catalyst environments leveraging a simplified interface. Given that ESG research highlights that 40% currently have unified wired and wireless network management and another 48% plan to unify, the cloud-based offering is very timely.
  • Nexus will also offer cloud-based management and new switches. Using the InterSight platform, data center networking teams now have the option to leverage a cloud-based management solution for their data center networking environments. Again, this is about providing choice and management options for data center networking environments. Cisco also rolled out a new family of 400G switches to accommodate the steady growth of data. All switches are 800G-ready to ensure investment protection.
  • ThousandEyes integration continues with “Predictive Networking” – a great example of how organizations can leverage cloud-based intelligence to deliver better experiences. Essentially, ThousandEyes will analyze the network traffic and provide recommendations to improve performance and experience. Even more important, this technology is completely network-operator-driven, as the solution will demonstrate how much better the experience could be by allowing the operator the options to select a different route and then simply push a button to accept the recommendation and make the change. While this is fairly impressive on its own, the more intriguing part of this announcement was the comment that this intelligence engine could be ported to other areas of the network. Given that ThousandEyes is already connected to much of the Cisco portfolio, this technology could provide additional operational efficiencies for an organization’s end-to-end network environment.

All of these cloud-based announcements are key, as they serve to be a key enabler for greater levels of intelligence (AI/ML) and automation. Given that Cisco has such a massive installed based, the ability to anonymously collect and process all that data in the cloud will drive enormous operational efficiencies and deliver enhanced experiences for organizations. But Cisco customers need to embrace the cloud! I am looking forward to hearing about adoption rates and expect that those campus and branch environments will be more willing to shift – so many are already Meraki customers. I expect that change will be harder for those in the data center, but the transition needs to occur – these networking environments are becoming far too complicated to manage manually. Organizations need to embrace the intelligence that is enabled by cloud-based management. This doesn’t mean you have to switch everything over immediately, but you need to start using the technology to become comfortable with it. I think of this as the “time to comfort” with these advanced technologies – you need to trust that it will do what you would have done, and witness this repeatedly, before you make any advanced intelligence technology live in your environment. It will be critical to have a feedback loop between the network operators and the vendors to ensure algorithms are as efficient as possible.

Other notable announcements included a Cisco + Secure Connect that is a secure access service edge (SASE) offering that can be consumed as a service, leveraging Cisco SD-WAN and security capabilities to protect highly distributed environments. Zero trust for hybrid work was also discussed. For those who are not aware, Cisco has comprehensive security offerings, so zero trust isn’t a product SKU but rather a framework from which organizations can leverage Cisco security solutions to enable zero trust for hybrid work.

We were able to participate in a number of roundtable discussions and engage in one-on-one meetings as well. I had a great conversation with Matt MacPherson on the future of wireless, discussing WFI6/6E/7 and 5G. It was also great to meet with Lawrence Huang to discuss cloud-based network management..

Wrapping up, Cisco took a big step forward by expanding its use of cloud-based network management. It is a good first step and I look forward to tracking their progress by both adoption and capabilities. In particular, it would be great to get a holistic vision on the Cisco cloud strategy and how the Nexus cloud will integrate with the Meraki/Catalyst cloud as well as Viptela and ThousandEyes. Cisco has stated that this will be a journey and given the size of the Cisco portfolio and installed based, it is completely understandable that this journey will take some time.

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