This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Cisco Live 2024 conference coverage and analysis

First thoughts from Cisco Live: Generative AI, Splunk and more

During its annual conference, Cisco shined up ThousandEyes, added Splunk integrations and shared details regarding its generative AI strategy.

Cisco Live kicked off in earnest on Tuesday with a slew of product and business announcements, and more followed on Wednesday. There was plenty of AI talk, of course, but it wasn't AI washing -- more on that in a minute.

There was a shiny new set of marketing clothes for ThousandEyes, and a lot more talk around the role that Splunk will play going forward. What was more difficult to find, somewhat surprisingly, was much of anything new on the traditional networking front.

Cisco's strategy for AI

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins kicked off Day 1 by laying out the key messages and news from the event. To his credit, he waited until slide four to mention AI, despite what I'm sure were substantial temptations.

This really set the tone for how Cisco is approaching the wave of AI mania. Robbins and his colleagues rightly pointed out that Cisco has been delivering AI and machine learning technologies as part of its product portfolio for many years. What's truly new now is the rise of generative AI (GenAI) specifically and the shockwaves that it's sending across the tech industry and the economy in general.

Cisco's AI strategy addresses GenAI, but not solely or exclusively, and consists of five pillars:

  1. AI and networking. Cisco HyperFabric, a collaboration with Nvidia and Vast, delivers prebuilt GPU clusters for accelerating GenAI deployments, and new AI-native Digital Experience Assurance -- more on this below.
  2. AI and security. The first steps toward AI for security, as well as security for AI, include Hypershield and new support for AMD Pensando digital processing units and Intel infrastructure processing units.
  3. AI and observability. Splunk is the new core observability platform, with integrations between Splunk and AppDynamics, and a new AI assistant for AppDynamics.
  4. AI and collaboration. A slew of AI assistants for Control Hub, Call Center, Webex and more.
  5. AI skills. Services to help customers design and deploy infrastructure for AI.

Cisco also announced a new $1 billion investment fund for promoting new AI technologies.

Digital Experience Assurance

Cisco launched a new storyline around ThousandEyes called Digital Experience Assurance, but this is more than just a marketecture. It brings significant new product capabilities, including deeper embedding of ThousandEyes agents across Meraki and Catalyst products, and direct integration of ThousandEyes digital experience data into the Meraki SD-WAN manager.

There is also a local flow data collection capability now embedded within the ThousandEyes agents -- called Traffic Insights -- enabling direct correlation of traffic activity with user experience, to recognize congestion issue sources that might be happening at a local level. ThousandEyes experience measurement features are also now embedded within Cisco's Secure Access client, making it possible for anyone using these clients to measure user experience while also delivering device security.

Splunk and Cisco, Act 1

It's only been a short time since Cisco closed the acquisition of Splunk, but there is progress being made on integration, and Cisco pushed Splunk hard as essential to its strategic direction. Numerous times throughout the day, the message was delivered and reinforced that "it's all about the data, and Splunk is our answer for how to gather and analyze data."

The initial storylines here are heavily focused on security, although there is also significant progress already happening on tying Splunk into AppDynamics and Cisco's full-stack observability story. While the number of integration features is impressive, there is still work to be done to fully integrate Cisco networking telemetry, as well as multivendor telemetry. I'm looking forward to more roadmap insights here.  

On a personal note, being a rabid Formula One (F1) fan, one of my favorite parts of the main stage program was the panel interview with Zak Brown and Oscar Piastri from the McLaren F1 racing team, which relies on Cisco's infrastructure.

McLaren Racing, and other F1 teams, are fascinating IoT cases: Massive amounts of real-time data are collected and analyzed live during every race to continuously optimize performance of both driver and machine. In races where tenths of a second per lap separate the best from last, the tech is essential.

Jim Frey covers networking as principal analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group.

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget. Its analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.

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