As nearly 20,000 attendees gathered in Las Vegas for Cisco Live 2023 last week, security was a key theme with multiple product announcements. While Cisco is best known for networking hardware and software, it is making a play to become a leading security vendor, describing Cisco Live 2023 as "the premier networking and security event."
This makes sense, as leaders pointed out that every connection needs to be secure. Cisco kicked off its keynotes with Jeff Sharritts, executive vice president and chief customer and partner officer at Cisco, who said security is the top customer topic. Cisco Chair and CEO Chuck Robbins followed; he said, "We securely connect everything to make anything possible."
This is bold messaging, but it makes sense to stress it at Cisco's user conference to appeal to customers looking to use technology -- including AI, cloud services, modern development and hybrid work -- for optimal productivity and efficiency.
To that end, TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group's 2023 Technology Spending Intentions Survey showed the highest increases in spending this year in cybersecurity, followed by AI and public cloud applications, with "strengthening cybersecurity" as the leading business initiative.
The keynotes also featured Liz Centoni, Cisco's chief strategy officer and general manager of applications, who highlighted Cisco's vision to "hyperconnect the world" by securely connecting anyone and anything with exceptional business results and experiences. She tied this to the company's security goal to "make the world safer" by frustrating attackers not users, protecting an organization's hybrid, multi-cloud infrastructure, and delivering real-time detection and response to threats.
These are bold but necessary efforts because security issues become operational issues if security risk is not effectively managed to support digital transformation efforts.
Let's look at some key Cisco security announcements from the event.
Cisco Secure Access for SSE
Cisco announced its new security service edge product to help organizations simplify secure access from any location, using any device and any application. In the cloud world, identity is the perimeter. As people want to securely connect to take care of personal tasks and to work, organizations need to manage secure access in a way that keeps up with rapid changes.
Cisco Secure Access provides a single way for users to access all applications and resources while securely steering traffic to private and public destinations without end-user intervention. For teams managing access, it provides a centralized way to see network traffic, set policy and analyze risk. It also helps speed detection and response for security incidents using Cisco Talos' AI-driven threat intelligence.
Cisco also announced collaboration with Apple to incorporate zero-trust access capabilities into a native experience for users on iOS and macOS. Later this year, iPhone, iPad and Mac will have native support for network relays to provide users seamless remote access.
Using generative AI
After security, AI was the second biggest topic at Cisco Live. Cisco executives emphasized responsible AI use and described efforts to apply generative AI to help scale cybersecurity teams so they can work more efficiently, eliminating laborious manual tasks.
Cisco announced a generative AI-powered Policy Assistant for Cisco Secure Cloud to help security and IT administrators set and maintain security policies. The first implementation helps customers with firewall policies. Later in the year, it will include using rule sets in Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center to increase efficiency in setting policies with granular policy control.
Cisco also announced using generative AI for faster threat detection and response, with new event summarization features coming at the end of this year and early next year. When an incident occurs, Cisco's Security Operations Center Assistant will put events in context across email, the web, endpoints and the network to help SOC analysts identify issues, understand their affect and determine remediation steps.
Cloud-native application security with Cisco Panoptica
I've been blogging about what security teams need to scale to support cloud-native application development. Namely, organizations need efficient ways to protect cloud applications, which requires close collaboration across IT, ops, developers, DevOps and security teams.
As its name implies, Cisco Panoptica addresses the visibility challenges of managing cloud-native applications and everything it takes to run them in complex cloud environments. It is integrated with Cisco's Full Stack Observability Platform and provides real-time visibility through new features and capabilities such as AppDynamics and ThousandEyes. It is also a part of Outshift, Cisco's incubation engine for emerging technologies, including the cloud-native stack, edge computing, AI and quantum computing.
Panoptica is expanding its capabilities beyond cloud workload monitoring and protection to provide cloud security posture management (CSPM) features starting this fall. This will help customers monitor their cloud assets, including Kubernetes clusters, in real time to better manage security and compliance.
Cisco also announced Panoptica's capabilities as a cloud-native application protection platform with features to help developers better secure their code throughout the software development lifecycle and to help security teams better collaborate with developers to optimize remediation efforts to mitigate risk. In addition to CSPM, Panoptica includes the following features:
- Code and build security, including setting governance policies and using infrastructure as code.
- Cloud workload protection for continuous security for VMs, serverless, containers and more.
- Application and API security to enable customers to monitor and secure their internal and external APIs and API tokens.
These updates are promising as Cisco establishes itself as a key security vendor, using its advantages of wide adoption for networking and connectivity.