The Cisco Live 2023 conference, hosted in Las Vegas and attended by nearly 20,000 people, along with almost one million participants connecting virtually, showcased the profound changes occurring in the Information Technology (IT) industry.
The introduction of Generative AI promises to revolutionise the way we interact with data, opening new directions for business models and applications. Additionally, IoT devices are becoming increasingly prevalent across various industries, and the shift to a hybrid working model post-Covid is still a puzzle for many companies and service providers.
Consultant Alliance member StableLogic, attend vendor events like Cisco Live 2023 to gain deeper insights into the industry’s direction. Ensuring we keep up with the latest updates and future technologies plays a key role in delivering our solutions and advice to our clients. I sat down with Lead Consultants, Marios Michael and Dan Ranaan to discover where they think the future of Network is headed. Here are their key takeaways:
1. Unified Operational Experiences
One of the major challenges facing network teams is dealing with multiple portals and management planes when operating a network, which can be particularly frustrating when using services from a single vendor.
Cisco is heavily investing in improving this experience by consolidating the operations of multiple solutions like Cisco SD-WAN, Cisco Catalyst and Cisco Umbrella.
This consolidation trend is evident throughout the industry, with vendors such as HPE, Juniper, and Extreme all offering SaaS-based management solutions for their products with varying degrees of integrated management.
2. Generative AI for Operational & Troubleshooting Activities
Generative AI is set to transform how we work, search, and interact with technology. At Cisco 2023, Generative AI was showcased in the operation of firewalls, enabling administrators to use natural language to define firewall policies, identify overlapping policies, and troubleshoot firewall issues.
Other vendors are also incorporating Generative AI into their platforms. For example, VMware SD-WAN introduced a troubleshooting chat tool embedded in their orchestrator, and Junipers Mist product line have bundled an AI platform called Marvis into their product.
3. Network Observability is Key
Today’s IT infrastructure has become highly complex, with data and applications hosted in multiple locations, spanning large geographic distances and utilising the infrastructure of numerous partners.
Network Observability and Digital Experience Monitoring are vital for organisations to visualise the performance of their infrastructure, whether the application is hosted in their data centre or through a SaaS platform.
This solution reduces incident response times and identifies opportunities for workarounds. Cisco is leveraging their ThousandEyes product to deliver this capability and promises further integration into Cisco SD-WAN for enhanced self-healing capabilities. It’s becoming increasingly common for vendors to integrate Digital Experience Monitoring into Secure Service Edge (SSE) and Secure Access Secure Edge (SASE) products.
4. Integrating Security into Network Technologies
Network Security is becoming deeply embedded in enterprise products, with SASE gaining significant market traction and becoming a core tenet of WAN design.
Many vendors, including Cisco, are working to consolidate their networking and security products to offer a cohesive, secure end-to-end service. Cisco’s Secure Connect brings together Cisco SD-WAN for Connectivity, Umbrella for Cloud Security, and DUO for authentication.
While these products collectively offer an end-to-end solution, Cisco is also starting the journey of consolidating them into a single platform. Several SD-WAN and Security vendors are focused on developing their own SASE platforms. Newcomers like CATO Networks building products from the ground up, while others like Palo Alto, Aruba, and VMware are releasing their SASE offerings by integrating acquisitions or leveraging other products in their portfolio.
5. Sustainability & Net-Zero
Sustainability is increasingly influencing technology decisions for vendors, with 96% of G250 companies reporting on their ESG or Sustainability efforts. Cisco showcased its commitment to achieving Net-Zero targets at this event and provided tools to measure the emissions of its technologies. Cisco’s approach to sustainability encompasses two dimensions: Sustainability in IT and Sustainability by IT. They leverage renewable energy, extend the lifespan of existing assets, and modernise equipment with high power consumption. Cisco also emphasises capturing more data about an organisation’s environmental factors, such as smart buildings and smart manufacturing, to reduce idle time and unnecessary power consumption.
Across the technology market, vendors are heavily investing in sustainability, both for their own operations and to enable their customers to visualise and report on sustainability within IT.
In conclusion, Cisco Live 2023 shed light on significant trends in the IT industry. Unified operational experiences, Generative AI, network observability, security integration, and sustainability are all shaping the future of networking and technology. As these trends continue to evolve, organisations need to stay informed and adapt to harness their full potential.