In collaboration with Vishal Gupta
Like so many other competitive companies, Cisco is focused on increasing agility, delivering faster, and bringing even more innovation to our customers. And that includes 100% Cisco product and service adoption.
Until recently, Cisco IT infrastructure teams couldn’t see their assets, new XaaS offers, and status all in one single location. We had one tool to track subscriptions, another to keep tabs on service contracts, and yet another to view asset lifecycle information. As a result, Cisco IT faced challenges in locating the right information necessary for deployment, obtaining access to the right resources, gaining visibility into the IT assets – as well as more automated capabilities to reduce risks, increase uptime, and optimize overall performance. This manual approach was almost entirely reactive vs. proactive, requiring too much time correlating information scattered across the different interfaces.
Other challenges included repetitive, fragmented, and error-prone processes for conducting software patches and upgrades, and for dealing with configuration compliance and risk management.
Clearly, Cisco needed a solution that would provide a consolidated, 360-degree view of all Cisco assets, with the ability to provide actionable insights about bugs, field notices, Product Security Incident Response Team alerts (PSIRTs), updates about the stability of configurations, likelihood of crashes, EoX (end of life), and recommended configurations. Most important, the solution needed to deliver the right information at the right time to help Cisco IT achieve desired outcomes faster.
CX Cloud removes complexity, fills skill gaps, and accelerates technology adoption
Over the past year, Cisco IT has deployed CX Cloud across much of company. CX Cloud provides a one-stop destination that combines Cisco expertise and best practices with telemetry, AI-/ML-driven insights, use cases, and contextual learning. The result is a single source of truth, with 360-degree insights that enable new Cisco business models and drive adoption. CX Cloud accomplishes this by:
- Providing full visibility into all our network assets and contracts: With all asset information and security advisories in one place, engineers no longer need to build reports manually or reconcile across sources. As a result, they can boost their efficiency and improve their operational scale, allowing them to spend more time on innovation.
- Automating risk detection and mitigation: CX Cloud leverages machine learning to analyze our network and generate a prioritized listing of security advisories (alerts), field notices, and priority bugs. We can access use-case-guided expertise and lifecycle resources to help us deploy, manage, and optimize our technology while reducing risks.
- Delivering actionable data and insights: We can see all open support cases in a handy list view, which is like always having a high-touch operations manager at our fingertips, accelerating collaboration and issue resolution.
- Enabling ready access to targeted learning resources and expertise: CX Cloud delivers deep intelligence and insights into our network and security posture, allowing us to reduce our operational risk. We can view targeted insights and suggestions that help us optimize our business and solve problems before they happen.
To date, Cisco has more than 100,000 assets in CX Cloud, with 115 active monthly users. Now that Cisco has begun to reach critical mass with CX Cloud, people are asking: What quantifiable value is CX Cloud delivering for Cisco?
Creating a framework to measure CX Cloud’s true value to Cisco
Since July 2021, Cisco’s Customer Zero organization has partnered with other Cisco IT teams and the CX Cloud team to produce a detailed process analysis and complete value model for CX Cloud.
This is familiar territory for the Customer Zero team, which engages early in the product development cycle to achieve the following:
- Integrate solutions across Cisco engineering business entities and business units
- Accelerate adoption and customer value
- Share best practices, lessons learned, and proof of value
- Serve as a customer reference
The Customer Zero team examined 12 different use cases, exploring both the CX Cloud value opportunity for Cisco, as well as the value the company is already capturing. Ultimately, Customer Zero identified seven use cases where the captured value or the projected value opportunity were the highest.
Biggest value opportunities: Automating upgrades and saving hardware costs
Customer Zero’s analysis uncovered two large CX Cloud-based opportunities for Cisco: 1) automating and optimizing operating system upgrades for network devices, and 2) saving costs on hardware that is not deployed or not used in production. Both have tremendous upside for Cisco because only a fraction of these value opportunities is currently being captured.
Here is a breakdown of the “value at stake” for the top five use cases:
- More efficient case management: CX Cloud automates case opening and processing (RMA); reduces duplication and false positives; promotes more efficient ticket management; delivers faster case resolution by enabling a detailed view of the case history, along with all associated notes and files; and will provide a roadmap to consolidate 30+ case management processes and systems, eliminating time-consuming searches across disparate, unconnected tools. Bottom line: 2 to 5 minutes saved per case.
“Through consolidated case management, Cisco IT can have a central location for case tracking, helping to eliminate duplicate case filings,” explained a Cisco director of network services. “As a result, we are anticipating productivity gains and faster case resolution. With the single case management location in CX Cloud, we expect significant savings in the time required to file, search for, and de-duplicate cases.”
- Software version optimization: CX Cloud saves time on software upgrade management by keeping software versions current in conjunction with Cisco DNA Center; automates fault management by reducing software defects; and lowers risk of network outages. Bottom line: Using the partial automation that Cisco implemented with Cisco DNA Center Software Image Management (SWIM) as a proxy for the potential impact of automating software upgrades, this capability has the potential to generate a 59% increase in time savings, with 92% efforts avoidance on software upgrades (with Cisco DNA Center).
- Advisories and inquiry efficiency: CX provides a prioritized listing of security advisories, field notices, and priority bugs, with individual advisory capabilities for reviewing details about the issue, remediation steps, and impacted devices. It reduces the time and effort needed to analyze issues, assess the number of impacted assets, and determine the best mitigation options. CX Cloud also consolidates redundant, disparate tools, removing the need to navigate across multiple sources. Bottom line: Based on user interviews, CX Cloud has the potential to reduce the time and effort required to gather information from days to minutes, by reporting all the assets affected by diagnosed issues.
- Asset lifecycle management: CX Cloud provides an opportunity to optimize inventory on hand for the 20+ % of assets not used in production. These can include inventory, spares, and equipment using an outdated software version. It can also include equipment going through the purchasing or technology refresh process. Providing better visibility can help optimize their utilization. Bottom line: 5% savings (estimated) for solutions not deployed, representing potential capital spending avoidance of $15.6 million annually for Cisco.
- Risk visibility: CX Cloud lowers the risk of data breaches with improved visibility, deep intelligence, and insights into our network and security posture. By leveraging the improvements Cisco DNA Center SWIM is bringing to operating system (O/S) software upgrades, CX Cloud can considerably reduce variability in the number of simultaneous software images. CX Cloud’s software updates, product alerts, and service alerts prompt network engineers to install the latest updates, protecting the network from the latest vulnerabilities. Bottom line: Over a period of a few months, Cisco IT reduced the number of software images from 12 to 1 for Catalyst 9000 switches (with Cisco DNA Center).
“Centralized risk management [through CX Cloud] would mean more visibility across the network and allows us to scale, group devices, and deploy 2-3 fixes together,” explained one Cisco technical system architect. A Cisco site reliability engineer added: “I am very excited about the possibilities of consistent APIs. Not having consistency costs us a lot of time.”
Based on Customer Zero’s analysis, CX Cloud also delivers value in two other key areas:
- Contract and service coverage: CX Cloud saves time by automating management of inventory, contracts, and device lifecycles. CX Cloud improved campus hardware service coverage from 28% to 89%, while accelerating identification of coverage gaps and open cases.
- Training: CX Cloud’s custom training capabilities accelerate time to proficiency for new engineers.
While Customer Zero’s analysis shows that CX Cloud is already delivering considerable value for Cisco, the next goal is to integrate it fully into Cisco IT’s workflow. This includes automation of O/S software upgrades beyond Cisco DNA Center; enabling integrated workflow management for advisories and insights (crash risk, PSIRTs, and more); using IT Service Management, functionality, device agency; and expanding CX Cloud’s asset lifestyle management capabilities.