Towards the end of this busy and innovative year, Cisco leadership decided to combine several businesses under one leader, SVP/GM Scott Harrell, to create the Intent-Based Networking Group. So, what is the meaning in a change of names? The new organization consists of engineering and product marketing teams from Enterprise Networking and Data Center, with a renewed focus on creating deep multi-domain integrations across wireless, wired, data center, cloud, and SD-WAN/edge computing.
The name change represents how we are focusing on solving customer challenges with complete intent-based networking solutions. As enterprises enhance the ways their workforce connects and collaborates, Cisco is there. As organizations move applications and data resources to multiple cloud platforms to improve flexibility and responsiveness of business processes, Cisco is there. When branch offices need to connect to SaaS applications over the internet, Cisco is there to secure the data, devices, and provide high quality of experience to the distributed workforce.
In this review of 2019 achievements, both technical and cultural, we will take a closer look at how our engineering teams’ accomplishments have benefited enterprises large and small, in every region in the world. Throughout this post, I’ll highlight products and solutions with links to past blog posts and external articles for deeper dives.
Solving Customer Digital Transformation Challenges
Everything we design, code, and manufacture is created to support our customers’ digital transformation journey with multi-domain connectivity, built-in security, and high-availability.
Expanding Wireless Connectivity with Wi-Fi 6
Top of mind for many organizations in 2019 was the arrival of Wi-Fi 6. Wireless connectivity is the preferred method of connecting devices to enterprise networks, applications in the cloud, and internet data sources. The next generation of faster, lower latency, and higher density wireless communications is already replacing the existing wireless LAN infrastructure and it is expected to be a high-priority, multi-year project for organizations of all sizes. To support this major transition, Cisco engineering created the Catalyst Access Points and Wireless LAN Controllers to exceed the Wi-Fi 6 standard, incorporating innovative features such as Flexible Radio Assignment, real-time analytics, integrated security, and intelligent capture. In addition, we introduced new Catalyst 9000 switches to unite the new faster and higher bandwidth wireless networks with the wired campus.
Many new enterprise endeavors are already relying on Cisco Wi-Fi 6 wireless technology to bring fast connections in high-density sites and in complex facilities, such as manufacturing, where older Wi-Fi bersions struggled to work at all. There will be even more innovations ahead as we work to connect the proliferation of IoT devices with Wi-Fi 6 with its power-saving capabilities to conserve IoT device battery life and the new Catalyst IE3k Rugged Series Switches.
As telecommunications service providers expand their 5G footprints, Cisco is providing methods for integrating the two wireless networks to deliver seamless connectivity and take full advantage of network slicing to provide specialized services to enterprise applications governed by common security policies. Wi-Fi 6 was a big leap in 2019 and will be even more important as enterprise workforces continue to be more distributed and mobile, while the business applications people need to access are hosted in multiple cloud platforms.
Uniting Campus and Branch with Cloud Resources using SD-WAN
2019 was also the year that Cisco SD-WAN powered by Viptela became the go-to solution for uniting a distributed workforce in branch offices, retail stores, and partners’ systems with cloud and SaaS applications. We built-in full stack security to ensure that using direct internet connections at branch locations to connect to cloud applications doesn’t expose data and devices to external and internal security threats. With centralized cloud management, Cisco SD-WAN connects remote offices with zero-touch edge routers, traffic segmentation, and threat detection using built-in Application-Aware Enterprise Firewall, intrusion detection system, and URL-filtering with Cisco Umbrella. As a result of these enhancements, Cisco SD-WAN was given a coveted CRN Product of the Year award.
Our next goal for SD-WAN last year was to ensure a high quality of experience (QoE) for cloud and SaaS applications being accessed by a distributed workforce. Working with cloud application providers, such as Microsoft and their Office 365 applications, we built Cloud OnRamps that automatically connect workers at branch offices with the nearest, or most efficient, point of presence for the desired application via the SD-WAN. Cisco Cloud OnRamps monitor and adjust traffic to ensure the best level of performance for the primary cloud application providers.
Taking the OnRamp concept one step further, we developed Cloud OnRamps for CoLocation for regional point of presence and IaaS centers. This advancement creates transport-independent connections to regional hubs to service multiple branches and business sites to provide high QoE for applications. The regional aspect of the colocation also addresses the need for some enterprises to keep certain types of personal data local, versus storing it in global clouds, while providing an SD-WAN fabric that is easy to manage from a central console.
Augmenting NetOps Skills with AI and Machine Reasoning
Just because networks grow in complexity doesn’t mean they have to be complicated to manage. But trying to make sense of the billions of data points generated by campus-sized networks of switches, routers, and access points can quickly overwhelm an IT team. Using machine learning, machine reasoning, and artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze the vast data lakes of telemetry to determine norms and anomalies, we developed Cisco AI Network Analytics to help IT navigate the torrents of network telemetry to zero-in on time-critical problems. Applying machine reasoning to the analysis of network anomalies leverages thousands of man-hours of Cisco troubleshooting knowledge to suggest the correct remedies for many challenging issues.
Empowering IT with an Architecture for Access Control
To simplify the complexity of campus to branch to cloud connectivity, we augmented Cisco SD-Access with additional intelligence to translate business intents into segmentation and security polices—a foundational aspect of intent-based networking. SD-Access shifts the workload from IT staff performing routine tasks of onboarding individual devices and managing network configurations, to building intelligence into the network. The network learns to manage itself by, for example, automatically onboarding specific device types with pre-determined security and access policies that follow people and devices across the wired and wireless fabrics, from ground to cloud.
We also improved the Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) to work with multiple Cisco DNA Centers. This enables regional Cisco DNA Centers to leverage a master instance of Cisco ISE so that SD-Access can apply access and segmentation policies across each region. With this capability, SD-Access ensures that security and access policies defined by corporate IT are implemented consistently across global networks, while enabling regional control over specific aspects of workforce and device rules.
Focusing on Innovations in Connectivity Solutions
At several 2019 events, Cisco had the opportunity to demonstrate OpenRoaming, an open method of enabling mobile devices to automatically and securely connect to Wi-Fi networks without entering IDs and passwords. We created the OpenRoaming Federation ecosystem with partners such as Apple, Intel, and Samsung. As the Federation grows with additional device and access providers, the general public will be able to seamlessly connect to authorized Wi-Fi networks in stores, public spaces, and offices without manually signing in to captive portals with IDs and passwords. OpenRoaming unites wireless connectivity from LTE, 5G, and Wi-Fi to provide continuous internet connectivity to the applications people depend on for collaboration, finance, shopping, and community. Last year, OpenRoaming was demonstrated in real-world environments such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Cisco Live in San Diego, Cisco Impact in Las Vegas, and a public trial at the Canary Wharf Group business center in London.
Building on the premise of always-on connectivity for mobile devices with OpenRoaming, we released the Cisco DNA Spaces Cloud Location Platform to empower property managers to interact with guests’ devices to offer location-specific services, wayfinding, and customized experiences. For sites that already use Cisco access points, capabilities such as Operational Insights, Locate, and Detect are available through Cisco DNA Center and the DNA Spaces SDK for building custom location apps, with no need for additional hardware or software overlays. Physical spaces become digital spaces that improve customer service by measuring and understanding the habits and preferences of guests using wireless devices.
Worldwide Events Bring Cisco Customers and Engineers Together
Like most technology companies, Cisco often announces new solutions sets in conjunction with customer and partner events that provide an opportunity to receive immediate feedback from customers, industry analysts, and the technology press. This year we used events to unveil and demonstrate:
- OpenRoaming and DNA Spaces Cloud Platform at Cisco Live Barcelona
- Wi-Fi 6 Catalyst Access Points and Wireless Controllers at Cisco Live Melbourne
- Cisco AI Network Analytics at Cisco Live San Diego
- SD-WAN integration with MS Azure vWAN and Office 365 at Partner Summit
- SD-WAN integration with AWS Transit Gateway at AWS re:Invent
Being Inclusive and Innovative Makes Cisco the #1 Place to Work
Cisco stands committed to empowering business, society, and people to help develop a more Inclusive Future for all stakeholders. Our investments in Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) goes hand in hand with our People, Culture, and Social Impact initiatives to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.
Our innovation mindset in Enterprise Network engineering produces an average of 300 patents a year. To turbocharge our internal thinking, we host or participate in multiple events throughout the year. For example, our annual EN Hackathon combines team building with technical prowess and a healthy portion of fun, to generate original prototypes that could one day become products that solve customer challenges. The Pioneer Awards represent a similar take on innovation, but with a focus on solutions brought to market that are making a significant impact—the Cisco AP4800 with Location-based Intelligent Capture was this year’s best product, and the best productivity solution went to WARP (Workflow Architecture Renewal Program), which is key to keeping the IOS XE network operating system up-to-date. Engineers also attend external events—such as the Grace Hopper Celebration and Women of Impact—to broaden their thinking and make new professional connections.
One result of these internal and external celebrations of innovation is that Cisco was named #1 World’s Best Workplaces by Great Place to Work in 2019, capping off a year of employee engagement and Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a wide variety of social endeavors around the world.
Enterprise Network Engineering is a significant driver of Cisco solutions. We take great pride in our innovations and progress in producing quality solutions for our worldwide customers. Now that we are an integral part of the larger Intent-Based Networking Group, I personally look forward to the amazing journey ahead in 2020. Once you see what’s coming, you will be too.