We just wrapped up our virtual world tour of Cisco Live 2021. Teams from across Cisco presented more than 450 sessions and demonstrations on the best of Cisco’s technologies to a worldwide audience of over a hundred thousand viewers. Many people watched the online events from the comfort and safety of their home offices. Many other viewers were fortunate enough to have returned to their sanitized office and campus workplaces and participated from there with their socially-distanced coworkers.
This diverse Cisco Live audience represents the future of work—a hybrid of mobile/work-from-home and centralized in-office workforces, all collaborating virtually and In Real Life through secure connected technologies in safe, trusted workspaces. Appropriately, one of the driving themes of Cisco Live “Turn IT Up” was technologies to empower enterprises to build an inclusive future of work for a hybrid workforce in a multicloud world.
Cisco is uniquely positioned to leverage its technology solutions to deliver seamless collaboration, secure networking, and smart hybrid experiences to power an inclusive future of work. In conjunction, the solutions enable a multitude of benefits for IT operations teams—NetOps, SecOps, DevOps, and CloudOps—to manage the applications and resources distributed from data center to cloud to edge. Many of these capabilities were presented during the virtual Cisco Live sessions and labs, which can be viewed on demand here for a limited time.
In this blog post, I want to recap innovations from Cisco’s Intent-Based Networking Group (IBNG) and how we are already helping enterprises adapt to the future of work and run networks at the speed of development in a multicloud world.
1. Future Of Work through Trusted Workplace Solutions
Most organizations worldwide are faced with managing and securing a hybrid workforce. While the genius of the new vaccines for COVID provide hope for the eventual end our global pandemic, the challenges of creating a Trusted Workplace to return to work while still supporting a multitude of workers at home are numerous. To feel safe, employees must be assured that the workplace is thoughtfully managed and provides multiple options for seamlessly working from anywhere within the office, on the road, or at home. Cisco provides solutions that increase IT’s ability to scale, secure, and deliver great work experiences anywhere.
Creating a Trusted Workplace is enabled by leveraging Wi-Fi access points, video endpoints and cameras, and IoT sensors that all can feed data about people and environmental conditions into Cisco DNA Center and DNA Spaces. These services provide operations teams with the ability to remotely monitor occupancy, density, and track room and desk availability. A significant aspect of ensuring a workplace is “trusted” in the minds of the workforce is to provide proactive messaging to inform, direct, and protect the returning workforce. Cisco DNA Spaces has the ability to alert employees about over-capacity work areas, unoccupied conference rooms to use, and even the best times to visit the cafeteria or gym. This in turn gives people peace of mind that the workplace is invisibly at work protecting them. You can see more examples of creating a Trusted Workplace in this video.
As sensors and next generation Wi-Fi are deployed to enable a Trusted Workspace, there is also an opportunity to make the workspace more efficient and engaging. Employees are expecting the workplace to be, at a minimum, as smart as their home. Unfortunately, at many workplaces today, this is simply not the case—yet. The network is the primary method to intelligently connect, and in many cases power, the majority of devices and Operational Technologies, such as LED lighting, that make a building “smart”. The savings from this approach can be immense. Pine Bridge Investments, for example, cut their construction costs in half and power costs by two thirds by leveraging the intelligence and power delivery capabilities of the network.
2. Pave the Way for Innovative Applications with Unified Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
Providing a smooth transition from working at home to working in the trusted office reduces the friction that can frustrate employees dealing with the new normal and create opportunities for new applications. Ubiquitous Wi-Fi 6 and 5G for the hybrid workforce will make moving between home offices and the campus workplace easier as connections via Open Roaming seamlessly transition from home to in-transit to office. These two synergistic wireless technologies are already having a direct impact on a wide range of applications such as collaboration, immersive learning, and smart warehouses.
In the new hybrid workplace, people will rely heavily on high-definition video conferencing to collaborate from wherever they choose to work—from home office to office desk to conference rooms. 62% of enterprises are deploying more pervasive video conferencing.* People are more productive when these applications provide an experience uncluttered with annoying video glitches, background noise, and garbled sound. Wi-Fi 6 is capable of providing 3X simultaneous high-definition video conferencing than Wi-Fi 4/5, creating an optimal experience for the hybrid workforce.
Both Wi-Fi 6, for many carpeted and campus implementations, and 5G for large outdoor and mobile uses cases, provide low latency and high throughput to optimize application experience. The throughput of Wi-Fi 6 is almost 6X more than Wi-Fi 4. Advanced digital learning, for example, benefits from low latency and high throughput to create the best AR/VR experience.
Smart warehouses are enabling retailers to provide hyper-efficient order fulfillment. These super-warehouse environments incorporate hundreds to thousands of sensors and robots that require end-to-end communication latency from 10-100 ms and roaming delays less than 50 ms to operate safely and efficiently. Performance at this scale is only possible with Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. Wi-Fi 6 offers a 500% improvement in latency while supporting three-times the number of devices per AP vs Wi-Fi 4.
These types of critical use cases will only expand as both these wireless technologies extend geographic coverage to support a distributed workforce and IoT devices that require access to workloads in the hybrid data center, multiclouds, and at the edge.
3. A Unified Platform Suite to Connect, Secure, and Automate Multicloud Workloads
The goal of the Cisco unified platform strategy is to bring automation and insights from the data center to the cloud to the edge to securely connect the workforce to any application with built-in security. As enterprises expand into the cloud, NetOps and SecOps need to be able to work together to enable DevOps to operate at the speed the business needs to innovate. However, while NetOps and SecOps are facing pressure to go faster and expand to more clouds, they are increasingly being asked to do it with less resources, driving the need for pervasive automation and consistent operations. Automation of network operations will be key to making these teams successful.
SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp for Secure SD-WAN, Site to Cloud, Site to Site and Cloud Interconnect
As enterprises consume applications across multiple clouds and provision new applications, CIOs need to know if their existing IT infrastructure can automate the connectivity of the applications for global access from all sites, with enterprise security and predictable experience. The challenge is that every cloud deployment has a unique architecture, APIs, and security considerations. So, while enterprises increasingly choose multiple clouds to deploy applications, the lack of overall consistency across the multicloud environments can impact agility, reliability, and productivity.
Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp delivers Site to Cloud as a secure extension of Cisco SD-WAN’s fabric to public cloud environments with a simplified and automated process. By using Cisco SD-WAN Cloud OnRamp, enterprise IT can reduce deployment times and connect branch offices to cloud workloads in minutes, significantly increasing productivity and avoiding error-prone manual processes.
Just prior to Cisco Live, we announced another industry first: Cisco SD-WAN for Google Cloud. The solution provides both on-demand site-to-cloud networking for enterprises to consume applications from Google Cloud over SD-WAN and site-to-site transit connectivity for SD-WAN across Google Cloud Global Infrastructure. The joint solution simplifies management, automates provisioning, and optimizes performance.
Site-to-cloud is made possible through the integration between Cisco SD-WAN vManage Controller and the new Google Cloud Network Connectivity Center (NCC). The Cisco SD-WAN Controller automates the provisioning of secure SD-WAN to Google Cloud with a unified experience and ubiquitous policy extensions from the enterprise all the way into the cloud, giving full control back to enterprise IT.
This innovation goes beyond the capabilities and value proposition of the site-to-cloud use case to deliver on-demand enterprise SD-WAN transit over Google Cloud’s extensive global infrastructure. Integrating Cisco SD-WAN Cloud Hub with Google Cloud Network Connectivity Center connects a specified site to specific Google Cloud points-of-presence (POPs), offering the choice to connect sites using the Google Global Infrastructure to provide an optimum application experience. This is a superior path for enterprises seeking to build and maintain their own SD-WAN multi-cloud solution.
When setting up a private cloud infrastructure, enterprise IT can choose carrier neutral providers such as Megaport—a Cisco Software-Defined Cloud Interconnects (SDCI) partner—and use Cisco SD-WAN to provision on-demand branch connectivity to the Cloud of your choice directly from Cisco SD-WAN Controllers. Megaport Virtual Edge provides secure, reliable connectivity to a global ecosystem across 23 countries. Building a bridge with SD-WAN to Megaport provides software-defined cloud interconnect fabrics with reliable network performance, cost-optimized connectivity, and reduced provisioning time.
Observability with ThousandEyes From Switches to Clouds
From campus networks to internet-as-WAN to branches across the world, end-to-end visibility is needed to properly administer SaaS and cloud-based services that are critical to business but are outside IT’s direct control. Last year, Cisco acquired ThousandEyes, an innovative network intelligence services provider, to add another layer of observability to our Intent-Based Networking ecosystem.
By combining ThousandEyes deep and far-seeing observability with the most widely deployed Catalyst campus and branch office switches, organizations gain immediate insights into service delivery—from devices, switches, out to SaaS, multicloud, and everything in between. ThousandEyes is now integrated directly into the Catalyst 9300 and 9400 IOS-XE, so there is no need for additional software or hardware. Existing sites with Cisco DNA Advantage or Premier subscriptions can immediately take advantage of the increase in end-to-end observability into their network and beyond.
IBNG is constantly innovating to bring new capabilities like ThousandEyes to accelerate and automate networks that connect hybrid and multi-cloud applications. You can find out more by reading recent posts by the IBNG team: Improving Application Experience with Full-Stack Observability and Cisco Catalyst 9000 Brings ThousandEyes to Your Network.
Nexus Dashboard Accelerates the Move to Hybrid Cloud
Another key dimension for accelerating IT is to simplify the management of application- level policy for hybrid cloud solutions. Cisco Nexus Dashboard Orchestrator pushes the same policies to multiple data centers and public clouds across the globe in a single step. This means that IT can move applications from on-premises to cloud provider “A” to cloud provider “B” and all the policies are automatically transferred and translated without human intervention. The resulting savings in time and cost are significant when working in a multicloud world. Cisco provides IT organizations with the agility to deploy workloads in any location and any cloud, based on business benefits and not technology limitations.
Via Cisco Nexus Dashboard, DevOps can improve the application development experience for multicloud applications with integrations into HashiCorp Terraform Infrastructure as Code (IaC). Terraform manages low-level components such as compute instances, storage, and networking, as well as high-level components such as DNS entries and SaaS features, as pre-coded operations. Developers describe in code the components and resources needed to run an application in a data center or cloud. For more details on the new integrations in Cisco Nexus Dashboard, read the Data Center Networking post Accelerating to Hybrid Cloud with Cisco Nexus Dashboard.
4. Building a Bridge to Network as a Service with SASE
Software as a Service applications have quickly grown from niche offerings to being part of every business. Multicloud applications are just as quickly evolving from a way to provision new container-based services quickly to being the standard go-to choice for running all the major functions of distributed enterprises. Now the as a Service metaphor is being applied to the networks that tie the distributed functions together. With Cisco Plus you will be able to purchase a unified subscription for networking solutions with built-in simplicity, security, agility, and automation that can be consumed as-a-service to match your organization’s changing needs.
Cisco Plus will provide a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture as a Service, designed to meet the unique networking and security requirements of diverse enterprises. Cisco is creating a SASE architecture that is simple to build, buy, and monitor. Our current offerings build upon the success of the Cisco SD-WAN DNA Premier license that provides organizations with a simplified purchasing option for Umbrella SIG and Cisco SD-WAN powered by Viptela. Our newest Cisco SASE offering is more comprehensive and flexible, consisting of the complete portfolio. It’s targeted at enterprises requiring a SASE use case to go beyond multicloud secure connectivity and include Observability and Zero Touch Network Access for their globally distributed workforce. This offer provides savings when enterprise IT chooses two or more Cisco SASE capabilities:
- Cloud Security Cisco Umbrella
- Cisco Meraki SD-WAN or Cisco Viptela SD-WAN
- Zero Trust Network Access with Cisco Secure Access powered by Duo
- Deep network performance visibility with ThousandEyes
An Inclusive Future of Work
Inclusive (adjective): including or covering all the services, facilities, or items expected or required; allowing and accommodating people who have historically been left out; all-embracing, complete, comprehensive, global, thorough, universal.
The vision of an inclusive future of work embraces a hybrid, distributed, and diverse workforce. Networking becomes the great unifier, ensuring that employees, customers, and partners can communicate and collaborate using applications and tools that reduce the friction of time, distance, and social barriers. Networking solutions have to scale to meet the needs of all the people working in the traditional campus environment as well at branches, in the field, and in home offices.
As CEO and Chairman Chuck Robbins stated in his Cisco Live keynote: “We are at a unique point in time where we have proven that technology can help us achieve virtually anything, and each of us — all of us — have a role to play as we shape the future of the world.”
As we aptly demonstrated at Cisco Live 2021, we are uniquely positioned to leverage our technology portfolio to deliver seamless collaboration, secure networking, and smart hybrid workplace experiences to enterprises worldwide. We are empowering IT professionals to “Turn IT Up” to build an inclusive future of work.
*Source: 2021 Cisco Networking Report
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