Machine learning (ML) has been one of the hottest buzzwords in technology over the past few years. It seems every segment of the high-tech industry has been impacted by ML. This technology has changed the way we service customers, allowed us to interact with in-room meeting devices, made our businesses more secure and enabled data scientists to better predict business outcomes. Heck, we even have ML-based agents in our homes that can help us play songs, turn on lights and order paper towels. However, one market that has yet to benefit from ML is the services industry. There have been changes in the way customers pay for services; the range of services is certainly broader, but they are fundamentally the same as they were a decade ago—at least until now.

Last week, Cisco announced several updates to its Business Critical Services (BCS) that can transform a customer’s IT platform—including engineering, technical strategy and operations. It does this by delivering capabilities in the areas of design, recommendations, architecture, analytics, automation and security. The best part is the services can be consumed on an à la carte basis, so each engagement by Cisco is personalized for customers based on their individual priorities and needs.

Cisco ingests massive amounts of data from each customer and uses machine learning to provide better analytics, which can lead to automation. There’s a wide range of new services that I won’t go through, but they can be seen here. The goal of these new services is to enable IT to transform by achieving the following:

  • Improved operational efficiency and high availability through automation
  • Increased business agility through improved IT agility
  • Identification of risk elements in the infrastructure
  • Acceleration of digital transformation initiatives
  • Improved level of threat protection

These ML-infused services come at a critical time for most companies. Complexity is overwhelming IT organizations, and the majority of resources are used to simply maintain the current operating environment. ZK Research found that 78% of budgets are now dedicated to keeping the lights on, leaving only 22% for strategic initiatives. IT departments are under tremendous pressure to help the business transform, but they must find a way to dedicate more resources to innovation. It’s unlikely that businesses will add more people and increase IT budgets. Therefore, the only way for IT departments to evolve themselves and ultimately help their companies transform is by finding a way to divert more resources (i.e., people and budget) to innovation—and that’s what the new BCS offerings are designed to accomplish.

It’s important to note that the BCS capabilities aren’t just focused on the here and now; their benefits will be seen immediately but also into the foreseeable future. The insights gained can help customers move to a proactive IT model in which problems can be predicted and fixed before they impact users. Corrective action might be as simple as fine-tuning automation or other configuration parameters, or it could be as big as predicting a crash using the new fingerprinting service. Cisco can do this by aggregating the data generated by millions of endpoints and thousands of customers. This massive set of data that Cisco has enables it to provide the insights it does from its ML-based services. Machine learning is an absolute must here, as the volume of data is far too large to analyze with manual methods. Customers that are proficient with machine learning would not have the same volume of data to fuel the analytic algorithms, so a services-led approach is the only path to success.

One final benefit worth calling out is that while the new services are primarily focused on network operations, they can have a transformative effect on security operations as well. The ML-based engine feeds an online portal to provide automation actions to secure businesses better. The Security BCI services are continually monitoring the network and conducting near–real-time analytics. The dashboard will show a real-time view of the threat landscape and deliver recommendations on how to improve.

The digital era has arrived, and it’s been well documented that companies must transform or die. However, this transformation can’t happen without IT transformation—but companies don’t have the skill sets to make this change themselves. It’s time for the services industry to adopt machine learning to enable this shift quickly while ensuring it’s risk free. Cisco has taken a leadership position in this area, as the new ML-based BCS capabilities offer customers a subscription-based service that can be personalized to their unique needs, allowing them to rapidly evolve and meet the new demands of an increasingly digital world.

To learn more about the importance of machine learning to services, check out my latest whitepaper on Cisco Business Critical Services.



Zeus Kerravala

Founder and Principal Analyst

ZK Research