Last week, I was boarding a flight home from the always great Cisco Live Barcelona. I travel a fair amount, so the plane routine is, well, routine.

#CLEUR had been a long but productive week of phenomenal conversations with our customers, partners, and fellow Cisco-ites. Reflecting on the week, and the challenges our customers face, I realized that the aviation industry and our service provider industry are both critical infrastructure and we likely could learn a lot from each other.

It turns out that Network Operators and Pilots have a fair amount in common.  Apparently, most of the pilot’s work is not spent actually flying the aircraft. Instead, it is about making highly skilled decisions and adjustments. They must manage everything that goes into a successful flight: safety, weather, navigation, finding “good air” for stability, fuel consumption, and communication.

Autopilot enables pilots to focus on what truly matters, flying the plane safely and optimally. High-definition telemetry informs the pilot of events that may need attention. The low-level mechanics of flying are offloaded so the pilot can focus on critical decisions. Pilots also have a tremendous amount of data and training they can leverage in case of challenges. In fact, there is a great book called “The Checklist Manifesto” which details how incidents are responded to in real time.

Essentially, network operators are the pilots of networks. They are highly skilled, manage critical cargo, and are always seeking smoother operations. Cisco innovates so that network operators can focus on what really matters, delivering experiences from point A to point B. Modernizing network operations with advanced automation is a business imperative. Network operators also have checklists – Methods and Procedures (MOPS). Many of our SP Network Operators are in the process of automating those MOPS so they can spend more of their time on more critical decisions. That is a big reason Cisco heavily invests in software and automation as a strategic imperative.

With all of the acquisitions that Cisco does, it can be difficult to tie a thread to all of them to understand what the outcome could or might be. In the last twelve months, we have made three strategic software additions to our SP organization. These acquisitions emphasize our commitment towards more software, automation, and cloud powered applications.

  • Cisco continues to evolve the capabilities of its networking software and the IOS XR platform. With the acquisition of Ensoft, we add high-performing team members who help accelerate high-definition telemetry and open programmability.
  • Singularity Networks adds the ability to harvest that telemetry and bring it into cloud analytics. Network operators will have broader visibility into the network to manage their operations at scale.
  • Skyport Systems has key intellectual property on how to securely pull data from any network element and ensure that this data can be trusted. Data is pulled from the network, analyzed, and then used to drive value and new service innovation.

These acquisitions bring intellectual property, seasoned software, and great team members that will accelerate our Crosswork Network Automation solution portfolio. By effectively extracting and managing huge amounts of data, operators can rapidly address and even proactively avoid disrupting events and impending security threats. Furthermore, those same valuable insights can be used to expand the value of the organization into driving new service innovation.

A great example of this collaboration at work is our shipping product, Crosswork Network Insights which enables you to understand if your critical route infrastructure is being hijacked anywhere in the world.

I strongly believe that we are reinventing networking here at Cisco. We are bringing in exceptionally talented teams that are driven to innovate a smarter, simpler, and better network. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on planes, automation, and how we can help you with your critical infrastructure.


Jonathan Davidson

EVP and General Manager

Cisco Networking