Category Archives: Cisco

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Cisco Live 2017: Kinetic Launch, ACI Updates, & More!

Cisco Live 2017

GreenPages Solutions Architect, Kevin Dresser, recently attended Cisco Live 2017 in Las Vegas. Here are his hightlights and thoughts from the conference:

I arrived a day early to Cisco Live to attend a technical seminar on Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) which is their software-defined-networking solution for the Nexus Data Center platform.  ACI has been out for over two years, however, this year’s conference had a great deal of emphasis on the fundamentals of ACI and taking these beyond just the data center.  The theme this year was “The Network.  Intuitive.” and just a week prior to CiscoLive was a major announcement of intent-based networking solutions under the Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) portfolio.

The graphic below shows the core ACI fundamentals that tie together the analysis services, the defining of network functions and the provisioning and configuration of devices.

ACI Fundamentals

The opening keynote highlighted three core challenges that Cisco’s vision is now focused on:  Scale, Complexity, and Security.  Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins stated that “in 2020, as many as 1 million new connections will be added to the internet every hour”.  The reality of this type of continuous growth of connected devices is where reducing complexity becomes a necessity.  And as that network footprint grows, so does the threat surface.  The emphasis on security was paramount and needs to be built into everything.  The messaging from Cisco around this new era of networking is that their intuitive network, “powered by intent and informed by context”, will provide a secure, intelligent and adaptable platform.  At the core of this intuitive network is the vast amount of data points that are available from these network connected devices.  Last year’s Tetration and AppDynamics acquisitions are now integrated into the network to bring analytics to the DNA portfolio and leverage the huge amounts of data points that are available from these network connected devices.  One example of how this will work is “Encrypted Traffic Analytics” which will look at network traffic and perform packet analytics that can accurately detect threats in encrypted traffic with more than 99 percent accuracy.  ETA will accomplish this by looking at packet meta data and flow dynamics without needing to decrypt the data which has always been a resource intensive bottleneck.  Another major benefit of network data analytics is in the information learned about the network to help significantly reduce the time administrators spend on problem identification, troubleshooting, and resolution. 

One last item to mention regarding the keynote was the announcement of the Cisco Security Connector for iOS.  Apple CEO Tim Cook joined the stage with Chuck Robbins to discuss the Cisco/Apple partnership and how they are committed to enterprise network security.  The Security Connector for iOS app will deliver visibility, control, and privacy to enterprise owned iOS devices and use existing solutions like Umbrella to prevent access to malicious sites whether on the corporate network, public wifi or cellular data connections.

Here’s a summary of some of the new products and solutions:

DNA Center 

The DNA Center is a management dashboard and command center for all network functions.  This is where Scale and Complexity are addressed by eliminating the need to configure individual devices through the traditional CLI.  Auto provisioning and policy definitions are all centrally managed through the DNA Center.

Data Analytics and Assurance 

The analytics and assurance platform continuously collects data from NetFlow, SNMP and Syslog sources to monitor device, user and application performance.  The analytics and correlation of data help reduce troubleshooting time determining root cause and remediation of issues.  Network traffic patterns and trends are also identified to help proactively plan changes before performance issues impact users.

Catalyst 9000 Switching 

The new Catalyst 9300, 9400 and 9500 switches come with custom built ASICs that are programmable, enabling software developers to leverage network resources to optimize their applications.  The Catalyst 9000 is the ACI solution to the Enterprise as the Nexus 9000 is to the Data Center.

Software-Defined Access 

SD-Access will bring SDN to the Enterprise access layer.  Segmentation policies for users, devices, and applications will provide greater security to the access network devices.  Identity Services Engine will ensure user and device security policies are enforced as they move between wired and wireless connections.  The DNA Center will provide auto-provisioning and management through the centralized UI and will tap into the network analytics platform for performance monitoring, management, and troubleshooting.

The following hardware platforms are supported for SD-Access:

Switches:  Catalyst 9300, 9400, 9500, 3650, 3850, 4500E, 6500, 6800 and Nexus 7000

Routers:  4000 ISR and 1000 ASR

Wireless:  3800, 2800, 1850, 1830 and 1815 APs; 8540, 5520 and 3504 Controllers

Encrypted Traffic Analytics – 

Although not available until Fall 2017, Encrypted Traffic Analytics can accurately detect threats in encrypted traffic without needing to decrypt the data.  The technology uses NetFlow and Stealthwatch to feed packet flow dynamics and meta data flow analysis to pick out threats with 99.9% accuracy.

Threat Intelligence Director on Firepower 

The Threat Intelligence Director will be available on the FMC in Fall 2017 to enable 3rd party threat intelligence feeds beyond the current Talos services.  

Jasper Control Center 7 – 

The Jasper service provides real-time control and visibility of IoT deployments using cellular data connections.  New features include improved reporting, integration with other Cisco products such as Spark and Umbrella as well as an analytics package. 

Cisco Kinetic – 

Kinetic is another IoT tool that compliments Jasper by working with wifi and wired endpoints and runs on the new Catalyst 9000 switches.

My takeaway from this year’s Cisco Live conference is that Cisco has really turned a corner on their movement towards providing software solutions for the network.  Most significant is how they are integrating the analytics, automation and security solutions across many different network platforms.  Changes are coming in the way we design, implement and support networks. 

By Kevin Dresser, Solutions Architect

Cisco cracks open wallet for $293m CloudLock acquisition

Cisco corporateCisco has announced its intent to acquire cloud security company CloudLock in a $293 million deal which is expected to close in Q1 2017, writes Telecoms.com.

CloudLock specializes in cloud access security broker (CASB) technology which provides insight and analytics focused on user behaviour and sensitive data in the cloud. The move builds on Cisco’s ‘Security Everywhere’ strategy, its initiative designed to provide protection from the cloud to the network to the endpoint.

“As companies are migrating to the cloud, they need a technology partner that can accelerate that transition and deliver critical security capabilities for all their users, apps and data in a seamless way,” said Rob Salvagno, VP of Cisco Corporate Development. “CloudLock brings a unique cloud-native, platform and API-based approach to cloud security which allows them to build powerful security solutions that are easy to deploy and simple to manage.”

CASB technology is an aspect of cloud security which has caught the attention of a number of decision makers in recent months. When we spoke to Intel Security CTO Raj Samani earlier this month, he told us CASB solutions were set to be one of the largest talking points for the cloud security market segment in the next couple of years.

“Companies will find controls and measures to give them a level of trust in a vendor to ensure they can operate effectively,” said Samani at the time. “CASBs will be one of the biggest trends we’ll see in the next couple of years.”

“CASB is the ultimate business case, because you can do things faster and more efficiently – you can actually but an ROI and a TCO next to it.”

The purpose of CASB solutions is to sit between the cloud provider and cloud consumer to consolidate multiple types of security policies including authentication, single sign-on, encryption, tokenization and malware detection. The CASB solution offers a level of assurance for those customers who have concerns over the security provided by cloud providers themselves, as the concept of secure and risk with vary dependent on the company.

By integrating CASB solutions, a cloud consumer can dictate how many additional layers of security are placed on top of a cloud provider’s offering, to allow the cloud consumer to define their own risk profile. The concept of CASB on the whole could go some way to mitigate the security concerns for those companies who have not currently adopted the cloud for more sensitive workloads.

Aside from this acquisition, Citrix has been bolstering its security capabilities through additional purchases, including Lancope for $452.5 million last December. Lancope helps customers monitor, detect, analyse and respond to modern threats on enterprise networks through continuous network visibility and threat analysis.

Citrix is one of a number of tech giants who have been forced to reconsider their primary focus, as cloud computing continued to increase its grip on IT decision making. During the company’s most recent earnings call, IoT was outlined as a target growth segment, though the security business unit was prominent during the financials, growing 17% year-on-year.

Microsoft, HPE and Cisco take top-spot for infrastructure vendors

male and female during the run of the marathon raceMicrosoft, HPE and Cisco have been named as three of the leading names in the cloud industry by Synergy Research as the firm wraps up the winners and losers for the first quarter.

While the cloud infrastructure market has been growing consistently at an average rate of 20% year-on-year, 2016 Q1 was estimated at 13%, though this was to be expected following peak sales during the latter stages of 2015. Microsoft led the way for cloud infrastructure software, whereas HPE led the private cloud hardware market segment, and Cisco led the public cloud hardware segment.

“With spend on cloud services growing by over 50% per year and spend on SaaS growing by over 30%, there is little surprise that cloud operator capex continues to drive strong growth in public cloud infrastructure,” said Jeremy Duke, Synergy Research Group’s Chief Analyst. “But on the enterprise data centre side too we continue to see a big swing towards spend on private cloud infrastructure as companies seek to benefit from more flexible and agile IT technology. The transition to cloud still has a long way to go.”

For the last eight quarters total spend on data centre infrastructure has been running at an average of $29 billion, with HPE controlling the largest share of cloud infrastructure hardware and software over the course of 2015. Cloud deployments or shipments of systems that are cloud enabled now account for well over half of the total data centre infrastructure market.

cloud leaders

IBM and Cisco combine to deliver IoT insight on the network edge

Oil and gas platform in the gulf or the sea, The world energy, OIBM and Cisco have extended a long-standing partnership to enable real-time IoT analytics and insight at the point of data collection.

The partnership will focus on combining the cognitive computing capabilities of IBM’s Watson with Cisco’s analytics competencies to support data action and insight at the point of collection. The team are targeting companies who operate in remote environments or on the network edge, for example oil rigs, where time is of the essence but access to the network can be limited or disruptive.

The long promise of IoT has been to increase the amount of data organizations can collect, which once analysed can be used to gain a greater understanding of a customer, environment or asset. Cloud computing offers organizations an opportunity to realize the potential of real-time insight, but for those with remote assets where access to high bandwidth connectivity is not a given, the promise has always been out of reach.

“The way we experience and interact with the physical world is being transformed by the power of cloud computing and the Internet of Things,” said Harriet Green, GM for IBM Watson IoT Commerce & Education. “For an oil rig in a remote location or a factory where critical decisions have to be taken immediately, uploading all data to the cloud is not always the best option.

“By coming together, IBM and Cisco are taking these powerful IoT technologies the last mile, extending Watson IoT from the cloud to the edge of computer networks, helping to make these strong analytics capabilities available virtually everywhere, always.”

IoT insight at the point of collection has been an area of interest to enterprise for a number of reasons. Firstly, by decreasing the quantity of data which has to be moved transmission costs and latency are reduced and the quality of service is improved. Secondly, the bottleneck of traffic at the network core can potentially be removed, reducing the likelihood of failure. And finally, the ability to virtualize on the network edge can extend the scalability of an organization.

ABI Research has estimated 90% of data which is collected through IoT connected devices are stored or processed locally, making it inaccessible for real-time analytics, therefore it must be transferred to another location for analysis. As the number of these devices increases, the quantity of data which must be transferred to another location, stored and analysed also increases. The cost of data transmission and storage could soon prohibit some organizations from achieving the goal of IoT. The new team are hoping the combination of Cisco’s edge analytics capabilities and the Watson cognitive solutions will enable real-time analysis at the scene, thus removing a number of the challenges faced.

“Together, Cisco and IBM are positioned to help organizations make real-time informed decisions based on business-critical data that was often previously undetected and overlooked,” said Mala Anand, SVP of the Cisco Data & Analytics Platforms Group. “With the vast amount of data being created at the edge of the network, using existing Cisco infrastructure to perform streaming analytics is the perfect way to cost-effectively obtain real-time insights. Our powerful technology provides customers with the flexibility to combine this edge processing with the cognitive computing power of the IBM Watson IoT Platform.”

Cisco reports 3% growth for Q3 and sets targets on IoT market

Cisco corporateCisco has reported 3% year-on-year growth for Q3, topping $12 billion for the quarter, with its security business leading the charge, though the team have reconfirmed IOT, software cloud and collaboration markets are priorities for the future.

The security portfolio demonstrated revenue growth of 17% while deferred revenue grew 31% driven by the ongoing shift from hardware to more software and subscription services. The Collaboration portfolio grew 16%, while the team were also confident in the performance of its next generation data centre portfolio. The ACI platform grew revenues approximately 100%, exceeding a $2 billion annualized run-rate.

“We delivered strong Q3 results against the backdrop of the Macro environment that continues to be uncertain,” said CEO Charles Robbins. “Despite this uncertainty we executed very well, with revenue growth of 3%. The operational changes we continued to make will further enable our customers to leverage strategic role to network as they transform their businesses to become digital.”

Regionally, the America’s accounted for a 4% lift, whereas EMEA and APJ were slightly less at 2% and 1% respectively. The emerging markets demonstrated healthy results for the business, as BRICs increased by 4%, Mexico by 4%, China up 22% and India up 18%. The team highlighted while there was good growth in the public and service provider segments, the enterprise was not as positive as the team pointed towards pressure driven by macro uncertainty as the reasoning.

The quarter also saw Cisco as one of the more active players in the M&A market, completing five acquisitions over the course of the quarter. The $1.4 billion acquisition of Jasper Technologies now makes Cisco the largest cloud based IOT service platform in the industry, the team claims. Cisco also completed the acquisitions of Acano, Synata, Leaba and CliQr during the period, the latter a $260 million orchestration platform to help customers simplify and accelerate their private, public and hybrid cloud deployment. Cisco had already integrated CliQr with its Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Unified Computing systems (UCS) prior to acquisition.

“These acquisitions are clearly focused on our key growth areas including IOT, software cloud and collaboration as well as continuing to strengthen our core,” said Robbins.

The IoT market has been a long time target of Cisco, with the Jasper deal adding to the ParStream acquisition last year. The acquisition offered the opportunity for instant analysis of masses of data at the network edge with minimal infrastructural or OPEX repercussions, the company claimed.

HPE holds off Cisco for cloud infrastructure top spot

HPE street logoFindings from Synergy Research Group have HPE as the number one provider in the cloud infrastructure equipment market, narrowly outperforming Cisco over the course of 2015.

Total revenues for the cloud infrastructure equipment segment reached over $60 billion in 2015, with HPE accounting for just over 12%, and Cisco just under. Dell, Microsoft and IBM complete the top five, each controlling about 7% market share.

“There continues to be particularly impressive growth in the public cloud infrastructure market as AWS and other cloud operators are having tremendous success in attracting enterprises to their ever-expanding range of service offerings,” said Jeremy Duke, Synergy Research Group’s founder. “But enterprises too are buying ever-larger volumes of infrastructure to support their private or hybrid cloud deployments. Across the board there is a massive swing away from enterprises running workloads over more traditional and inflexible IT infrastructure.”

Synergy’s research showed between Q4 2014 and Q3 2015 total spend on infrastructure hardware and software to build cloud services exceeded $60 billion. Spend on private cloud accounted for more than 50% of these revenues, though public cloud is growing at a faster pace. HPE currently leads the private cloud space, with Cisco in second, however the roles are reversed for the public cloud segment.

While HPE and Cisco remain dominant in the server and networking segments, both companies have been releasing a number of new products in recent months to diversify their offering. Last week, HPE launched its ‘machine-learning-as-a-service’ on Microsoft Azure, which combines 60 API’s to provide machine learning capabilities. While HPE is seemingly capitalizing on the growing ‘as-a-service’ trend, Cisco is focused on its cloud-based collaboration service, Cisco Spark, which was launched with Verizon recently.

Market share graphMicrosoft features in the list due to its position in the server OS and virtualization applications market, where as Dell and IBM have demonstrated strong offerings in a broad number of cloud technology markets. Servers, OS, storage, networking and virtualization software combined accounted for 95% of the Q4 cloud infrastructure market.

While hardware and software to build cloud services revenues exceeded $60 billion, other areas of the industry demonstrated stronger growth. Public IaaS/PaaS services had the highest growth rate at 51%, followed by private & hybrid cloud infrastructure services at 45%.

“In many ways 2015 was the year when cloud became mainstream. Across a wide range of cloud applications and services we have seen that usage has now passed well beyond the early adopter phase and barriers to adoption continue to diminish,” said Duke. “Cloud technologies are now generating massive revenues and high growth rates that will continue long into the future, making this an exciting time for IT vendors and service providers that focus on cloud.”

Cisco and Verizon team up to launch Cisco Spark

Cisco corporateCisco is expanding its partnership with Verizon Enterprise Solutions to offer its new cloud-based collaboration service, Cisco Spark, to Verizon’s customer base.

The announcement builds on continued efforts from Verizon to bolster its range next-generation collaboration solutions, which already includes offers such as Cisco WebEx Cloud Connected Audio, Collaboration Meeting Room and Verizon’s UCCaaS Mobile First service.

The new joint offer will deliver Spark Message and Spark Meet features integrated with Verizon’s business collaboration services. The ultimate goal of the partnership will be to develop a service delivered in such a manner that customers are unable to differentiate between the Cisco and Verizon components. While currently available in the US, the service will be available to enterprise and government customers worldwide towards the end of the year.

Cisco has also announced the allocation of $150 million to the Cisco Spark for Developers Fund to generate new ideas for the ecosystem. The fund will cover direct investments, joint development, additional enhancements and developer support.

Verizon has been making considerable efforts over the last 12 months to increase its cloud-based communications offerings, to meet the demands of an increasingly mobile and collaborative workforce. With enterprise increasingly searching for opportunities to create a more productive working environment, software- and cloud-based offerings which enable employees to work in the office, from home or on the road, are quickly becoming the norm.

“Verizon is a leader in delivering global, mobile-enabled unified communications solutions to our business and government clients,” said Bob Minai, Executive Director, Advanced Communications at Verizon. “By integrating Cisco Spark meeting and messaging capabilities into Verizon’s collaboration portfolio and global network, Verizon and Cisco will continue to help enterprise clients with digital transformation initiatives that drive better customer experiences and meaningful, measurable business outcomes.”

The partnership continues Verizon’s trend of collaborative business, following up on last month’s announcement that it would be teaming up HyperOffice. As part of the agreement, HyperOffice would distribute its Share.to communications suite from Verizon Cloud infrastructure. Primarily, the tool will enable employees to work alongside freelancers, customers and other stakeholders all using different collaboration tools that need to work together.

Cisco launches Digital Network Architecture virtualization platform

Network Function VirtualisationCisco has launched a new system which aims to virtualize every conceivable network function possible for clients and take them through the painful process of digital transformation, reports Telecoms.com.

The networking vendor has announced its new Digital Network Architecture (DNA), which it describes as an open, software driven framework. The DNA will complement and extend the policies of its datacentre based Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) technology throughout the entire network, Cisco says.

Whereas ACI software defined the network, DNA will help enterprises to define everything from the campus to the branch, whether the network is wired or wireless, at the core or at the edge, says Cisco. DNA will sit within the Cisco ONE Software family, in order to simplify software licensing and help protect investments by providing continuity.

The Cisco DNA is built on five guiding principles, which can be summarized as virtualize everything, automate management, analyse everything everywhere, one policy for the entire network and keep every layer of networking as open and extensible as possible.

The mission to virtualising everything that can be possibly software defined will maximise the options for telcos and all enterprises. This gives the clients the choice to run any service anywhere, independent of the underlying platform, be it physical or virtual, on premise or in the cloud, says Cisco. Yesterday Cisco announced the acquisition of Leaba Semiconductor, which specialises in networking semi-conductors which could play a central role in the virtualisation of networking functions and maximise the possibilities for embedding virtualised functions.

Automating network management will maximise the speed and efficiency of the virtualised functions of an enterprise, but this may be regulated by the third important DNA principle, the need to have pervasive analytics. Analytics will provide the checks and balances needed to keep the network and IT infrastructure meeting its performance potential. Similarly, a virtualised network can only be an efficient cloud if service management from the cloud can unify policy and orchestration across the network. On Monday BCN reported how Cisco plans to buy cloud orchestration specialist CliQr.

The key to preventing network sclerosis is keeping everything open and accessible, which is why Cisco’s fifth guiding principle for DNA is to keep everything open, extensible and programmable at every layer, so that Cisco and third party technology can be integrated.

Cisco to buy cloud orchestrator CliQr for $260 million

Cisco corporateCisco has announced its intention to buy CliQr Technologies, a Californian start up that specialises in making apps run faster in the new bare metal, virtualised and container environments that are becoming increasingly pivotal in cloud computing.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay $260 million in cash and assumed equity awards, plus retention based incentives. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of 2016, subject to closing conditions. The CliQr team will join Cisco’s Insieme Business Unit reporting to Prem Jain, Cisco’s general manager.

Announcing the acquisition at Cisco’s Partner Summit, Cisco’s VP of Corporate Development Robert Salvagno said that the new technology will help its systems integrators and service provider partners to simplify the marshalling of resources and help get private, public and hybrid cloud projects running quicker. CliQr has out-of-the box support for all major public cloud environments.

Cisco said it will now continue to integrate CliQr across its data centre portfolio.

Cisco had already integrated CliQr with its Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Unified Computing systems (UCS) prior to acquisition, in a bid to improve the movement of applications between on-premise and cloud environments. Having achieved that it now aims to integrate CliQr across its data centre portfolio, extending the ‘orchestration of services’ to cover eventualities such as bare metal computing, containerised systems and all the various types of virtualisation.

CliQr simplifies management by giving customers a single system for managing the application lifecycle across hybrid IT environments. Cisco claims the system is intuitive and can simplify the most complex systems. With computing becoming a hybrid of traditional on premise IT and services running in the cloud, many CIOs and network managers have been left behind by the new complexity and inefficiencies and blockages have emerged which Cisco claims it can now smooth out.

Among the productivity improvements promised by CliQr is a feature that allows managers to create a single, secure application profile that can then be whizzed across any data centre, public or private cloud. Other managerial time savers include a consistent policy making scheme, an application optimiser across hybrid systems, a one click rollout and ‘complete visibility’ and control across applications, cloud environments and users.