Cisco Bolsters Hardware, Software to Support Internet of Things Growth

At Cisco Live, the vendor rolls out enhanced and new products aimed at accelerating IoT projects.

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LAS VEGAS—The focus for Cisco Systems officials over the past week has been on reinventing enterprise networks to make them more open, automated, intelligent and programmable, which will better equip them to handle workloads presented by cloud computing, mobility, big data and the internet of things.

At the Cisco Live event here June 27, the company turned its attention to the IoT, unveiling an updated version of its Cisco Jasper Control Center IoT connectivity platform, which brings advanced features around traffic security and segmentation along with support for low-power connected devices

In addition, Cisco officials launched Kinetic, an IoT operations platform which is designed to make it easier for companies to pull data from their connected devices, analyze it and then take actions based on the results.

The announcements are the latest moves by Cisco in its efforts to use its deep networking expertise to expand its reach not only in the data center, but also out to the cloud and the network edge, where many of the billions of connected IOT devices reside.

In addition, Control Center 7.0 and Kinetic dovetail with the intuitive, “intent-based” network vision that the company enunciated last week with the release of new software, switches and services that are the focus of the Cisco Live show here this week. Kinetic can run on Cisco’s new Catalyst 9000 switches as well as existing ruggedized systems and Cisco hardware that’s placed at the network edge.

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s IoT and Collaboration Technology Group, introduced Kinetic and Control Center 7.0 during his keynote address, noting that while more businesses are pushing ahead with IoT programs, as many as 60 percent of those efforts never go beyond the proof-of-concept stage due to such challenges as complexity and security.

At the same time, Trollope pointed out that there are massive amounts of data that are sitting on connected devices that would offer tremendous business insights if organizations could access them. The new and upgraded products are designed to enable businesses to better manage, secure and analyze that data.

Kinetic “is a platform for getting data off your devices,” he said. “We’re extending [Cisco’s reach] from the edge all the way onto the device to provide an amazing platform to get way more data.”

Cisco officials say there are about 8.4 billion connected devices worldwide, and that number will grow to 100 billion by 2020. The proliferation of connected devices—which not only include smartphones and other mobile devices, but also everything from tiny sensors to connected vehicles along with the rapid accumulation of the data these devices produce are driving Cisco’s new networking initiative.

Company engineers have spent the past several years reworking everything from the iOS operating system (to make it more open) to its latest Catalyst switches, which come with a new programmable ASIC, which when combined with the new iOS make the systems much easier to program.

Cisco has been aggressive in pursuing the IoT sector for the past several years, partnering with the likes of IBM and Salesforce, innovating in-house and buying such companies as Jasper, AppDynamics and MindMeld to add more capabilities.

The vendor in April invested in Actility, which makes low-power WAN (LPWAN) technologies that are important in the IoT market, as part of the startup’s $75 million Series D round of funding. Cisco has seen rapid growth in its Jasper Control Center platform, with its customer base jumping from 3,500 to 11,000 over the past year.

The platform manages more than 43 million devices, with more than 1.5 million being added every month, according to Jahangir Mohammed, general manager of Cisco’s IoT business. Different businesses are at different stages in their IoT programs and they can have different needs. In response, Cisco is offering an advanced version of Control Center 7.0 for businesses with more sophisticated deployments that includes services for traffic security and segmentation.

The Threat Protection and Smart Security service is built on Cisco’s Umbrella technology to protect IoT devices against malware and other cyber-security threats. Traffic Segmentation accommodates different types of traffic to enable service providers to offer customized services depending on customer needs.

There’s also support for multiple LPWAN technologies such as LTE-M and Narrow Band-IoT (NB-IoT) to provision small IoT sensors with the same scale and security that other devices receive.

Kinetic is designed to let organizations take advantage of the data all their devices are collecting. The technology collects the data, lets company officials see what they have and then sends it to the appropriate application—whether in the data center or cloud or at the network edge—for analysis.

“Our goal is to streamline the path from connecting things to deriving business value for our customers,” Trollope said in a post on the company blog. “This requires the automated management of millions or billions of devices, and unlocking data at a scale that’s never been achieved before.”