Three Key Announcements from Cisco Systems’ Partner Summit

eWEEK EVENT ANALYSIS: World networking market leader announces a bevy of innovations aimed at simplicity and agility.


The virtual events roll on; last week was the digital version of Cisco’s Partner Summit. Although the conference is geared toward Cisco's massive reseller base, there are always a number of new products and feature updates that are of interest to customers. With the COVID-19 pandemic having come in fast, people have changed the way they work, and IT organizations have altered how they operate and the new products are aligned with that trend. 

Here are the top three sets of announcements customers should care about: 

Simplified Security

Many people don’t think of Cisco as a security company, but if their security business was a standalone company, it would be the largest business-focused security vendor, and the Partner Summit announcements reflected that. The company announced a number of innovations in the areas of secure access service edge (SASE), extended detection and response (XDR) and zero trust. The announcements were designed to make the deployment of Cisco technology simpler. Specifically: 

  • Cisco XDR: Its cloud-native security platform, SecureX, became generally available in June and is the foundation of its XDR solution. XDR differs from endpoint detection and response (EDR) because it gathers data from not just the endpoint but across the entire security ecosystem--including cloud, network and endpoints and uses machine learning to quickly find breaches. Cisco customers have seen a 95% reduction in the time to detect threats and 85% reduction time for remediation. The XDR updates include workflows to address common use cases as well as analytics and insights. 
  • Zero Trust: Cisco has enhanced its zero trust capabilities with an update to its multi-factor authentication (MFA) product, Duo. It now uses machine learning to automatically detect suspicious logins and send alerts to Cisco SecureX and other third-party platforms.
  • SASE brings security and SD-WAN together, and Cisco has brought its two solution sets together to make deployments easier. Cisco has integrated its SD-WAN with its security portfolio to protect branch offices. Even more importantly in today’s world, it has AnyConnect VPN to protect remote workers. 

Cloud Agility 

The term “cloud” means more than public cloud. Most organizations are shifting to a distributed cloud architecture where public, private and edge clouds are used. This model has an obvious level of complexity as moving workloads and securing them across these locations isn’t simple. Cisco has a number of new solutions that enable IT to simplify their operations and gain consistency across the distributed cloud through the use of insights and automation. 

Specifically, Cisco announced the following solutions: 

  • Cisco Intersight is a cloud-neutral systems management platform aimed at creating a single view across the distributed cloud. Intersight now has a new Kubernetes service that infrastructure teams can use to automate the lifecycle of Kubernetes and containerized applications. There is also an Insight Workload Optimizer that simplifies application resource management and helps companies balance cost with performance. Cisco also has integrated Intersight with its AppDynamics application management suite, which lets organizations understand the impact of infrastructure issues in terms of application experience. 
  • Cisco Nexus Dashboard is a “single pane of glass” that integrates three previous dashboards–Nexus Insight, Networks Assurance Engine and Multisite Orchestrator. Bringing these together provides a centralized point of control and management for the data center network, even if the network spans multiple data centers. This gets rid of the typical “swivel chair” management that is done now as IT pros need to pivot between screens and correlate data manually. 
  • Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) is a no-brainer for Cisco customers to deploy, because it brings Zero Trust networking across the network. Updates to ISE enable it to automatically identify IoT endpoints to create consistent policies that can be enforced from the cloud. 

Webex for Governments 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many industries that wouldn’t even think of working remotely to do so. Two notable examples are legislatures and court rooms where the thought of government representatives debating one another remotely seemed laughable, but that’s the world we live in. The problem is, that tools like Webex were built for general purpose meetings and not specific workflows so the people using the tools would need to adjust how they work. Also, it makes complying with local laws, securing documents and other factors a challenge as workers need to use multiple tools.

This is where Cisco is stepping up with two new Webex-based solutions: 

  • Webex Legislate is a custom version of the tool built specifically for legislatures. The product is designed to be a virtual replacement for meeting in person on a chamber floor with the goal of being on par or better than being in person. The foundation of Legislate is Webex, but Cisco has added a custom dashboard that can be customized for the specific needs of the government body as well as specific roles. For example, a chairperson would have a different view than a representative. Legislate has also been beefed up with Cisco security and has single sign on, multi-factor authentication, secure lobbies and verification for voting and other tasks. 
  • Connected Justice is another customized version of Webex designed for court proceedings. The product is aimed at making collaboration between agencies easier and to facilitate court proceedings in a world where social distancing is now the norm. Cisco has made the product available through partners that are focused on this vertical, such as TRACKtech, which offers a mobile supervision and integrated case management solution. 

IT people in non-government industries might not find Connected Justice and Legislate interesting, but I think these types of solutions are the shape of things to come in collaboration. There are so many verticals where general-purpose collaboration tools struggle because of workflows. Consider K-12 where teachers need to ensure students stay engaged. One way to do that is to ask the student to “pin” the teacher window, but kids are kids and often pin their friends or someone else. 

A custom version of Webex could solve that problem by forcing the teacher view to be pinned and to give the teacher more control over who can speak when. I would expect these two solutions to be just the starting point for Cisco. 

Cisco Partner Summit is an event dedicated to its reseller channel, but Cisco customers should check out the content and product news, because the innovations are key in helping IT pros adjust to this rapidly changing world. 

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.