Observing the future of AI, IoT, and cybersecurity: Insights from the Cisco Partner Summit 2023

An insight into Orro's Chief Technology Officer, Michael Van Rooyen's account of the 28th Annual Cisco Partner Summit.

I had the privilege of attending the 28th Annual Cisco Partner Summit, hosted at the Miami Convention Centre in Florida.

Miami may invoke images of endless summers spent on golden beaches, but it’s rapidly undergoing a tech-led renaissance. The city has a growing reputation as a leading hub for digital innovation — some are even calling it the Silicon Valley of Southeastern US.

With the excitement of new possibilities in the atmosphere, the sparkling Miami skyline provided the perfect backdrop to an international gathering of visionaries, innovators, and technology business leaders around the world. And the big topic on everyone’s minds was the emerging intersection of AI, IoT, and cybersecurity.

Many of the leaps forward in these fields are being underpinned by Cisco’s networks and technology. So, it was invaluable for the Orro team to hear firsthand about the new innovations lying just over the horizon from the Cisco executives who are leading the way.

Here are just a few of the insights our team took home from the event.

From complex to cohesive cybersecurity

Complexity can be a significant barrier to effective cybersecurity. So a major highlight of the Summit was when Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s EVP and GM of Security and Collaboration, took the stage to showcase the company’s hard work to simplify cybersecurity.

The cybersecurity industry has long depended on fragmented innovation, Jeetu noted, with an overwhelming number of vendors (around 3,500) and a typical cybersecurity stack consisting of 50-70 products. This excessive complexity and lack of cohesion have led to solutions that are inefficient and ineffective. That’s why Cisco is introducing new Security Suites that are integrated, predictable, and cost-effective — forget about endless products that don’t work in harmony.

Even with so many applications shifting to the cloud, they still need access to private resources within private data centres, Jeetu said. It’s a tricky situation, and traditional firewalls just aren’t cutting it. Recognising this issue, Cisco developed a translation layer that ensures secure app access in both the cloud and private data centres. Zero trust with zero friction — that’s Cisco’s mission.

The GM of Security and Collaboration also revealed how Cisco has enhanced its extended detection and response (XDR) capability by leveraging telemetry data from various products within the industry. Identifying and addressing security threats in real time is achieved through the integration of Splunk’s Security Incident Event Management platform (SIEM), Secure Domain Routers, and the SOAR orchestration platform.

Jeetu explained that the combination of these three powerful tools establishes a holistic strategy that enables prompt and effective detection, response, remediation, and recovery from security breaches.

AI to be integrated throughout Cisco’s portfolio

2023 has been a huge year for AI, becoming a permanent fixture in the media and public consciousness — and organisations worldwide are jumping on board. While there is a growing focus on the effective use of AI, navigating unfamiliar application stacks and infrastructure patterns can be tough for IT teams.

That’s why Cisco has teamed up with ecosystem partners like NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, NetApp, Nutanix, Pure Storage, and Red Hat to create Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) for AI use cases. These solutions make it easy for companies to get their infrastructure AI-ready without any unnecessary risks or operational silos.

Jeetu revealed that AI is set to be integrated throughout Cisco’s entire product portfolio, including to elevate hybrid workplace experiences. He noted that 98% of meetings will have remote participants in the future, but only 15% of conference rooms are equipped with video. Cisco has created blueprints for reimagined conference rooms with distance zero technology, using AI to provide immersive experiences for remote participants.

Cisco aims to empower collaboration without compromise, providing an integrated AI-powered suite of meetings, messaging, calling, and other tools to offer businesses a more seamless and cost-effective experience. The company is looking to differentiate itself by offering a more secure and privacy-focused enterprise-grade portfolio with great sound and video quality, as well as native interoperability with Microsoft Teams, Google, and Zoom.

Industrial IoT’s bear market immunity a $5B opportunity

Another area that’s booming at the moment is the Industrial Internet of Things. IIoT is the new gold rush, and Cisco is seeking to lead the way.

According to Cisco’s Global Senior Director, IIoT Partner Go-To-Market, Andres Sintes, there’s a huge opportunity worth $5 billion in the realm of IIoT, with a projected growth of 15% by 2024.

He said IIoT is resilient against market fluctuations and bear markets, enhancing the customer’s operational efficiency, agility, and cybersecurity, while reducing their costs. Additionally, the rising demand for digital transformation and efficiency further safeguards IIoT from external economic disruptions.

An additional emerging factor is the growing importance of AI in IIoT, which is being driven by the need for connectivity and security to enhance data collection and optimise processes.

The three key areas that allow businesses to unlock the full potential of IIoT, according to Rob, are outcomes, experiences, and ecosystems.

To help on these three fronts, Cisco is planning to introduce new specialisations for IoT solutions in 2024, catering to both industrial and non-industrial sectors. These additions will provide greater flexibility, while helping clients to build upon their existing capabilities and investments.

With its validated designs and solutions, Rob spoke about how Cisco’s technology is already empowering refineries, utilities, manufacturers, and public sector organisations to modernise their operations, enhance connectivity, and bolster their cybersecurity to protect against threats.

The immense potential of IIoT applications is increasingly being realised in non-traditional settings as well in sectors such as wineries, pharmaceuticals, and education campuses. In these non-traditional settings. seamless connectivity and robust security measures are critical.

Cisco is expanding its wireless routing portfolio through the introduction of new products, such as the Cisco Catalyst IR1800 series of ruggedised 5G and Wi-Fi 6 routers, which will provide IIoT customers with enhanced connectivity and flexibility.

A prime example of an environment where secure connectivity and management are essential to the use of IIoT is on transport infrastructure projects. To illustrate this, Rob shared a successful use case in Houston, where Cisco’s solutions are being used to connect and safeguard traffic lights and cameras, leading to a reduction in pedestrian fatalities.

Finally, Cisco continues to show a strong commitment to security, having achieved 100% growth last year in Cyber Vision, a platform which combines protocol analysis, intrusion detection, vulnerability detection and behavioral analysis to help utilities, manufacturing and government organisations understand their security posture.

Observability now mission-critical

Observability was another key theme at Cisco Partner Summit. In a 1:1 session with Ananda Rajagopal, VP Product, Cisco AppDynamics and Full Stack Observability explained that traditional monitoring methods have not evolved in 20 years, leading to a need for a new approach. That’s why he sets specific goals for best-in-class observability architecture, including open standards, multivendor extensibility, scalability, and flexibility.

In a keynote, Cisco’s EVP and Chief Strategy Officer, Liz Centoni, also emphasised the importance of observability in the marketplace, pointing out a projected market size of $34 billion by 2025 and significant growth in AppDynamics, as well as the Cisco Full Stack Observability Platform, a vendor-agnostic tool that provides real-time visibility into IT operations and performance.

She said AppDynamics’ SAP monitoring capabilities are particularly valued by customers for the real-time insights they provide into the entire SAP environment, while still prioritising business-critical issues.

Cisco’s integration of AppDynamics transactions with vulnerability assessments and incident data enables the calculation of business risk scores for applications and services, she explained. This helps customers address security risks while also reducing costs.

Liz highlighted the unique value of Datadog’s observability platform, with more than 10 partners building use cases on top, with no competitor offering the same level of openness and extensibility.

She credited Cisco’s engineering team for moving quickly to deliver a wide range of differentiated capabilities, including AI-driven features like dynamic baseline behaviour and regenerative AI, as well as natural language prompt interfaces for faster and more accurate consumption of their capabilities.

An exciting future ahead

The Cisco Partner Summit is an event I anticipate rocking up to every year. It’s all about celebrating the innovation and customer successes that happen when you combine robust IT infrastructure with the expert solution integration and deployment skills of channel partners.

After attending this year’s event, I was impressed by the game-changing potential of so many new solutions to level the playing field in cybersecurity. It’s great to see Cisco focusing on making a collaborative difference for the benefit of all. And, just like Miami’s famous condo towers, the sky’s the limit for the future.

Article written by Michael Van Rooyen, Chief Technology Officer, Orro

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