Key takeaways from Cisco’s 2023 Network Trends Report

Cisco has just published their 2023 Global Networking Trends Report. This report covers some of the emerging networking trends in the multi-cloud world, and how they affect the IT operations and security of organisations. The report is twenty-one pages long and covers some interesting trends and observations from more than 2,500 IT leaders in 13 countries across North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Western Europe (including the UK).

Image (c) Cisco

My key take aways from the report

  • Hybrid work and multi-cloud adoption are driving the need for innovative approaches to securely connect remote workers to corporate data and assets distributed across multi-cloud environments with a huge need (40% of respondents) to de-silo operations and bring together network and security controls and visibility.
  • Cisco says that “providing secure access to applications distributed across multiple cloud platforms” is the top challenge cited by 41% of networking professionals, followed by gaining end-to-end visibility into network performance and security (37%).
  • Growth and demand for SASE. SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is a convergence architecture that delivers simplified and consistent security and performance for multi-cloud access and hybrid work. Cisco are a leading vendor in the SASE space which combines SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) and SSE (Security Service Edge) into a single, integrated SaaS security offering.
    • In the report, Cisco highlighted that 47% of respondents expect to connect their branches and remote clients using a SASE model by mid 2025, while 59% said that they will be prioritising centralising and consolidating cloud security over the same period.
  • Extending SD-WAN connectivity consistently across multiple clouds can automate cloud-agnostic connectivity and optimize the application experience. 53% of respondents prioritise integration with cloud service providers for this purpose5.
  • End-to-end network visibility and predictive analytics are essential for ensuring a consistent user experience across the complex digital service delivery chain, especially around SaaS apps with 51% of respondents prioritising end-to-end network telemetry and visibility. 47% of respondents said they will be prioritising predictive network analytics.
  • More organisations are multi-cloud than ever before with 92% of organisations reporting that they use more than one public cloud service (includes SaaS, IaaS and PaaS).

How Cisco Technology can help address these challenges

Cisco provide a comprehensive portfolio of products that can help organisations address many of the challenges of multi-cloud networking and security which fall into the SASE and SD-WAN categories. These include:

  • Cisco SD-WAN with edge security stack or SD-WAN with Umbrella Cloud Security (SASE) both leverage the Cisco Identity Service Engine’s Security Group Access Control Lists for segmentation policy management and enforcement across the WAN.
  • Cisco SD-WAN integrated with Cisco Umbrella SIG for a cloud-delivered SASE model that seamlessly secures access wherever users and applications reside.
  • Cisco Cloudlock, – Cisco’s cloud-native cloud access security broker (CASB) that helps secure your use of SaaS applications 
  • The Cisco SD-WAN and these SSE collaborations provide a range of SASE deployment options for our Partners and Managed Service Providers (MSPs), allowing them to utilize a mix of networking and cloud security solutions to offer multiple managed options to enterprises at various stages of their SASE journey 3.
  • Cisco Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a cloud-native platform that combines SD-WAN, SWG (Secure Web Gateway), ZTNA (Zero Trust Network Access), DNS-layer security, CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker).

The table below shows the key challenges discussed in the report and the corresponding solutions from Cisco that can help address them:

ChallengeSolution
Providing secure access to applications distributed across multiple cloudsSASE (Secure Access Service Edge), a convergence architecture that delivers simplified and consistent security and performance for multi-cloud access and hybrid work. SASE It combines SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network) and SSE (Security Service Edge) within Cisco’s cloud platform
Gaining end-to-end visibility into network performance and securityCloud-based network detection and response solutions, such as Cisco Secure Cloud Analytics, which provides visibility and threat detection for an organisations’ network across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.
Extending SD-WAN connectivity consistently across multiple cloudsSD-WAN multi-cloud integrations, which allow networking and cloud teams to accelerate and automate extensions from enterprise sites to various cloud providers and other enterprise sites through Internet, interconnect, or colocation and cloud provider networks.
Siloed cloud, network, and security operationsCloud-centric operating model, which brings cloud operating model principles to the network and across the entire cloud/network IT stack, enabling more integrated workflows and better collaboration between network, security, and cloud operations.
Visibility into end user experience and performance of multiple Cloud SaaS appsCisco ThousandEyes provides real-time and historic view into the availability of thousands of different SaaS apps. It allows IT to monitor all employee’s user’s digital experience against software as a service and on-prem applications, regardless of where users are, through the essential elements of your SASE architecture. With ThousandEyes, organisations can gain back visibility and control over SaaS applications and ensure that they are performing optimally.
Table 1 – How Cisco technology addresses the challenges of securing and managing Networking and Security across multi-cloud environments,

Summary

Cloud is the new data center, Internet is the new network, and cloud offerings dominate applications. By gaining a view of global Internet health and the performance of top SaaS applications, IT teams can proactively detect and remediate major unexpected network or application issues affecting them as soon as they happen.

Based on the report, Cisco say that organisations can mitigate against many of the challenges discussed by adopting a cloud-centric operating model that brings cloud operating model principles to the network and across their entire cloud/network IT stack. This can enable more integrated workflows and better collaboration between network, security, and cloud operations.

Cisco Thousand Eyes: End-to-End visibility into Cloud App performance.

Hybrid Work and the growth of SaaS makes troubleshooting end user experience so much harder.

ThousandEyes by Cisco is a digital end user experience monitoring solution that helps ensure your business SaaS apps are running at optimum performance wherever your employees or customers are.

ThousandEyes proactively monitors, alerts, and provides visual “route cause analysis” within minutes of a User Experience issue, regardless of if whether the issue is the LAN, WAN, Internet, “XaaS”, ISP, Collaboration Service (such as Teams, Webex or Zoom), or Cloud Provider. It can even determine whether the issue is caused by any third-party dependency such as Content Delivery network, Application, Connector, Secure Web Gateway, Identity Provider, or firewall.

What is ThousandEyes?

ThousandEyes enables organisations to rapidly increase the responsiveness of support teams and managed service providers by providing end-to-end visibility and performance monitoring across the ever-changing and distributed IT landscape wherever your applications, data, infrastructure, user, and devices are located by.
This helps organisations to:

  • Better support their hybrid workforce with near-real-time visibility of the employee’s experience.
  • Quickly identify and solve app experience issues by continually monitoring employee interactions with web and SaaS-based applications.
  • Gain end-to-end visibility from the user, across the network, WAN, and the Internet as well as to their cloud service providers and SaaS applications.

Cisco Thousand Eyes provides and end-to-end End user Experience Monitoring to help ensure that your employees / customers experience of your service or applications is “as expected” and helps proactively detect when there are issues which might impact this performance before users start complaining.

End to end visibility with Cisco ThousandEyes

Thousand Eyes provides end to end visibility and intelligence”. Its aim is to help IT provide the best possible employee and customer experience, whatever the application or service by comprehensively measuring and monitoring network performance end-to-end. This means that IT get complete visibility across the internet or WAN, edge, network, application, routing, and device layers to see exactly how and where the Internet and WAN connectivity is impacting employee or customer user experience.

Paying customers of ThousandEyes – and one of its’ killer features, is its’ ability to perform performance “snapshots” which provide clear-cut information – either on demand, or on a schedule. These can be shared with people outside your organisation and is pivotal to proving where the fault lies, therefore helping to help SaaS vendors troubleshoot their own infrastructure and it won’t be a surprise that many of the worlds’ largest SaaS providers are also Cisco Thousand Eye customers!

It does this by using “active monitoring” that utilises a software agent that simulates user activity and checks availability from multiple locations. Cisco leverage Thousand Eyes agents across much of their network equipment including wireless access points and switches (such as the Cisco Catalyst 9k), Cisco SDWAN solutions and SASE services, and is even incorporated into their Webex Meetings platform. There are also agents for desktop devices that can be deployed and what’s more you don’t need a Cisco network to use it. Thousand Eyes is proven to work well with leading SaaS and collaboration platforms such as Slack, Webex and Microsoft Teams.

Cisco Thousand Eyes – Image (c) Cisco.

The Synthetic testing constantly simulates user interaction with SaaS and Web applications, represented by a series of page loads interspersed with interactions like typing in fields and clicking buttons, making the synthetic test “feel” like a user to the actual applications under test. These tests are invaluable to application and network operations staff, since it helps IT and App Support better understand actual user experiences rather than playing the best guess or deflect game. These are presented back as “experience scores” which can be reported on, alert and track trends over time, providing an early warning before issues arise.

What problem does ThousandEyes fix?

In short, when an employee or a customer has a bad digital experience, they don’t care where the problem is, or what has caused it – they simply want to know what is wrong and when it might be resolved.

Marketing slide from Cisco ThousandEyes

The need and therefore market for this kind of tool is increasing, as the global pandemic dramatically accelerated the shift to the cloud and SaaS apps, and with the hybrid work, now just the way we work, we need a better way of monitoring and managing the end-to-end employee experience in an environment that no longer directly in control of IT!

As the world settles into what is now a hybrid work world dominated by the continual adoption of SaaS apps and work from anywhere mindset, visibility into how applications are performing for your employees and customers across the internet and various cloud services is critical to business continuity, employee, and customer experience.

Hybrid Work and the growth of SaaS
makes troubleshooting end user experience so much harder.

Today, we, many organisations are still reliant on “self-diagnosis” (or no diagnosis), which leads to conversations like “it’s the network” or “my broadband is slow” or “XXX application is running slow”. This might have been ok during the peak of the pandemic when everyone was sent home to work and was “making the best out of temporary situation”, but three years on this from this, diagnosing and troubleshooting performance related issues is still too commonplace. Now, more than ever, the ability to monitor the end-to-end performance of your business apps, dictates the experience of your customers and employees and the excuses of before are no longer tolerated.

When an employee or a customer has a bad digital experience, they don’t care where the problem is or what has caused itthey simply want it fixed quickly.

Many of these issues are not new, but the shift to cloud and our new distributed hybrid workforce, means that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to understand and support the right “experience” using traditional legacy application performance management tools. What’s more the lack of visibility can often means employees and customers can be having a poor experience without IT or support evening knowing about it until someone complains!

Who needs ThousandEyes?

  1. Do you have employee experience issues due to lack of Internet, WAN or SaaS visibility?
  2. How do you know your Content Delivery Provider is serving your content quickly and consistently whether users at home or in the office?
  3. Do you have inhouse web apps and need a better way of understanding how they perform? when your users work remotely or from disparate offices?
  4. Does your IT help desk struggle to add value and provide answers to users experience issue with SaaS applications?
  5. Is the lack of visibility and ability to monitor cloud apps, impacting employee productivity and/or customer experience?

If the answer to the above is mainly “yes”, then it’s worth looking at investing your time in a proof of concept to see how Thousand Eyes could help.

Why Cisco?

Personally, I think ThousandEyes is a great fit for any organisation with a cloud-first approach that has offices globally and leverages a high degree of hybrid workers (that’s most of us right!)! Whilst it’s not limited to those with only Cisco networks, the economics work well for organisations that already leverage Cisco networking, due to native integration across most of Cisco’s core product offerings including their Cisco Catalyst networking, SASE, SDWAN and their Collaboration suite (Webex).

This makes integration and deployment slick and negates the need to deploy additional agents, since Cisco include the ThousandEyes agent across many of their devices. Customers that buy into Cisco Enterprise Agreements also get a more competitive price point for ThousandEyes and from a support perspective it’s an integrated suite which means less finger pointing.

Speak to a Cisco partner for help

Speak to your favourite Cisco Gold Partner (I’m happy to help you need one) and they will be able to help demonstrate, deploy, configure, and support ThousandEyes for your organisation.

You will find your trusted Cisco partner can help in many ways including:

  • Demos, PoCs or specific product/application performance assistance
  • Cisco funded free trials
  • Help with business case development following a successful PoV
  • Scoping, deployment and tuning to ensure you can monitor all your in-house web and public SaaS hosted applications, connecting into your underlying Wireless LAN, WAN, MPLS, Internet connectivity and WFH remote locations to provide end-to-end visibility and end user performance monitoring.
  • Consultancy and support to ensure key departments, locations, users, and application estate is under cover.
  • Access to the best pricing through your Cisco Gold Partner.

See it action and find out more

Cisco provide free to access to this awesome “live outages site” where you can look at the live state of the world’s most popular commercial and consumer cloud services and see just how comprehensive and simple it is to use.

https://thousandeyes.com/outages
Cisco ThousandEyes Outages Site

Why Cisco’s new Solution Specialisations are great for Cisco, their partners, and their customers

As tech vendors continue to modernise and revamp their partner programmes to better align with the pace of technology, changing needs of their customers, demands around hybrid work and the continual digital transformation acceleration, Cisco have recently added six new solution specialisations which aim to further build and support their partner competitiveness as well as recognise and reward partners with specific expertise and capability.

Image (c) Cisco

The six new specialisations are tied to Cisco customer priorities and represent fast-growing market opportunities for Cisco and its partners in areas where Cisco has been investing and innovating. These are heavily focussed around Hybrid Cloud and Hybrid Work and the solutions that enable these.

Cisco’s Solution Specialisations

The new solution specialisations are one of the four categories of partner specialisations available to qualified Cisco partners, like Cisilion to demonstrate their expertise to customers, including:

  • Architecture specialisations: demonstrate product expertise in specific technology areas.
  • Solution specialisations: demonstrate that a partner excels at delivering value with Cisco solutions, including cross-architectural offers prioritized by customers.
  • Cisco Powered Service specialisations: convey partner proficiency in delivering managed services and as-a-service offers.
  • Business specialisations: focused on horizontal business practices that are essential to supporting customers’ business goals.

Partners that achieve solution specialisations are recognised and rewarded based on the value delivered to customers. The requirements for each specialisation are tied to knowledge and experience, allowing partners to capitalize on their existing investments with Cisco.

The relevance of the new Solution Specialisations

Cisco say their solution specialisations are designed to “showcase partner value to customers and represent the type of solutions partners are selling today“. These specialisations (which are not simple to earn and retain), reflect how Cisco partners, like Cisilion, are using cross-architectural solutions to solve their customers’ biggest challenges (such as how to address the challenges or hybrid work) rather than just simply selling and deploying technology products. Cisco say that “the specialisations are awarded to partners that can demonstrate how they are working collaboratively with Cisco to help solve customer challenges such as balancing an organisation’s security needs with the flexibility employees want, providing the best digital experience or consistently delivering a secure user experience from anywhere.

Specialisation is ranked number one as the initial critical partner selection criterion for 74 percent of customers. By tying solution specialisations to customer buying criteria, Cisco makes it easier for customers to identify which partners to work with.

Techaisle Take: Cisco Partner Program

The six new solution specialisations

  • Full-stack Observability (FSO): Which highlights partners expertise in centralising and correlating application performance analytics across the full IT stack. This includes integrations across Cisco’s AppDynamics, Thousand Eyes, Intersight, and Secure Application. Partners with this specialisation can demonstrates expertise in prioritising actions to deliver superior customer experiences, drive revenue streams, and accelerate digital transformation for their customers.
  • Hybrid Work from Office: Which recognises partners for their skills and experience helping customers evolve traditional on-site and off-site work models, with solutions that power hybrid work, enabling people to work safely and securely from home, the office, and anywhere in between on any given day or time.
  • Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): Which highlights partners’ ability to help their customers to securely enable the growing universe of roaming users, devices, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps without adding complexity or reducing end-user performance.
  • Hybrid Cloud Computing: Showcases partners that provide customers with simple, secure hybrid cloud computing experiences at home, in the office, or anywhere.
  • Hybrid Cloud Networking: Recognises partners that securely and efficiently connect and manage customers’ data, workloads, and applications across data centres, edge, and multiple clouds.
  • Hybrid Cloud Software: Demonstrates expertise in managing operational complexity by helping customers streamline and unify IT operations with secure, hybrid cloud management software.

Benefits for Customers and Partners

The main benefit is that this approach takes away from an old-skool technology/product sell that was all about speeds, feeds, features, and cost, and instead encourages partners to have more meaningful “outcome-based conversation“. Cisco say this should help partners do what they do best – having a more “unified solution strategy” conversation with customers where technologies integrate and work together to provide solutions that are better than the sum of the parts.

Examples of this include the alignment between Cisco’s Webex video, calling and meeting services, the network infrastructure layer, the edge, and the Internet with integrated full stack visibility across these layers to ensure the best user experience whilst simplifying IT operations through management and support.

Cisco Live 2022: Cisco Catalyst Management is coming to the Meraki cloud

At Cisco Live 2022 this week, Cisco annouced that Catalyst is coming to the Meraki cloud which put simply means that organisations will now be able to manage their Catalyst switches and access points using the Cisco Meraki cloud dashboard, providing a centralised view of the network with real-time switch status and health.

Image (c) Cisco Meraki

Supported platforms

At time of launch, the Catalyst 9200, 9300 and 9500 switching platforms will be supported in the Meraki dashboard with two different options:

  • Cloud Monitoring (monitoring only)
  • Cloud Management (monitoring and config management)

Licensing

  • Monitored Catalyst switches needs only a Meraki license.
  • Fully managed Catalyst switches requires DNA Advantage (DNA-A) or DNA Essentials (DNA-E) licensing.

The main difference between the two switching licenses is that DNA-E will not include application visibility or client usage data.

Is this the end to DNA Center?

Put simply, No. What Cisco is doing is providing more flexibility and options to their customers. It will mean, however that organisations will need to make a choice as to where that want to manage their Cisco Catalyst infrastructure. In Meraki, in DNA Center, or standalone.

Once a Catalyst switch is fully managed by Meraki it will no longer be an IOS device and will instead run Cisco Meraki software. If the Catalyst switch is a monitored only switch though, it will still be accessible and manageable via the CLI.

New Catalyst Wireless Switches

Cisco also annouced that they are introducing three new Catalyst wireless access points that can be managed by their Meraki dashboard or a C9800 controller.

  • Catalyst CW9166
  • Catalyst CW9164
  • Catalyst CW9162

Feature Partity with DNA Center?

No.. Well not initially anyway.

Since this is the first iteration of Catalyst management within the Meraki Cloud dashboard, there will not be feature parity with what is possible with the CLI or DNA Center. Initially all the core basic basic monitoring and configuration will be available and Cisco have a said a feature list and roadmap will be published soon.

Why are Cisco taking this approach?

Cisco have traditionally been continuing to build on-premises software solutions, such as DNA Center, but with their increased focus of software subscriptions and cloud this is a logical move and something their competition have been doing for a while.

Since the aquisition of Meraki back in 2013, Cisco have continued to try to provided multiple options for their customers and this appears to eb a great move into that hybrid space, providing and option for scenarios where DNA Center maybe too much or complex, but a more simplistic cloud managed approach with a Meraki may well fit organisations who want cloud management with Meraki while still having the feature-rich capabilities of the Catalyst product set.

Getting Started…

Cisco advise their customers to speak to their account manager, work with their trusted a isco partner and / or to check out their get started guide. There’s no need to go full in and organisations can start their move cloud management for Catalyst at their own pace.


Read the full detail from Cisco

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