AI wave helps Cisco deliver beyond expectations despite Q3 revenue drop.

Last week, Cisco reported its Q3 fiscal results which beat market in terms of both top and bottom-line.

Cisco achieved this despite a continued decline in overall revenue, showing that like many of the US tech giants, Cisco have become leaner and more cost effective as an entity. It is also recognition of their shift to a software organisation (that also sells hardware).

As a Cisco partner, we understand why Cisco have attributed the majority of their sales revenue decline being due to their customers still deploying data centre and networking equipment purchased late last year due to shifting busienss priorities and re alignment over hybrid work practices. This is certainly something we have seen some still an overspill from the huge chip and stock shortages we saw in COVID-19…

Cisco remain confident that Q4 will see a turn around. Personally, we (Cisilion) have already seen a great Cisco Q3 personally and expect a great Cisco Q4 with some large networking and data centre refreshes.

Riding the AI Wave

Cisco are also making big step forward in the new AI powered world in two parts.

Aquisitions and Parnering

Firstly, Cisco have recently closed the $28 billion acquisition of security and observability software Splunk. Whilst not yet assimilated and incorporated into Cisco’s mainstream portfolio (this won’t likely happen until mid to late FY25) the aquisition will boost their cybersecurity and AI goals. With Splunk, Cisco is gaining a tool to better compete with their competition such as  Palo Alto and Crowd Strike and ensures they remain relevant. 

I covered the Cisco / Splunk aquisition in a recent fireside chat and blog.

Cisco is also well-aware that in order to grow, they need to join forces and work with the other tech giants that dominate the cloud and modern workplace technologies. Their partnership with Microsoft in the modern work space and alignment with building more services for Azure as well as supporting their digitial market place for software and service sales will also boost their reach.

Last month, Cisco have announced a new partnership with NVIDIA to enable enterprises to quickly deploy and manage secure AI infrastructure with new hardware being announced.

As a Cisco and Microsoft Partner, it is great to see the partnership paying off, and our customers live the choice, flexibility and sustainability offerings possible through the deep integration of Cisco meeting room technology on Teams, their integration with Microsoft Sentinel and the work they have done with Cisco Webex Contact Centre which now offers one of the most feature rich and mature customer experience platforms on both Cisco Webex and for Microsoft Teams.

Through these partnerships and aquisitions, Cisco seemed well placed to help organisations build, power, support, and secure AI

Partnership is great for our customers and for us (Cisilion) as a partner.

The Network: Powering the AI Wave

In a recent interview and video we did to celebrate the opening of our new Customer Experience Centre in London, Chintan Patel (Cisco UK CTO) said that “there is no AI without the network“.

This statement, made by Cisco CTO, underscores the critical role that networks play in the functioning and advancement of AI.

Cisco and Cisilion talking AI with Cisco UK CTO

AI rely heavily on data – they need to ingest, process, and learn from vast amounts of information to function effectively. This data needs to be transported, often across great distances, and this is where the network comes in. Without a robust and reliable network, data cannot be moved efficiently, and AI systems cannot operate at their full potential.

Cisco, with its extensive experience in network provision, is uniquely positioned to provide the high-speed, reliable network infrastructure that AI systems require. Their networks are designed to handle the high data volumes and fast data speeds that AI applications demand.

AI is fuelled by the Data Centre.

The Data Centre is the heart of any AI operation. They house the servers that store and process the data AI systems use and are vital for any organisation or service provider building out training their own AI models.

Having been along time leader in the data centre space, offers state-of-the-art technology, from a a compute and networking stack that help organisations design and build through their partners, modern environments that can handle the intensive computational needs of AI, providing a stable and efficient environment for AI operations.

When we come back to partnership and alliance, some of the largest AI service providers, including Microsoft and Adobe use data centres powered by Cisco (amongst others) and rely on their network and data centre (Azure) to power their AI services like Copilot and Azure AI. Cisco’s advanced network solutions and data centres provide the necessary infrastructure for these companies to run their AI applications effectively.

As we see more organisations look to build their own large and small language models, Machine Learning and AI computational and generative AI, Cisco will be helping to power this AI revolution.

As such their technology infrastructure will plays a crucial role in enabling AI service providers to deliver innovative solutions that drive business growth and societal advancement.

I’m confident this will re innovate the infrastructure market across both businesses and service providers.  In conclusion, Cisco’s statement that “there is no AI without the network” rings true. As AI continues to evolve and become more integrated into our daily lives, the role of network and data centre providers like Cisco will only become more critical.

Of course Cisco aren’t the only provider in this space, but I’m impressed with shift and direction Cisco are moving to stay relevant and partner with the other AI giants. As a Cisco partner this is great to see.


To read more about Cisco technology, data centre, observability and network, you can check out their pages below.

https://www.cisco.com/site/us/en/solutions/artificial-intelligence/infrastructure/index.html

Interview: Mark Brown – VP Solutions Engineering at Splunk

This week, I had the pleasure of running a Fireside Chat with Mark Brown, who leads the engineering team at Splunk. The chat was streamed live on Linked In and YouTube as part of Cisilion’s monthly technology chat show which has been running for more than three years.

This month, we took to the virtual stage to discuss the acquisition of Splunk by Cisco, the history and innovation that Splunk brings across security and data analytics and observability, and some of the huge success stories and customers of Splunk since the company’s founding in 2003.

Cisilion and Spunk – May Fireside Chat

In this month’s show, we delved into Splunk’s history and capabilities, its evolution over the last 20 years, and its role as a data analytics platform. We talked about Splunk’s diverse customer base, including huge “high street” brands like Siemens and Gatwick Airport, where we discussed how Splunk’s data analytics is helping to enhance operational efficiency and security at the airport and how by processing local traffic and weather data along with real time people traffic in the airport, they help to ensure that LGW meet their people flow SLAs of getting people from check-in and through security.

Finally we talked about why Cisco have acquired Splunk, the market opportuntiy it creates and how partners like Cisilion will be able to leverage this aquisition into the Cisco portfolio over time. Mark talks about this being a strategic move to integrate Splunk’s data analytics with Cisco’s network and security solutions, offering a comprehensive approach to observability and security and giving them a real competitive edge whilst, increasing their market share and making the solutions simpler for their customers.

Using the power of AI, I have used Microsoft Copilot to breakdown the key sections of the video and help you to navigate to areas you think might be useful to you.

(I have a video on how to do this which you can access -> here -<

Cisilion and Splunk Fireside Chat – Key Coversations

  • [00:01:18] Introduction of Mark Brown from Splunk
    • Leads the UK solution engineering team
    • Discusses Splunk’s recent acquisition by Cisco
    • Highlights the value Splunk brings to businesses
  • [00:03:00] Explanation of what Splunk is
    • Describes Splunk as a platform for searching logs in data centers
    • Evolved into a leader in security and observability
    • Known as the “Google for the data center”
  • [00:18:09] Cisco’s acquisition of Splunk
    • Seen as a natural fit with little overlap in technology offerings
    • Expected to enhance both Cisco’s and Splunk’s product portfolios
    • Acquisition aligns with Cisco’s strategy to expand software offerings
  • [00:08:14] Reference customers of Splunk
    • Splunk’s reference customers span 110 countries and includes major brands across various industries
    • Talking through examples including Siemens, Singapore Airlines, and Gatwick Airport
    • Talking about wider use cases that demonstrate Splunk’s adaptability and impact
  • [00:14:22] Splunk’s competition in the market
    • How and where Splunk competes with and partners with various tech companies such as Data Dog and Relic
    • How Microsoft Sentinel have also become a leader in the SIEM space in just two years and how Microsoft and Splunk are working together to deliver Splunk Solutions to customers in Azure.
    • How Splunk have been leaders for more than 10 years.
  • [00:17:46] Cisilion’s perspective on the acquisition
    • How Cisilion are excited about the integration and potential for new market opportunities and the alignment between Cisco and Microsoft, Cisilion’s two strategic partners.
    • How we see the acquisition as a way to complete the technology journey for clients bringing together multiple technnologies and creating a single pane of glass for security logs and observability.
    • Our forward looking view on the game-changing advancements in observability and security this aquisition could bring to Cisco.
  • 00:25:23] The chat continues around use cases, market trends and the future of security and observability

Welcome your views on the video and the discussion as always.

Microsoft and Splunk Lead in Gartner 2024 MQ for SIEM

The digital security landscape is constantly challenged by sophisticated threats, making the role of Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems more critical than ever. In the 2024 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for SIEM, Microsoft and Splunk have been recognised as leaders, demonstrating excellence in vision and execution in the SIEM space.

Gartner said in their 2024 report that “The SIEM market grew from $5.03 billion in 2022 to $5.7 billion in 2023 (see Market Share: All Software Markets, Worldwide, 2023), a 13% annual growth rate compared to a 22% increase the previous year. The primary drivers of a SIEM purchase are threat detection, response, exposure management and compliance. Buyers are seeking a SIEM ecosystem with broad and deep capabilities to satisfy multiple security and business use cases with capabilities to support a diverse environment.”

Image (c) Gartner 2024

The Significance of SIEM in Cybersecurity

SIEM technology is essential for organisations to effectively manage security events and information. It provides real-time visibility across an organisation’s information security systems (multi vendor), providing single pane of glass event log management, compliance reporting, and incident response capabilities. The ability to swiftly detect, analyse, and respond to security incidents is what makes SIEM a cornerstone of enterprise security strategies.

Friends and Foes?

In 2023, Splunk and Microsoft agreed to partnering to help build Splunk’s enterprise security and observability offerings on Microsoft Azure. This means that Splunk solutions are now available for purchase on the Microsoft Azure Marketplace as well as AWS Market place. This is great for both parties and Microsoft Partners who sell and deploy Azure Services to their clients.

Microsoft’s Leadership with Sentinel

Microsoft has been acknowledged as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for SIEM for its comprehensive, cloud-native solution, Microsoft Sentinel1. According to Gartner, Microsoft Sentinel stands out with its unified security operations platform, blending SIEM, XDR, AI, Threat Intelligence, and extended posture management into a single experience. This platform is powered by generative AI, offering end-to-end protection and consolidating various security operations tools into a coherent experience.

Strengths:

Best Fit for Sentinel:

Gartner cite Microsoft Sentinel as being best for organisations that require or demand a cloud-native SIEM solution with advanced AI capabilities and integration with other Microsoft security products will find Microsoft Sentinel to be an ideal fit. Sentinel works with a huge number of external cloud and on-premises data connectors (including Splunk).

Splunk’s Data-Centric Excellence in SIEM

Splunk remains a joint leader in the SIEM market, praised as always for their data-centric security analytics solution, The Enterprise Security application from Splunk is available both on-premises and as SaaS. Splunk provides pricing flexibility, which can be based on daily data ingestion or cloud workloads, referred to as Splunk Virtual Compute. Splunk primarily serves large enterprise organizations in North USA

Splunk have said they are launching a new AI Assistant for Security, which will be integrated with Enterprise Security to enhance detection and response functions. Cisco finalized the acquisition of Splunk on March 18, 2024 and we expect to see integration and cross pollenisation of their combined portfolio at somepoint in 2025.

Gartner point out that currently Splunk has a significantly higher-than-average cost compared to other vendors in their report, is more complex to deploy and configure (measured in pro services days) and currently low numbers of sales support staff outside the US – though with Cisco’s aquisiton of Splunk this is likely to change over the next 18-24 months.

Strengths:

  • Overall observability: The Splunk platform can integrate security, IT, application and other data sources. This, coupled with its federated search and analytics capabilities across third-party data stores, is a strength for clients seeking to build highly enriched queries and alerts.
  • Extensive integration: Splunk’s integration of SOAR enhances a wide range of common SIEM use cases. Clients wanting quick time to production automation for common SIEM operational functions will find Splunk’s library of playbooks a strength.
  • User interface: Splunk’s UI and dashboard provide significant customization. Clients requiring custom animations and visualization for specialized monitoring, such as OT or financial systems, will find the UI editor an overall strength

Best Fit

Splunk is particularly suited for very large organisations that value a data-driven approach to security and need powerful analytics to manage complex security environments. Microsoft is actually one of Spunk’s largest customers.

Conclusion

Microsoft and Splunk continue to lead the SIEM market with their innovative solutions. Sentinel offers a world-class leading, cloud-native, AI-enriched platform that simplifies operations and accelerates threat resolution.

Splunk provides a robust, data-centric approach to security analytics, enabling organizations to respond to threats with speed and precision and is ideally suited for the largest of enterprises as well as those who remain mainly on-prem and less “all in with cloud”. Splunk also has a strategic alignment and integration with Microsoft Sentinel.

As a Microsoft and Cisco leading UK partner, we are excited to be working with both Cisco and Splunk (Cisco) in this space with the abiluty to guide and consult around customer hosted, Azure hosted and cloud-native SIEM solutions. We also love ther fact that we can now meet customers on their ground with the ability to deploy Splunk on Azure via the market place to our clients.


Cisco Hyper Shield: Data Centre security redefined.

Cisco has introduced a new product called Hypershield, which they claim is one of the most significant security products in Cisco’s history. It is expected to be generally available starting from July 2024.

What is Hyper Shield?

Hypershield is a cloud-native, AI-powered system designed to enhance the security of AI-scale data centers. Unlike traditional security products, hyper shield is integrated directly into the network’s fabric, offering a revolutionary approach to protecting digital infrastructure services in data centres, protecting applications, devices, and data across public and private data centers, clouds, and physical locations.

This is the Most Consequential security  announcement In Cisco’s 40-Year History

Cisco.

The holistic system promises to bring the security advantages of a hyperscale model to enterprises, allowing security to be embedded in every software component of every application running on the network, on every server, and in both public and private cloud deployments.

How Hyper Shield is different.

Hypershield is different to traditional security “bolt ons” because it not just a new security product or the next version of something that already exists. What makes this different and unique, is that Hyper Shield represents a brand-new security architecture model built from the ground. It uses an open-source technology called eBPF that hyperscalers use to automate patching and other time-consuming jobs. It has the ability to transform every network port into a high-performance security enforcement point and works by blocks application exploits in minutes while preventing  lateral movement of attacks.

Innovation from within

I think Hypershield is exciting because it represents a significant shift in how security is approached within the data centre fabric.

“Why we think this is the most consequential is we’re taking what used to be a firewall, an appliance, and we’re like melting into the network. It’s not a separate thing that you add on. It’s like magic. It writes its own rules, it tests its own rules, it qualifies its own rules, deploys its own rules, and then overnight it upgrades itself”

Tom Gillis | VP Security | Cisco

It is built with technology originally developed for hyperscale public clouds Cisco are making this technology available for enterprise IT teams of all sizes regardless of how big their data centre foot print is. It works by enabling security enforcement to be placed everywhere it needs to be, at the application and data layer, which is a major shift and change in how traditional data centre security works. Cisco say that it’s expected to have a significant impact on how businesses protect their digital assets.

With this innovation … we have actually been able to deliver something that’s unlike anything we’ve done in the last 40 years at Cisco. And I will say that we’re just getting started.

Jeetu Patel | Cisco’s EVP

Rather than relying on traditional network and application level firewalls in the datacentre, Hypershield works by essentially providing security boundaries around every application and service. It naturally uses artificial intelligence to learn and adapt, so it gets better at detecting and understand normal activity from attack attempts. 

I look forward to learning more about this.


Read more from Cisco

Cisco Hypershield: Security reimagined.
Cisco Reimagines Security for Data Centers & Clouds in Era of AI.

CRN Report:

Cisco announces “AI Assistant for Security”

Last month, and now just a few weeks away from Cisco Live, Cisco have announced they are bringing a new “AI Assistant for Security” to market this year. This is an artificial intelligence tool that combines generative AI technologies with an “unparalleled scope of data” , giving IT/SecOps teams the ability to generate more secure, AI-driven insights that span devices, applications, security, networks, and the internet .

“AI Assistant for Security will help provide better protection to our customers by simplifying management for both seasoned administrators and novice users. Our aim is to inject generative AI and unify telemetry across all Cisco Security solutions to create a more effective experience and safeguard our customers”

Brian Feeney | VP Global security partner sales | Cisco

Cisco AI Assistant for Security marks a major step in making artificial intelligence pervasive in the Cisco Security Cloud. Starting with the Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center, Cybersecurity professionals will be able to leverages Cisco AI Assistant for streamlining and automating firewall management both on premises and in the cloud.

Firewalls first – more later

Cisco have said that they will launch the AI Assistant for firewall as soon as Spring 2024, with this representing a great opportunity for their partners and customers to start leverage the advantages of AI.

Cisco say this will be included and integrated into their cloud-delivered Firewall Management Center with no additional charge. Longer term, Cisco said they plan to extend it to their other firewall management tools later.

Why? Well, according to Gartner, Configuration complexity and inconsistent rules are among the highest cause of security risks and breaches when it comes to configuring networks and firewalls with misconfiguration being the cause of nintey nine percent (99%) of all firewall breaches.

Image (c) Cisco

The AI Assistant for Security is built on “Ciscos foundation of security, data protection, and privacy, guided by Cisco’s responsible AI principles and framework”. Their AI assistant is trained on Cisco’s huge security-focused datasets, (Talos) which analyses more than 550 billion security events daily and helps IT and SecOps teams in making informed decisions, enhancing their tooling and reporting capabilities, and automating intricate tasks.

“Cisco is harnessing AI to reframe how organisations think about cybersecurity outcomes and tip the scales in favor of defenders. Cisco combines AI with its breadth of telemetry across the network, private and public cloud infrastructure, applications, internet, email, and endpoints. “

Jeetu Patel | VP security and collaboration | Cisco

Cisco say that their Cisco AI Assistant for Security is a major step forward in making artificial intelligence relevant and pervasive in the Cisco Security Cloud – their unified, AI-driven, cross-domain security platform. Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center will be the first platform to leverage the AI Assistant for Security to simplify firewall management.

This should make it much easier to manage and maintaining firewall rules and policies, by enabling administrators to “talk to and administer” the platform to with natural language to find policies, understand rules, spot anonomises and even get suggestions for new rules.

How AI Assistant for Security is different to Microsoft Security Copilot?

Scope

Cisco AI Assistant for Security and Microsoft Security Copilot are both artificial intelligence tools that are designed to help IT and SecOps teams work do efficiently, smarter and safer users work faster, but the platforms and services are different in several ways when comparing to Microsoft Security Copilot.

Cisco’s AI assistant is designed to work across (initially) their firewall services (with other services that make up the Cisco Secure Cloud portfolio coming later), Microsoft Security Copilot is designed to assist cybersecurity professionals in investigating critical incidents across their entire security portfolio including Microsoft 365, their XDR platform, Azure and Sentinel. Microsoft Security Copilot doesn’t work across physical security devices like firewalls so the two services are potentially good complementing services.

Microsoft has combined the power of OpenAI’s large language model with Microsoft’s own threat analysis footprints which is informed by more than 100 different data sources across Microsoft 365,Azure and hundreds of this party data analysis companies. It uses the combined intelligence of more than 65 trillion threat signals every day to provide company and sector specific insights, alerts and guidance.

Use Cases

Currently AI Assistant for Security is designed to help organisations better configure their security services (starting with firewalls), detect inconsistencies (for example across different sites, service or offices). This will expand over time however and we expect more to be annouced in Feb 2024 at Cisco Live in Amsterdam.

Use cases for Microsoft Security Copilot include for example the ability to allow admins to use prompting language prompting to ask Copilot to  acreste an exec level report on an incident response for a particular ongoing investigation. Copilot will pull data across multiple sources based on the set of interrelated and connected tools and services. Another change of prompt for example could the see Copilot provide more information, change how it displays or summarises the report, or even create lessons learned documents or suggest changes in process.

Cost

According to Cisco, the AI assistant for Security will be generally available for firewall customers in the spring of 2024 at no additional cost via the cloud-delivered Firewall Management Center (FMC) and expanding to other management tools in the future.

Microsoft Security Copilot, however, which is currently in paid public preview is expected to cost >$100k when it’s officially availabily later this year.

A better together story?

As you can see the Cisco and Microsoft’s offering in this space is quite different. While Cisco see their AI Assistant for Security as a way of differentiating their brand in the cyber security space and to leap ahead of the competition in this traditional secoery space (think Palo, HPE, Dell, Checkpoint etc), Microsoft Security Copilot is more geared towards collating security signals from the organisations configuration, reports and signals from Microsoft’s own threat intelligence of 65 Trillion signals, the organisations configuration and third party connected signals to provide almost an AI powered cyber security team.

I very much see this as a “use both” better together theme.

Closing Thoughts

According to Gartner, Configuration complexity and inconsistent rules are among the highest cause of security risks and breaches when it comes to configuring networks and firewalls with misconfiguration being the cause of nintey nine percent (99%) of all firewall breaches.

As such, launching this with a “firewall first” approach is a sensible move by Cisco to add more value to their offering through the use of embedding generative AI into their core security product base without adding a surcharge or making it “Premium”. It should help to further position Cisco as a Leader in the security space against the fierce completion. I look forward to this being available and for Cisco to increase it’s reach over time to the rest of their portfolio.


Read more

You can learn more about Microsoft Security Copilot at and Cisco’s AI assistant below.

Cisco Announcement and Blog: Help Firewall Admins With Cisco AI Assistant for Security

Cisco AI Assistant: Cisco AI Assistant – Cisco

Microsoft Security Copilot: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/business/ai-machine-learning/microsoft-security-copilot



2023 year in review – from the eyes of my Blog

Hello, followers and subscribers! As the year comes to an end, I want to take a moment to thank you for your support and interest in my blog. It has been a busy and exciting year in tech and I hope you enjoyed reading my posts which focussed mainly around AI, Modern Work, Cloud Security, Windows and Surface.

In my last blog post before Christmas, I will recap some of the highlights of what I posted about throughout 2023. Let’s take a look at what news and info I shared this year.

If you dont currently read or subscribe to my blog you can tune in or subscribe here.

January 2023

I kicked of the new year with ISE event, some news around Microsoft’sd Secyriuty revenue, the MVP programme and Cisco and Microsoft’s partnership around collaboration.

  • Cisco and Microsoft Teams partnership: The blog discusses the significance and benefits of the collaboration between Cisco and Microsoft to enable Cisco devices to run both Webex and Teams seamlessly without a reboot¹[1].
  • Microsoft’s security revenue and market share: The blog reports on Microsoft’s impressive growth in the cybersecurity market, driven by its integrated and comprehensive security portfolio and partner ecosystem.
  • Teams Premium features and pricing: The blog explains what Teams Premium is, how it differs from the standard Teams license, and how much it costs for different currencies.
  • Microsoft’s cloud price harmonisation: The blog informs about Microsoft’s plan to align the pricing of its cloud products and services across the globe based on the US dollar exchange rate, and how customers can prepare for it²[2].
  • Windows Insider MVP award and program: The blog shares the author’s personal experience and excitement of being re-awarded as a Windows Insider MVP, and invites others to join the Windows Insider Program and nominate potential MVPs.

February 2023

In february 2023, we sawe Cisco Contact Centre certified for Teams and a new Teams client announced (which is now generally available). I also found my old RM Tablet PC (running Windows XP tablet and did a quick recap review). Here is a summary of all the things I blogged about in Feb 23:

  • Microsoft Teams new client: The blog reports that Microsoft is working on a new version of Teams that will be faster, more efficient, and more stable than the current one. The new version will use Webview2 and React technologies and will be available in preview soon.
  • Webex Contact Center for Teams: The blog announces that Cisco Webex Contact Center has received official Microsoft Teams certification, which means that it can integrate seamlessly with Teams to provide enterprise-class customer service across multiple channels. The blog explains the benefits of this integration for both Microsoft and Cisco, as well as for organisations, partners, and customers.
  • Yealink DeskVision A24: The blog reviews a new all-in-one collaboration device from Yealink that combines a 24 inch 4K touch-display, a pop-up camera, a speaker, a wireless charger, and a touch screen monitor. The device is certified for both Teams and Zoom and offers a premium desktop collaboration experience. The blog praises the device’s design, functionality, and value.
  • RM Tablet PC: The blog revisits an old RM Tablet PC from 2002 that ran Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, which was a special edition of Windows XP designed for pen-sensitive screens. The blog credits the RM Tablet PC and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition for introducing and innovating the touch and tablet computing world that we now take for granted. The blog also reflects on the evolution of tablet devices and operating systems since then such as Microsoft Surface Pro.

March 2023

March was a busy month. We saw the Cisco and Microsoft partnership expand, talked about how Cisco Thousand Eyes is a vital tool for troubsleooting and managing the end user expewrience in the world of remote work and SaaS applications, chewed the fat over Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop, covered new AI features coming to Windows 11 and of course, covered the huge announcement about the upcoming Microsoft 365 Copilot. Here’s some of the things I talked about:

  • Microsoft and Cisco partnership: The blog starts with the announcement of the certification of Cisco Board Pro to run Microsoft Teams Rooms natively, as well as supporting Webex. This is part of the ongoing collaboration between Microsoft and Cisco to provide interoperability and seamless experiences for their customers.
  • Surface Hub 2S update: The blog then mentions the new version of Windows that will ship with the next generation of Surface Hub 2S devices, called Teams Rooms on Windows. This will feature a new user interface, unified management, and new collaborative features such as FrontRow and Copilot for Teams.
  • New Teams app for Windows: The blog also covers the new preview version of the Teams app for Windows, which is said to be faster, more efficient, and more streamlined. The new app also includes the foundations for new AI-powered experiences, such as Copilot for Microsoft Teams.
  • Microsoft 365 Copilot: The blog introduces Microsoft 365 Copilot, a new AI assistant that leverages large language models and Microsoft Graph data to help users with natural language queries, tasks, insights, and content creation across Microsoft 365 apps and services.
  • ThousandEyes by Cisco: The blog explains how ThousandEyes by Cisco is a digital end user experience monitoring solution that helps ensure optimal performance of SaaS apps and cloud services for employees and customers. It also compares it with Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365.
  • Windows 11 updates: The blog concludes with a summary of the latest updates and features coming to Windows 11 in 2023, such as Taskbar enhancements, Energy Recommendations, File Explorer improvements, and Moment updates.

April 2023

April saw me talk more about updated to Windows 11 and Windows 365 (including Windows 365 Boot), a review of the gorgeous Surface Pro 9 5G, new AI features in Widnows 11 and Surface and the lauch of Mcirosoft Designer in preview.

May 2023

May 2023, saw Microsoft Announce Fabric – their new data analtics platform for the AI era, Windows Copilot (the neg gen Clippy/Cortana for Windows 11) and a in depth comparison of ChatGPT vs Bing Chat (now, Copilot). Here are the summaries of the blog posts in order:

  • Microsoft Fabric: A new data and analytics platform for the AI era. This post introduces Microsoft Fabric, a new platform that integrates Azure Data Factory, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Power BI into a single product. Fabric aims to simplify data management, integration, and operation by providing a lake-centric, open, and AI-powered approach. Fabric also offers role-specific experiences for data professionals and business users, as well as seamless integration with Microsoft 365 applications.
  • Windows Copilot: The Cortana that never was. This post discusses the new Windows Copilot feature that will bring AI to the forefront of Windows 11. Copilot will live in the Windows sidebar and offer contextual actions and suggestions based on what’s on screen. Users will also be able to ask natural language questions and Copilot will respond much like Bing Chat. Copilot will also support third-party plugins that use OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology, enabling cross-application tasks and generative AI capabilities.
  • Bing Chat vs ChatGPT: Why Bing Chat is better. This post compares and contrasts Bing Chat and ChatGPT, two natural language chatbots that use OpenAI’s GPT technology. The post argues that Bing Chat is superior to ChatGPT in several aspects, such as speed, accuracy, quality, capability, and accessibility. The post also highlights some of the unique features of Bing Chat, such as web search, image search, image creation, conversation modes, and integration with other Microsoft apps and services.

June 2023

June 2023, I talked about how Microsoft is helping defend Ukraine from Cyber Attacks from Russia, the death of Internet Explorer and Windows Autopatch. We also looked at the massive changes to Cisco’s Cloud managed network infrastructure solutions.

Here are the summaries of the blog posts in order:

  • Microsoft shares lessons from Ukraine cyber war. This post talks about how Microsoft helped Ukraine defend against Russian cyberattacks and information operations, and what insights they gained from this experience.
  • Cisco brings Catalyst to the Meraki cloud. This post announced that Cisco was introducing a new option for customers to manage their Catalyst switches and access points using the Cisco Meraki cloud dashboard. This was announced at Cisco Live 2023.
  • Microsoft announces Viva Sales. This post introduces a new intelligent service that connects customer data across any CRM into Teams and Office and fills many of the gaps left by legacy CRM platforms. This was the latest additon to the Microsoft’s Viva suite.
  • Internet Explorer is officially dead: This post marks the end of life of Internet Explorer, the once dominant web browser that was released in 1995. It explains what end of life means for users, and why they should switch to Microsoft Edge or other modern browsers. It also reviews the history of Internet Explorer, its decline in market share, and its legacy features that are still supported by Edge.
  • Microsoft acquires Milburo: This post reveals that Microsoft has agreed to acquire Milburo, a world leader in foreign threat analysis and research detection services. It states that Milburo will join Microsoft’s Customer Security and Trust organisation, and will enhance Microsoft’s threat detection and analysis capabilities.
  • Microsoft launches software updates dashboard: This post unveils a new software updates dashboard in the Microsoft 365 admin center that enables IT to get a unified overview of the installation status of Windows and Microsoft 365 app updates across all their devices. It shows how the dashboard provides charts and statistics on update status and end of service, and how it supports both fully managed and monitored only devices. It also provides links to further information and instructions on how to enable the preview.
  • Windows Autopatch reaches public preview: This post announces that Windows Autopatch, a service to automatically keep Windows and Microsoft 365 up to date in enterprise organisations, has now reached public preview. It describes how Windows Autopatch shifts the update orchestration burden from the IT department to Microsoft, and how it provides features such as testing rings, halt and rollback, and expedited updates. I also covered prerequisites, licensing, and features of the service, and how to join the preview.

July 2023

The second part of the year, kicked off with pricing being announced for Microsoft 365 Copilot, Microsoft renaming Azure AD to Entra ID and Bing Chat Enterprise (a commercial grade version of Bing Chat) being made available free to Microsoft 365 Business and Enterprise Customers.

  • Bing Chat Enterprise: A new version of Bing Chat that is secure and private for work, powered by generative AI. It can be accessed from Microsoft Edge, Windows 11, or bing.com/chat. It is free for existing Microsoft 365 customers or $5 per user per month as a standalone version.
  • Microsoft 365 Copilot Pricing: An AI powered service that brings generative AI features into Microsoft 365 apps and services. It is currently in a closed private preview and will cost $30 per user per month for commercial customers on top of their Microsoft 365 licenses.
  • Orca AI: A new open-sourced AI model that can imitate the reasoning of large foundation models like GPT-4 in a much smaller footprint. It is designed to solve the limitations of using smaller language models and revolutionise the AI industry.
  • Microsoft Entra ID: A new brand name for Microsoft’s unified access and security offering, which includes two new products: Entra Private Access and Entra Internet Access. These products are designed to provide identity-centric and zero trust network access to any app or resource, from anywhere. Azure Active Directory is also renamed to Entra ID.

August 2023

In August (while many of were on summer holidays), I gave some key tips o Microsoft 365 Copilot based on feedback and questions from customers, talked about Microsoft’s upcoming Surface and Windows 11 event, highlighed key things from Cisco’s latest Network Trends report.

Here are the summaries of the three blog posts on this page:

  • 5 things you need to know about Microsoft 365 Copilot: This post covered the main features and benefits of Microsoft 365 Copilot, a new AI-powered assistant that can help users with various tasks across Microsoft 365 apps. It also discussed the pricing, availability, and preparation for Copilot, as well as the potential drawbacks and limitations of AI-generated content.
  • New devices? More AI? What is coming to Windows 11 and Surface?: This post speculates on what Microsoft we going to announce at their “special event” on September 21st, 2023. It expects that Microsoft will unveil new Surface products, such as Surface Laptop Studio 2, Surface Laptop Go 3, and Surface Go 4, as well as highlight the recent advancements in AI, such as Windows Copilot, Bing Chat Enterprise, and Windows Studio Effects.
  • Cisco adds ransomware detection and recovery to their XDR system: This post reports on Cisco’s new solution that integrates their Extended Detection and Response (XDR) system with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings to provide ransomware detection and recovery support. It explains how this solution can help organisations protect and restore their data in the event of a ransomware attack, and how it fits into Cisco’s comprehensive security portfolio.
  • Key highlights from Cisco network Trends Report. The blog post discusses the 2023 Global Networking Trends Report by Cisco, which covers some of the emerging networking trends in the multi-cloud world, and how they affect the IT operations and security of organisations and highlights the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work and multi-cloud adoption, such as providing secure access to applications distributed across multiple cloud platforms, gaining end-to-end visibility into network performance and security, and adopting a SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) model that delivers simplified and consistent security and performance for multi-cloud access and hybrid work. I also covered an overview of the Cisco products that can help organisations address many of the challenges of multi-cloud networking and security, such as Cisco SD-WAN, Cisco Umbrella, Cisco Cloudlock, and Cisco SASE.

September 2023

This was a busy month of blogging. I talked about the Meta and Microsoft partnership, availability of Microsoft 365 Copilot for “some customers”, Cisco’s aquistion of Splunk, New AI features in Surface and Windows, Microsoft Copilot “copyright” protection, changes to E5 licensing with more Security included and more.

Here are the key things talked about in each blog post on this page:

  • Meta AI to use Microsoft Bing: This post discusses the expanded AI partnership between Microsoft and Meta, which will integrate Bing Search into Meta’s AI chat experiences, such as ChatGPT, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram.
  • Microsoft Mesh entered public preview in October: This post introduces Microsoft Mesh, a new 3D immersive experience that will be surfaced through Microsoft Teams. It explains how Mesh can help blur the lines between the physical and virtual space, and how to get started with it.
  • Microsoft unveils the Surface Hub 3: This post explores the features and benefits of Surface Hub 3, the latest all-in-one hybrid meeting and collaboration device that combines the best of Microsoft Teams Rooms, Windows, and Surface Hub. It also compares it to Surface Hub 2S and explains how to upgrade from it.
  • Cisco to Aquire Splunk: This post reports the news that Cisco will acquire Splunk, a cybersecurity and observability platform, for $28 billion. It describes how the acquisition will help Cisco create the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability solutions.
  • Microsoft announces Microsoft 365 Copilot availabilty: This post announces the availability and pricing of Microsoft 365 Copilot, a new AI assistant that helps users with various tasks across Microsoft 365 apps and services. It also covers the features and benefits of Copilot in Windows, Bing, and Microsoft Shopping.
  • Windows 365 get’s top spot in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. – where I discussed that Microsoft had been recognized as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant™ for Desktop as a Service (DaaS), which is the provision of virtual desktops by a public cloud or service provider. We covered their Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop platforms and Microsoft’s unique position in this space.

October 2023

October saw me talk more about the ROI of Microsoft Copilot, the new vision for Micrsosoft OneDrive, Teams Town Hall, major updates to Bing Image Creator and the end of support (RIP) for Windows Server 2012!

  • OneDrive 3.0 Update: This post announces a major update for OneDrive, which includes a new design, AI features, and more. It also explains how to get started with OneDrive Town Hall, a new experience for large-scale events that replaces Live Events.
  • Teams Town Hall: This post introduces Teams Town Hall, a new feature that allows users to host various types of internal and external events, such as company-wide town halls, all hands, global team meetings, etc. It also describes the advanced production capabilities, the structured approach for attendee engagement, and the unified experience for users that Teams Town Hall offers.
  • Windows 11 Moment 4 Update: This post highlights the new features and improvements that are rolling out with the latest feature update for Windows 11. It includes a new File Explorer design, Copilot for Windows, a new AI assistant, improvements to the Taskbar, and notable in-box app updates.
  • Windows Server 2012 End of Support: This post reminds users that support for Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 ended on 10th Oct 234. It also provides some options for users to upgrade, purchase Extended Security Updates, or migrate to Azure.
  • Bing Image Creator: This post showcases the new Bing Image Creator, which uses OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 to generate high-quality, creative, and realistic images from natural language prompts. It also explains how to use Bing Image Creator and how it provides improved safety and ethics with content credentials and content moderation system.
  • Microsoft 365 CoPilot: What is the ROI? – This talked about availability and pricing of Copilot, and went into looking at examples around the ROI. We explored how it can help with productivity, creativity, and decision-making for users who can leverage its features and capabilities and looked at some numbers. We also covered the need to adopt Copilot in the right way – proper planning, training, support, and data management to ensure successful adoption and measurable outcomes.
  • News about the key annoucements at Microsoft Envision: this was a review of the key things announced at Microsoft’s AI event in London in 2023. I talked about my take on the keynote speeches and what we have and what is coming in this esciting world of AI.

November 2023

Another busy month of news – it never slows down. In November I talked about my hands on experiences with Windows 365, Copilot coming to Windows 10, all the new “Copilots” Microsoft announced at Ignite, new Apps in Teams and did a demo and walk through of Copilkot Studio. I also shared my view on why “everyone” needs a Surface Pro for work!! I also shared details of major updates coming to Cisco’s partner programme in 2024.

Here is a summary of my key blog posts:

December 2023

In the the last month of 2023 (a short month for many), I closed the year with a post about the Cisco and Microsoft “better together” story and invited people to register for our event in January at our new Client Exdperience Centre, gave tips on writing AI prompts, talked about Google’s Gemini AI (the ChatGPT compete), talked more about Designer and Image Creation, updates to Copilot with GPT4 Turbo, and highlighted the results of the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for UCaaS. We also talk about Mcirosoft investment in the UK for AI data centres and charges coming for Windows 10 support beyond 2025.

  • Cisco and Microsoft: Simplifying Enterprise Collaboration. This post discusses how Cisco and Microsoft have partnered to enable Cisco’s Webex video devices to connect to Microsoft Teams meeting services, and how this collaboration benefits customers who use both platforms.
  • Microsoft investing 2.5 Billion in UK Data Centres – This blog seems me talk about what this means for the UK and for AI, jobs and the future.
  • Prompt Engineering: AI prompts that punch! This post provides some tips on how to write and perfect good AI prompts for generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Copilot, including how to be specific, provide context, use simple language, and experiment with different variations.
  • Teams meetings, webinars and Townhalls. What to use when. This post explains the differences and use cases of three distinct formats of virtual events in Teams: meetings, webinars, and town halls. It also outlines the key features and considerations of each format.
  • Microsoft and Cisco: Leaders in the UCaaS Gartner 2023 Magic Quadrant This post summarises the highlights of the Gartner 2023 Magic Quadrant for UCaaS, where Microsoft and Cisco are both Leaders. It also compares their strengths and weaknesses in terms of messaging, meetings, telephony, contact center, and pricing.
  • What is Google Gemini and when is it available? This post introduces Google Gemini, a new AI-powered search engine that aims to provide more relevant and personalised results for users. It also discusses the features and benefits of Google Gemini, such as semantic understanding, contextual awareness, and conversational interface. It says that Google Gemini is expected to launch in mid-2024.

Goodbye 2023 – Hello to an AI Powered 2024

That’s it for my year in review! I hope you enjoyed reading it, maybe learned something new or useful from it or saw different perspective.

I want to thank you again for your support and interest in my blog and for being part of my journey. I appreciate your comments, likes, shares, and feedback and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

In 2023, we witnessed the dawn of a new era, where AI became an integral part of our everyday lives, enabling us to accomplish things beyond our imagination. This era is as significant as the inception of the personal computer, the start of the world wide web, mobile phones, and cloud in the previous decades. What new opportunities and challenges will AI bring us in 2024?

I wish you all a Happy New Year! May 2024 bring you health, happiness, and success in all your endeavors!

Thanks again,
Rob

Cisco and Microsoft: Simplifying Enterprise Collaboration.

In early 2023, Cisco and Microsoft joined forces to deliver a better user collaboration and meeting experience for their customers.

This partnership enables Cisco’s Webex video devices to connect to Microsoft Teams meeting services. This collaboration aims to provide customers with simplified and accelerated interoperability options when using Cisco Webex Teams and Webex Meetings solutions.

This was a major announcement at the time, as traditionally Cisco had gone head-to-head with Microsoft competing against Teams with their Webex offering. Times have changed and the vision they had is now a reality and I’m really excited to be able to show this off in our new Client Experience Centre in London.

Collaboration spaces that are agile and innovative.

Post COVID-19 office workplaces are different to what we had before, and organisations are investing heavily in creating workspaces and meeting spaces that are designed for the hybrid way we all work. Every organisation I work with is following new guidelines, rethinking, and creating spaces that are more innovative and agile than ever before.

People are at the forefront of shaping the way work is performed, and they need the right spaces and collaboration technologies to get work done even faster. These tools must work seamlessly together to be impactful in enabling teamwork that leads to better results, higher productivity, and engaged employees. Above all every space and the technology within them needs to work not just with in person meetings but accepting the fact that at least one meeting attendee will be remote ant that not every organisation uses the same collaboration platform, (Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom etc.), and some use more than one).

Cisco and Microsoft raise the bar in cross collaboration.

For the past year (almost), we have seen almost all of Cisco’s meeting devices become certified on Teams, but it doesn’t stop here.

Cisco and Microsoft have been working on refining the way cross join works between their Webex platform and Microsoft Teams to create a seamless meeting experience regardless of what platform you join from. This is not only good from working with other organisations that don’t use the same meeting platform as you, but also internally where some departments or regions may use different meeting platforms. Cisco and Microsoft’s approach enables an enhanced direct guest join capability from each other’s meeting/video endpoint their respective meeting service. In the case of Cisco, their need meeting endpoints which are certified on Teams have the ability to natively run both Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams at the same time and switch in real time to the relevant platform without any user intervention.

There are several benefits to this partnership approach and are designed to meet the customer wherever they are on their investment, migration or interoperability need:

1. Simplified Collaboration with Cross Join: The partnership between Cisco and Microsoft simplifies the collaboration experience for users. It enables users to connect and collaborate with teammates, partners, and customers seamlessly using WebRTC (or Cloud Video Interop (CVI). Cisco offer both native meetings on Teams and Webex whilst still providing the ability to access all Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR) features along with a full experience for Webex meetings with one touch join. Today, only Cisco devices can do this.

2. Interoperability beyond just meeting join: Users can see the presence status (available, busy, away, or offline) of their contacts within both platforms and can share content (there are some limitations) and also chat between both platforms.

3. Leading Sustainability: Organisations with an existing investment in Cisco Webex technology that want to retain their investment in Cisco Webex whilst also wishing to invest/support Microsoft Teams either within their environment or to improve collaboration with their customers. Cisco hardware has environmental sensors which can monitor air quality, room temperature, ambient noise and light and use up to 70% less power than previous generations of room kit. The Cisco Control Hub software also provides a great job of providing end to end analysis and trends of the data from these sensors not only across their meeting room technologies but also across their network infrastructure.

4. Enhanced User Experience: This capability leverages multiple methods of interoperability along with true cross join between Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams delivers a seamless and enhanced user experience – reducing IT support effort, reducing meeting join friction and resulting in effortless collaboration and more engaged employees. This will presence status sharing and native in platform content sharing is also a game changer.

5. Sensors and Analytics: Cisco Webex devices, along with other network products from Cisco, have various features that improve the user experience. For example, Cisco Room kit has integrated sensors that can sense how many people are in a room and adjust the lighting and temperature accordingly. Room analytics can also provide insights into how meeting spaces are used, such as the number of attendees, the length of the meeting, and the level of engagement. Cisco Thousand Eyes is a service that monitors the performance of the network, internet and SaaS services such as Webex and Microsoft Teams. It gives a comprehensive view of the network path, enabling IT teams to proactively detect and fix issues that affect collaboration. In August 2023, Thousand Eyes Endpoint Agents for Cisco Room OS devices was launched.

6. Competitive hardware pricing: Whilst Cisco is a premium brand, organisations can get extremely aggressive and competitive pricing for Cisco Collaboration devices, especially if they are already invested in other technologies. Working with your Cisco partner there is very competitive pricing, and, in our experience, Cisco pricing is comparable to all other main manufacturers in the market.

Come and see live demos.

On the 25th of January, we (Cisilion), are hosting an in-person event in our new London Client Experience Centre where will be showcasing the Cisco & Microsoft Better Together story and will have expert speakers and tech leads from Cisilion, Cisco and Microsoft.

You can register here to secure your spot.



Read more:

Microsoft and Cisco: Leaders in the Gartner 2023 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service

Gartner this week published their 2023 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service. The full report from Gartner details all the players across all quadrants. This blog is a summary of the highlights from this report on the strengths and weaknesses across both Microsoft and Cisco – who have been in the top right quadrant for many years.

2023 – Key Unified Comms Trends – by Gartner

Gartner’s report identifies an increasing demand for bundles UCaaS and CCaaS solutions, along with the continued growing popularity and demand for Microsoft Teams for voice, meetings and messaging. They also point out the growing importance of CPaaS for customisation and integration, and the changing preferences of users moving more towards collaboration rather than telephony and dial-tone calling. There are five leaders in the 2023 magic quadrant ranked in the following order:

  1. Microsoft
  2. Ring Central
  3. Zoom
  4. Cisco
  5. 8×8

I have summarised the core two vendors I work closely with below

Summary of Microsoft’s Position in 2023

  • Microsoft Positioning: Microsoft remain 1st – top right in the leader’s quadrant with the gap between their competitors increasing. They continue to grow their market share and this year have seen more vendors join their partner eco system for phones and meeting rooms including Cisco.
  • Microsoft’s strengths: Microsoft Teams is the most popular choice in the UCaaS market, especially for organisations that are already using it for messaging and meetings. Microsoft Teams’ telephony capabilities satisfy the requirements of most organisations, and Microsoft has invested have many options to bring telephony into Teams including their own calling plans, direct routing, direct routing as a service and more recently in Operator Connect services. Microsoft has strong financial health and a long track record as a UC/UCaaS vendor. Their seamless integration into both Microsoft 365 and vast extensibility has been a key ingredient for its continued success.
  • Microsoft’s cautions: Microsoft Teams Phone still has some gaps in advanced telephony features, which require third-party solutions or integrations – though it is noted that they are working to close these. Gartner also points out that Microsoft does not offer a self-developed contact center solution for Teams which requires customers to choose from a wide range of varying solutions and levels of integration. Gartner also calls out that Microsoft’s availability SLA target for core UC services (other than PSTN) is lower than most of the UCaaS market.

Summary of Cisco’s Positioning in 2023

  • Cisco Positioning: Cisco remain in the top right quadrant (4th out of 5) but have been over-taken recently by pureplay UCaaS vendors including Zoom and RingCentral. They remain a solid UCaaS vendor with quality products and services.
  • Cisco’s strengths: Gartner credit Cisco as one of the few UCaaS vendors that can deliver a complete, self-developed UC portfolio, including hardware, software, and cloud services. They call out that Cisco has deep expertise and investments in security, regulatory, and industry-specific capabilities and certifications. Cisco has also made big improvements in its Webex Control Hub for unified management, making it a competitive option for large and/or highly distributed multinational organisations.
  • Cisco’s cautions: Gartner say that Cisco’s offering is perceived to be more expensive than its competitors, and its pricing strategy is not very aggressive. Cisco’s Webex contact center solution, whilst suitable for small or midsize contact centres, is not best choice for large, high-volume ones. Cisco faces continued fierce competition from other UCaaS vendors that offer collaboration capabilities to its existing customers, and many have also partnered with Microsoft to provide more choice.

The following table shows a comparison of the vendor, strengths and cautions:

VendorStrengthsCautions
MicrosoftPopular and growing choice for voice, messaging and meetings

Satisfactory telephony capabilities

Strong integration with their own- and third-party apps and services.

Strong financial health and track record with loyal customer base.
Gaps in advanced telephony features

No self-developed contact center option

Lower availability SLA target

Confusing PSTN options
CiscoComplete, self-developed UC portfolio

Deep expertise and investments in security and regulatory

Strong unified management for large and distributed organisations
Perceived to be more expensive than competitors with complicated discount schemes

Contact center solution not suitable for large, high-volume ones

Vast competition from other UCaaS vendors for collaboration
Summary of Cisco and Microsoft in 2023 Garner MQ for UCaaS

Summary

In summary, this report evaluates the UCaaS providers based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision. Microsoft and Cisco are both Leaders in this Magic Quadrant, but they have different strengths and weaknesses.

Gartner say that Microsoft excels in messaging and meetings but lacks advanced telephony features without third parties and has no native contact center solution.

Gartner say that Cisco offers a comprehensive UC portfolio but is more costly and less competitive in contact center. They also have fierce competition amidst the continued growth of Teams and pure play UCaaS providers.

Cisco go Beyond Expectation with huge upgrade to partner incentive program at 2023 Partner Summit.


At Cisco’s 2023 Partner Summit this week, Cisco annouced a massive shakeup in their partner incentive programme. I my experience (and from the partners I work with), this makes Cisco’s incentive programme really stand out as top in class, in terms of where and how partners are rewarded.

In short, this new Partner Incentive is based-on three areas.

  • Rebates for one-time sales deals.
  • Incentives for recurring business.
  • Additional rebates for driving customer value services such as driving adoption and increasing subscription volumes (seats).

Inventives aligned to Cloud

Cisco said that they are transforming the partner program to align with its transition to more software and services-based offerings.

The new Cisco Partner Incentive programme is designed to reward partners for selling Cisco hardware, software and as-a-service solutions by aligning the rebates paid, based on total contract value, customer adoption and growth of the subscriptions they have bought. This will help ensure Cisco partners work more closely with their customers (as against one off deals) to ensure their customers buy it, use it and grow it, rather than just focusing on selling product.

This is a similar approach that longer standing cloud vendors such as Microsoft use to drive usage and adoption of their products and services.

The Cisco Partner Incentive is the biggest change we’ve made to partner incentives in more than a decade and is the capstone on the Cisco partner programme evolution started in 2020.

Marc Surplus |VP partner programs|Cisco

The new icentives will also better support their partners to acquiring new logos, for up selling additional cisco products and services and for cross selling into other accounts. Partner that offer and upsell “Cisco Powered Managed Services” will also receive increased rebates.

Skills Shortages driving Managed Service Demand

Cisco estimates that the managed services market for its products is worth $161 billion, and expects 46% of its sales to be sold as a managed service by 2027.

More and more organisations are turning to trusted Cisco Partners to look after support and maintaining their technology and help drive adoption of technologies to increase ROI and usage across their organisations.

New Specialisations to differentiate the top partners

To help partners differentiate in the market and demonstrate their expertise, Cisco is also introducing up to six new solution specialisations within the next nine months. These will cover areas such as cloud, security, collaboration, IoT, data center and enterprise networking.

Cisco is also enhancing its partner experience platform (known as PXP) with new features which include as a new sustainability estimator, that will enable partners to calculate and present their customers with environmental and cost benefits of modernising their IT hardware with the latest technology. This will made available only to environmental sustainability specialised partners.

Cisco is also introducing new Partner Advanced Support for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) along with guided access to API integrations that build on MSPs’ existing services and integrate into their operation and support services platforms such as Service Now.

New partner program starts H2 2024

The new Cisco Partner Incentive is expected to begin in the second half of 2024, and will replace the existing Value Incentive Program (VIP) and VIP Annuity.

Designed for everybody to wins

Cisco says the new incentive will provide more predictability and profitability for partners, as well as more value for customers. This is great news for partners like us (Cisilion) as it helps us drive more value for customers, while keeping prices for product and services low in an ever more competitive landscape.

Rewarding partners for growth and adoption of Cisco products helps ensure customer leverage maximum value and ROI of their investment, ensures partners continue to add value and that Cisco (hopefully) retain and grow their market share across their extensive product portfolio.

Rob Quickenden | CTO | Cisilion.

Cisco to Aquire Splunk

Cisco has announced that it will acquire Splunk, a cybersecurity and observability platform platform for $28 billion.

Cisco say that acquisition is expected to help them create the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability solutions, moving organisations from threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention.

This will help build on the extensive full stack observability platforms Cisco have already including Thousand Eyes and Cisco App Dymanics.

We’re excited to bring Cisco and Splunk together. Our combined capabilities will drive the next generation of AI-enabled security and observability…. From threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention, we will help make organizations of all sizes more secure and resilient.”

Chuck Robbins | CEO | Cisco

This is the biggest acquisition in Cisco’s history and a massive push into software and artificial intelligence-powered data analysis. With three two complimentary services coming together it should help Cisco achieve it’s mission to “securely connect everything to make anything possible, and move from threat detection and response to threat prediction and prevention”.

Splunk President and CEO Gary Steele will join Cisco’s Executive Leadership Team reporting to Chuck Robbins.

What is Cisco’s Full Stack Observability offering?

Cisco’s Full-Stack Observability (FSO) solutions bring together performace and availability data from on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications allowing organisations to monitor traditional and modern applications, track performance of cloud-native applications, and correlate network metrics with application performance data and provide real-time insights and recommended actions for any performance related issues along with the potential. Impact to the business.

Cisco Full-Stack Observability is comprised of a single platform that brings together multiple solutions such including AppDynamics, ThousandEyes, and Cisco Secure Application. Splunk will soon be added to this!

The platform is open and extensible, API-driven, focused on OpenTelemetry, and anchored on Metrics, Events, Logs, and Traces (MELT).

You can find more information about Cisco Full-Stack Observability solutions on the Cisco website


You can read the announcement from Cisco below.

https://newsroom.cisco.com/c/r/newsroom/en/us/a/y2023/m09/cisco-to-acquire-splunk-to-help-make-organizations-more-secure-and-resilient-in-an-ai-powered-world.html

Cisco XDR uses Cohesity to help protect your org from ransomware

Cisco has added ransomware detection and recovery support to its recently unveiled Extended Detection and Response (XDR) system.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts the end user’s device and data and demands a ransom for its decryption. Ransomware attacks can cause considerable damage to businesses and organisations, disrupting their operations and compromising their data. To combat this threat, Cisco has now introduced a new solution that integrates with their new Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solution with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings.

Cisco’s XDR system is a cloud-based platform that combines multiple security products and telemetry sources to detect, analyse, and respond to threats across the network and endpoints. As Cisco announced the General Availability of their XDR platform, they also announce that they have added ransomware detection and recovery support to their XDR system, enabling Security Operations Center (SOC) teams to automatically protect and restore business-critical data in the event of a ransomware attack.

This feature is made possible by integrating Cisco’s XDR system with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings, which are well established and trusted, infrastructure and enterprise data backup and recovery solutions. These provide configurable recovery points and mass recovery for systems assigned to a protection plan and can preserve potentially infected virtual machines for forensic investigation and protect enterprise workloads from future attacks.

Cisco said that the exponential growth of ransomware and cyber extortion has made a platform approach crucial to effectively counter adversaries. It also noted that during the second quarter of 2023, the Cisco Talos Incident Response team responded to the highest number of ransomware engagements in more than a year.

The integration of Cisco’s XDR system and Cohesity’s solutions is designed to help Security Operations Centre (SOC) teams and IT to automatically detect, snapshot, and restore business-critical data at the very first signs of a ransomware outbreak; often before it has had a chance to move laterally through the network to reach the high–value assets.

In the announcement, Cisco and Cohesity said that they already have a long-standing partnership, with over 460 joint customers. Cisco have said that the Cohesity Cloud Services package will also be able to be sold by their Cisco channel partners like Cisilion later in 2023. The Cohesity Cloud Services include data security and management as well as threat defense, data isolation and backup/recovery. Cisco have also said that the software can be deployed and hosted on both Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) via their marketplaces.

This brings more features to Cisco’s XDR service (a competitive landscape where they compete against the likes of Microsoft, Sentinel One and Palo Alto) and brings together a myriad first-party Cisco, and third-party security products to control network access, analyse incidents, remediate threats, and automate response all from a single cloud-based interface. The offering gathers six telemetry sources that SOC operators say are critical for an XDR solution: endpoint, network, firewall, email, identity, and DNS, Cisco stated in the announcement.

Part of Cisco’s growing Security Portfolio

The Cisco Security portfolio is a comprehensive set of solutions that work together to provide seamless interoperability with your security infrastructure, including third-party technologies. Their growing portfolio covers various aspects of security, such as network security, user and endpoint protection, cloud edge, advanced malware protection, email security, web security and workload security. The Cisco XDR system is part of this portfolio and integrates with other Cisco products and services to detect, analyse, and respond to threats across the network and endpoints.

Cisco XDR system can leverage the threat intelligence from Cisco Talos – the cloud-based platform known as Cisco SecureX, as well as the backup and recovery solutions from Cohesity to provide a powerful and proactive defense against ransomware and other advanced threats. Cisco XDR system also supports third-party integrations with other security vendors, including Microsoft, Splunk and many others.

Cisco have, and continue to invest heavily in their end-to-end security portfolio and their XDR solution (as of December 2022) is on the cusp of moving into the Leaders Quadrant in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection.

Cisco's XDR play competes against other industry leading XDR vendors including Sentinel One Microsoft Defender, Crowdstrike Falcon, Palo Alto Cortex XDR and Trend Micro Vision One.  

Cisco are on the verge of become a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection.

Conclusion

Ransomware is a serious threat that requires a comprehensive and proactive solution. Cisco’s XDR system, integrated with Cohesity’s DataProtect and DataHawk offerings, provides a powerful way to detect, prevent, and recover from ransomware attacks.

For organisations with a fragmented security portfolio and those heavily invested in Cisco infrastructure, Cisco’s XDR can be an excellent choice for organisations that need to increase visibility and simplify the detection and remediation time with the integration of XDR with the rest of their Cisco Security portfolio – enhancing the visibility, automation, and effectiveness of security operations.