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Archive for June 2017

Cisco’s new DNA Developer Center in DevNet helps developers and infrastructure teams derive more business value from Cisco’s new intent-based networking solution

Earlier this month, Cisco held a media and press event to launch its intent-based networking solution. To no surprise, its user event, Cisco Live 2017 was all about the network as Cisco looks to get customers to think more broadly about the role of the network in digital transformation.

Brandon Butler did a great follow-up post to mine that talked about why intent-based networking is a big deal. He called out a number of benefits, including streamlined operations and better security.

ThousandEyes adds SIP Server Test and Voice Call Test to its existing RTP Stream Tests, providing complete visibility into VoIP and UCaaS performance

Cisco Live kicked off this week in Las Vegas. The annual event is where Cisco shows off its latest and greatest innovations, such as the intent-based networking system Cisco announced last week.

However, it’s also a forum for many of Cisco’s technology partners to show off their wares in the World of Solutions Expo Hall. One of the more interesting vendors there was ThousandEyes, which demonstrated their network monitoring solution, as well as their new Unified Communications monitoring and management capabilities that provide visibility into the performance and connectivity across Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), on premises and hybrid VoIP deployments.

In this Q&A, SVP of global support shares the company’s journey in transforming customer service

Digital transformation and customer service improvement go hand in hand like salt and pepper or Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Among the literally thousands of digital projects that organizations could undertake, improving customer service seems to be the unanimous choice across all industries.

Customer service needs to be front and center today because it will soon be the basis of competitive advantage and market leadership. In fact, ZK Research predicts that within five years customer experience will overtake all other attributes (price, product quality, etc.) as the No. 1 brand differentiator. The time for customer service improvement is now.

Epicor, which provides enterprise resource planning and other business software for the manufacturing, retail, and distribution industries, is one company that recently revamped the way it services its customers. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ian Ashby, the company’s SVP of global support, about the challenges the company faced in serving its customers, which number more than 20,000 across more than 70 products in 150 countries. We also talked about the solution it chose, and the benefits gained.

Juniper Networks’ Cloud-Grade networking combines carrier- grade reliability with enterprise-class control and usability for a new way to secure, deliver and manage applications

There should be no question in anyone’s mind that the cloud era has arrived. Businesses are adopting the cloud at an unprecedented rate and by 2020, the number of cloud workloads will be on par with the number of on-premises ones.

Businesses of all sizes are turning to the cloud to help them become digital by increasing the level of agility. To be an agile business, though, the entire network stack—from the network through applications must be agile.

There’s a lot to like in automated network that delivers insights for UC and other enterprise decision makers — and lifts Cisco out of the switching doldrums.

Cisco earlier this week introduced “intent-based networking” (IBN) solutions at an event that had lots of flair and panache and the presence of many key executives, including CEO Chuck Robbins, SVPs David Goeckeler and Rowan Trollope, and VP and Chief of Staff Ruba Borno. Given Cisco has been the market leader in networking for decades now, does the launch of a new network system really warrant its own event, and is it a big deal? I believe it does and is… and that over time we’ll look back on this launch as a seminal moment in Cisco’s next act.

Intent-Based Networking Defined

Before I get into why I feel this way, I’ll first explain what the heck an IBN is. Today’s networks are extremely manually intensive to operate. Engineers must be familiar with a cryptic command line interface and repeat many tasks, box after box, to implement a change. Software-defined networks (SDNs) have made networks easier to manage by automating certain tasks, but engineers still need to identify all the tasks.

Management appears committed to minimizing disruption and delivering a long-term roadmap that leverages the strengths of the Extreme, Avaya, and Brocade portfolios.

Over the past year, Extreme Networks has been a disruptive force shaking up the networking landscape. In March the company bid $100 million for the Avaya Networking business and, shortly after that, it dropped another $55 million for the switching, routing, and analytics assets from Brocade, which Broadcom is in the process of acquiring.

Earlier this month Extreme got clearance from the bankruptcy court to move forward with the purchase of Avaya’s networking business, but is waiting on the Broadcom-Brocade deal to close before it can proceed with the asset purchase. By the end of the summer, however, we can expect Extreme, Avaya Networking, and Brocade to become what I’ll call “ExtrAvaCade.”

SD-WANs have garnered a tremendous amount of interest from companies both large and small as they can significantly lower the costs and complexity of running a WAN. As businesses migrate applications to the cloud, they are increasingly embracing the cost advantages of broadband connectivity to connect users to applications. This is being driven not only by the high cost of private WAN circuits, but because backhauling applications’ traffic to the data center is negatively impacting application performance, resulting in frustrated users and sub-optimal productivity. The combination of high costs and poor performance seem like a perfect recipe for market disruption.

Cost savings has been the “low-hanging fruit” for SD-WANs from the inception of the technology. Organizations have slashed the cost of connectivity by adopting a wide range of broadband options, including consumer broadband and 4G LTE.  Also, the addition of broadband and subsequent redirection of best-effort traffic can help businesses push out having to upgrade the MPLS circuits. It’s rare that I see companies cut the amount of bandwidth they’ve purchased, but they certainly could by augmenting their MPLS circuits with broadband.

I’ve never liked cost being the primary driver for anything as it has limited value.  Most organizations could save money on network connectivity by just renegotiating with their MPLS provider a bit harder at renewal time. Also, why go through the work of re-architecting an entire network just to save a few shekels? For large companies with lots of trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific traffic, the cost savings can be significant, as much as 90% in some cases but even with that, I think there are more important reasons to make the shift to an SD-WAN.

It appears that customers are now thinking that way as well. In the most recent ZK Research / Tech Target WAN Survey, we asked the respondents what their top purchase drivers were for SD-WAN. Historically, cost savings was always the top response, but this year it fell to third behind the “Need to increase WAN agility” and “Need to shorten provisioning time for new WAN links”.

To me, this signals two important things. First, and most obvious, is that customers are finally looking past cost savings and thinking “bigger picture” — looking beyond dollars and cents which can be difficult to do. With any new technology, it’s easy to make a justification based on cost savings, but ultimately the new technology must be able to do things the old stuff couldn’t.

Consider the move from TDM to VoIP. Initially, most of the deployments were done so companies could save money by consolidating two networks down to one. Eventually we figured out we could do several different things like four-digit dialing across the globe, least-cost routing, soft phones, etc. VoIP not only saved money, but also allowed the company to do new things it couldn’t do before.

Similarly, an SD-WAN brings a level of agility to the network not seen before, enabling network managers to do cool new things like orchestrate network changes centrally in alignment with application requirements, shift to active-active architectures, make network segmentation easy to implement, or move to a thin branch where all the previously resident branch infrastructure has migrated to the cloud or a regional hub.

This change is also reflected in the features that network managers are looking for from their vendors.  The top three responses in the previously-mentioned survey are “Dynamic WAN bandwidth aggregation”, “Real-time traffic monitoring” and “automated network provisioning”.   These all point to network managers saying, “give me a network that is more agile and one that is easier to manage”.

There’s one more important aspect to this. Based on my research, 77% of businesses surveyed are in the process of deploying an SD-WAN or have it on the roadmap to be started within the next two years. Most these organizations are thinking about their networks more strategically. If you’re one of the few businesses that are still on the fence about building an SD-WAN, you should be asking yourself why? Based on my most recent survey data, the leading companies have already moved past cost savings.  What’s holding you back?



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