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‘From: No Jitter’

The need to move with speed has had a profound
impact on today’s workers, who require flexible
tools that let them communicate in new ways.

My firm, ZK Research, defines digital transformation as the application of technology to build new operating models or processes by leveraging the convergence of people, business, and things. Digital advancements are creating new product and services opportunities as well as transforming business operations, enabling organizations to generate more revenue, lower costs, and achieve higher levels of efficiency to gain advantages over competitors.

Historically, competitive advantage derived from having the best product, the lowest prices, or the best people. This is no longer the case.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change,” as noted in a famous quote summarizing Charles Darwin’s 1859 book, “The Origin of Species.” Never has this statement been truer for business. To survive, companies must be willing — and able — to change fast. In the digital era, leadership comes from a company’s ability to recognize shifts in the market landscape and adapt quickly.

Goal is to deliver end-to-end SDN-like agility.

With “software defined” stuff being around for well over five years now, one of the challenges that’s arisen is that we’ve created a world of software-defined silos… we have the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), the software-defined network (SDN), and the software-defined data center (SDDC), just to name a few. The problem is, businesses no longer live in a world of silos. Using cross-domain technologies, they’ve broken down the walls so that all infrastructure components work together to deliver services.

Take the cloud, for example. The cloud isn’t just a data center thing or a WAN thing but rather a network-centric compute model. This means companies must consider the whole network when moving to cloud-first models. Having to manage separate SD-WAN and SDN environments can slow down a company’s ability to make changes at cloud speeds, a problem that is in contradiction to one of the big value propositions of software-defined anything — as “SDx” is supposed to mean speed and agility.

Together As One

This week Avaya and FatPipe Networks jointly announced a strategic partnership aimed at bringing these two worlds together. The two vendors will combine expertise to deliver a single, integrated, validated solution that is both a data-center focused SDN and an SD-WAN.

During his keynote address at Cisco Live, CEO Chuck Robbins rallies
business customers to take charge in digital transformation.

In yesterday’s opening keynote at Cisco Live, the summer camp for geeks, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins struck an optimistic tone… and why not? In his first year as CEO, he has accomplished a great many things, including a corporate restructuring and acquisition of 15 companies.

That said, Robbins directed most of his optimism toward the audience of 28,000 live attendees and more than 100,000 viewers watching the live video stream. At one point, for example, he emphatically stated, “our time is now,” meaning the network’s role has changed. Instead of viewing the network as “plumbing,” many of the enterprise IT professionals comprising the bulk of the Cisco Live audience now consider it a strategic enabler of business change.

The rise of digital transformation has driven the change in sentiment, and that has allowed Cisco to flex its muscles and become a much more strategic partner to the business. All of the building blocks of digitization — collaboration, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, security, automation, and analytics — are network-centric in nature. In other words, the network has become the foundation for the digital enterprise.

With acquisition of cloud access security broker
CloudLock, Cisco aims to give IT way to enforce security
policies around cloud services, including UCaaS.

During a security panel I moderated a few months ago, a chief information security officer (CISO) half-jokingly said he felt like success for him was based on how fast he was willing to give up control of his IT environment. I understand the sentiment, as the rises in mobility and cloud do seem to be taking control away from IT and making the environment less secure.

The rise in “shadow IT” has exacerbated the problem, as more business leaders make cloud services decisions without IT’s knowledge. The ZK Research 2016 Security Survey found that respondents at a whopping 96% of companies are using cloud services that aren’t sanctioned by IT. I’m guessing the remaining 4% of respondents are with organizations like the National Security Agency or simply don’t know.

While chatting with this CISO after the session, I told him he was thinking of the problem in the wrong way. I’ll admit, the business often does circumvent IT, but IT can’t just throw its hands up and cede control. Rather, IT needs to shift control to a place where it can implement and enforce policies. Let’s say IT doesn’t have control of mobile endpoints. That makes the next closest point the access point (AP). So, instead of putting agents on mobile devices, IT should apply some sort of authentication technology ( 802.1x, for example) at the AP.

Goal is to provide deep infrastructure insight so IT
can quickly identify issues and get to root causes,
and run what-if scenarios in advance of deployment.

Earlier this month Cisco held a media and analyst event on the 102nd floor of the new World Trade Center to launch its Tetration Analytics platform. Why such a grand venue for a product announcement?

Well, because it’s a big product, with big potential and, incidentally, a big price tag ($3 million to start).

Network Lens for Analytics

Cisco is always looking market adjacencies with the goal of moving into, gaining dominance, and moving the needle on its revenue and gross margins… and analytics fits the bill. Tetration Analytics allows Cisco to play in business intelligence and analytics, roughly a $17 billion industry. I’m certainly not saying Cisco has that entire $17 billion market in its sights, as its focus is specifically on the data center. Still, even a portion of that amount is a market worthy of Cisco’s interest.

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