Cisco’s Splunk Acquisition: A Data-First AI Company Transformation

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

Cisco and Splunk unite: A new era for AI and data? See how this acquisition changes the networking sector.

Cisco made big news in late 2023 when it announced it was acquiring Splunk for $28B, making it, by far, the largest acquisition in the company’s history.

This move created massive speculation from Cisco watchers as to why the company was making such a bold move. The most obvious thought was that it could help the security business, which Cisco is currently revamping with its security cloud. There was also the possibility that it could add another dimension to its network business. Other advantages include full stack observability and using the data in Splunk’s services group to drive better business outcomes.

Until recently, Cisco and Splunk were mum on the topic as they couldn’t say much legally while the deal was closing. In March, Cisco completed the acquisition of Splunk, which gave the company the freedom to lay out its vision. Cisco recently held a roundtable with Splunk to discuss how the acquisition will be used to transform its business.

Cisco and Splunk: A Shared Strategic Vision

In the roundtable, Cisco EVP and Chief Customer Experience Officer Liz Centoni moderated a discussion with Tom Casey, SVP and general manager of Splunk products and technology, and Jeetu Patel, EVP and general manager of security and collaboration at Cisco. The panel discussed how the combined companies can offer unparalleled visibility across the entire digital landscape, leveraging their combined strengths in networking, security, observability, and artificial intelligence.

The session started with a discussion on Cisco’s motivation to acquire Splunk. The purchase was driven by a strategic vision that is based on three foundational pillars:

Data as a Differentiator

Both companies recognize that while AI tools and models are widely available, the true competitive advantage lies in the quality, trustworthiness, and actionable insights derived from data.

Cisco has access to extensive datasets through its networking, security, and operations. Meanwhile, Splunk has its own high-quality data and analytics capabilities.

Cisco’s Centoni underscored this importance in the artificial intelligence era when she stated, “When you think about AI, everyone has access to the same AI tools and models. It’s the data that’s the differentiator.” The combination of Cisco and Splunk gives Cisco more data than any other infrastructure provider.

Unified Security and Observability

Cisco and Splunk plan to offer more cohesive observability solutions, providing customers with a complete view of their digital infrastructure. This integration will reduce the time spent on troubleshooting problems by analyzing connected data to resolve them quickly.

Historically, observability and security were separate disciplines, but over the past few years, those industries have been on a collision course. In my discussions with Patel, he has continually talked about how the two areas go hand in hand and Cisco now has the data to support the vision.

Enhanced Digital Experiences

Cisco and Splunk will help customers deliver superior digital experiences by aligning their integrated offerings. Specifically, the integration with Cisco’s ThousandEyes will enrich the digital experience for existing Splunk customers by providing better insights into network routes and user behavior.

An Elite Partnership

Cisco is building on Splunk’s reputation as a top provider of security solutions for companies worldwide. Cisco’s advanced intelligence tools, like Talos, will further enhance Splunk’s offerings, making it an even more attractive option for businesses looking to boost their security setup.

For example, integrating Cisco’s cloud, breach, and user protection technologies with Splunk’s security information and event management (SIEM), security orchestration, automation, response (SOAR), and attack analytics solutions will be a potent combination.

“We take a unique approach to providing unified security and observability solutions because both are necessary for response to almost any kind of issue—whether it’s a bad piece of code that gets deployed, a ransomware attack, or even a beneficial spike in traffic,” Casey said. “With Cisco, we can provide unprecedented visibility across the whole digital footprint.”

Enhanced Security with AI

The merging of Cisco and Splunk is not just about combining technologies; it brings AI to the forefront of cybersecurity.

Cisco is deeply invested in artificial intelligence, leveraging it across all internal functions beyond product development, and integrating AI capabilities, models, and tools into its portfolio. One example is the creation of Silicon One, a new type of chip for powering AI workloads across both hyperscalers and enterprise networks.

With Splunk, Cisco adds security capabilities using data. Patel explained, “To be a world-class security company, you must be a world-class AI company. To do that, you must be a world-class data company, and Splunk will improve us on that front.”

AI in security can play a key role in addressing the talent gap in security. Patel mentioned that millions of security jobs go unfilled annually in the U.S. Approximately 90 percent of companies have multiple open positions, underscoring the complexity and demand within the field.

Generative AI and Cybersecurity

Generative AI shows promise in addressing three critical areas in security: improving efficacy, enhancing the user experience for both security and IT and reducing the total cost of ownership of security systems.

For example, integrating generative AI tools like the Cisco AI Assistant into various products would simplify user engagement with technology. Users can express their security intents in natural language, which the AI Assistant interprets and then helps set up policies, manage network configurations, and troubleshoot issues.

“Every single product that we have will be under the Cisco AI Assistant banner. It will be both embedded in the products as well as something that you can use to go to the system page and ask questions. Splunk will have their dataset also plugged into that over time, which is a very logical extension,” Patel said.

While AI can be incredibly helpful, especially in times of crisis, human judgment is still essential. Therefore, a balanced approach is needed, where AI helps but doesn’t replace human decision-making. Both companies understand the importance of ethical AI where enhancements are made responsibly while maintaining and building customer trust.

Bottom Line: Cisco’s Splunk Acquisition Integrates AI

For AI to be truly effective, it needs to be securely integrated into systems and supported by substantial volumes of data for training. Cisco is currently working on incorporating AI into its cybersecurity framework, with significant developments expected in the coming months.

The Splunk acquisition marks an exciting phase for the networking giant. Although integrations are still early, they show great innovation potential. Cisco and Splunk are working toward providing security and observability solutions that adapt to the changing requirements of modern organizations and their users.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.