The topics and technologies Cisco will be addressing at their upcoming user show point to a radically different technological landscape than the last in-person show three years ago.
It’s been three years since Cisco had an in-person version of Cisco Live, the massive user event that typically draws over 20,000 attendees. I’ve been attending the show since the late 1990s, when I was an engineer and have noticed a significant change in the content in the show. When I first started attending, the event was a hardcore technical show centered around Cisco. Today, the show has become more of an industry show that drives thought leadership in the areas of networking, security and collaboration, similar to what NVIDIA GTC is to AI, VMware VMworld is to virtualization, and Salesforce Dreamforce is to customer experience.
The world today, is markedly different than it was the last time Cisco Live was held in person, and Cisco is in a much different industry position. This big change was obviously the pandemic, which drove more societal in business change than anything else in history. One of the interesting byproducts of these changes is how the value of the network significantly increased, as people were using video meeting tools, cloud apps and mobile devices to do their jobs. I expect Cisco Live attendees to have their typical thirst for new products, but also to understand how to navigate this new world of work. Here are some key things I’m expecting to see at Cisco Live 2022 in Las Vegas from June 12-16, 2022:
- Hybrid Work. This will be the major underlying theme for the show. There are multiple aspects of hybrid work that I expect to be addressed. There’s the obvious technology angle which bundles Cisco’s collaboration, network and security products together. The company has done a nice job creating different solutions for various use cases. There are other elements such as what to do with physical space, how to change company culture, and how to increase inclusivity. Shifting to hybrid work is about more than Webex and zero trust. It’s a fundamental rethink of what work is and how it gets done, and I expect all aspects of this to be addressed at Cisco Live 2022.
- Webex Innovation. The pandemic acted as a kick in the pants to the Webex group as, by its own admission, it had fallen behind many of its newer competitors. Since then, it’s come roaring back, adding thousands of new features, revamping the devices, improving ease of use, and acquiring some key companies. I’m expecting to see the full Webex experience at Cisco Live starting with the in-person and virtual versions being powered by the Cisco-acquired Socio, which is the only event platform I know that addresses both sides of the hybrid event coin.
- Cloud Networking. One of the impacts of the pandemic that has flown under the radar is the impact on IT pros. As a former engineer turned CIO turned analyst, I sympathize with this community as the technology environment has grown exponentially complex while budgets have grown linearly. Cisco has moved much of its innovation into the cloud to enable its engineer base to operate a highly distributed business, like one with a high percentage of staff working from home. Long gone are the days when network pros need to be on-site to configure each device independently. Also, by pushing network data into the cloud, customers have access to rich analytic information to optimize network performance and even move to predictive networking.
- “Full-Stack” Management. Over the past several years, Cisco has made some interesting acquisitions in areas adjacent to its core. For example, AppDynamics is a best-in-class application management platform, and ThousandEyes monitors Internet traffic. Historically, Cisco focused on the internal corporate network but with users working from and more applications moving to the cloud, IT pros need to have insight across the network and up and down the “full-stack,” which means the network to application and everything in between. Post-acquisition, I’ve often poked at Cisco for bringing the market leader in “single panes of glass” since they had so many, but the company has created better interop between them. At Cisco Live 2021, the company profiled ThousandEyes – AppD and AppD – Intersight integration. I expect to see more progress in this area.
- Corporate Social Responsibility. The CSR initiatives at Cisco might be the biggest area of change in the Chuck Robbins era. Robbins took what John Chambers had started and escalated it to another level. In fairness to Chambers, the intense focus for companies to do their part in making the world a better place is a recent development. This will be the first Cisco Live since the company announced its partner-focused Environmental Sustainability Specializations, so I suspect we will see this highlighted. Other CSR-focused topics would include company culture, inclusivity, talent retention, and non-profits.
Earlier this year, I had called Enterprise Connect 2022 the most important Enterprise Connect in recent memory because of the significant changes in the workplace. I believe the same can be said for Cisco Live. The network has never been more important, nor has security or collaboration. At the same time, things are growing in complexity. Cisco Live 2022 should bring some answers to the major questions facing IT pros today and in the years to come.