Cisco LIve 2016

Cybersecurity highlights from Cisco Live

Cisco describes its progress and makes several announcements

Cisco LIve 2016

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Cisco is wrapping up its annual Cisco Live customer event. This year’s proceedings took over Las Vegas, occupying the Bellagio, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand hotel. At least for this week, Cisco was bigger in Vegas than Wayne Newton, Steve Wynn and even Carrot Top.

While digital transformation served as the main theme at Cisco Live, cybersecurity had a strong supporting role throughout the event. For example, of all of the technology and business initiatives at Cisco, CEO Chuck Robbins highlighted cybersecurity in his keynote presentation by bringing the GM of Cisco’s cybersecurity business unit, David Goeckeler, on stage to describe his division’s progress. 

Cisco’s overall cybersecurity objectives were highlighted in Goeckeler’s commentary and during the entire week: Cisco wants to deliver “effective security made simple.” In other words, Cisco wants to improve security efficacy while streamlining security operations and lowering costs. To accomplish this, Cisco will build on its network strength using the network as a cybersecurity sensor and enforcer as well.

Hmm, improving security efficacy and operational efficiency? I don’t think many enterprise CISOs will quarrel with these goals.    

Aside from shining a mere spotlight on cybersecurity, Cisco also made a few announcements in this area including:

1. A new management offering called Cisco Defense Orchestrator (CDO). This is a new cloud-based management plane that can be used for managing security policies across Cisco physical and virtual firewalls. Rather than use command lines or on-premise management software, Cisco firewall customers can now leverage scalable and centralized cloud-based management to manage and monitor security policies across hundreds or thousands of deployed firewalls. This should help drive Cisco’s efficacy and simplification push. Cisco also plans to extend CDO to other Cisco (and third-party) devices over time, while adding functionality in the process. 

2. Security analytics for branch routers. While large organizations tend to monitor security in the network core, they often lack the right level of visibility or resources to apply the same oversight to remote networks in geographically dispersed branch offices. To bridge this gap, Cisco introduced StealthWatch learning network, which offers machine learning algorithms for security baked into ISR branch routers. Because it's part of the router, customers can turn it on by paying for a license key rather than installing software at every branch. Once turned on, StealthWatch learning networks starts creating usage models for anomaly detection immediately and can be tuned based upon risk and network usage parameters to improve detection accuracy. Cisco plans to further integrate StealthWatch learning networks into core StealthWatch (i.e. Lancope) for greater network security forensics from end-to-end.    

3. New services. Cisco’s cybersecurity advisory, integration and managed services are among the company’s best kept secrets. To be clear, Cisco isn’t building a professional services army, but it is creating the right security services for its enterprise customer installed base. To go along with Cisco’s focus on IoT and digital transformation, the company announced new cybersecurity service offerings to help customers secure these initiatives as they progress through their digital transformation journeys. These services should be especially useful in vertical industries such as manufacturing, transportation and healthcare. 

Cisco continues to focus on developing an integrated cybersecurity architecture for enterprise organizations that brings together products, services and partners into a coherent end-to-end system. Cisco is making good progress and achieving strong results along the way. It’s refreshing to see this isn’t just lip service—Cisco is acquiring companies, hiring talent and pushing internal innovation to make this happen.

Yes, there’s plenty of work remaining. In spite of its progress, Cisco must continue to increase its visibility and thought leadership to communicate its commitment to the cybersecurity community. Furthermore, Cisco needs to trumpet its successes and promote the company as a cybersecurity center of excellence to attract the next-generation of cybersecurity talent.

Cisco should also schmooze large customers who tend to have long memories about past Cisco security transgressions. These folks will need to be convinced that Cisco is serious about a cybersecurity architecture and not simply trying to sell them another IPS blade for a Catalyst switch.

There’s a clear transition in enterprise cybersecurity from broad arrays of point products to integrated architectural solutions. Cisco and IBM get this, and both companies are executing accordingly to take their cybersecurity businesses to $5 billion and beyond. This was clearly evident in the Nevada desert this week.   

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