Tuesday, 30 June 2020

As the landscape evolves, so must the enterprise backbone

Most organizations today take advantage of cloud services. From software as a service (SaaS) to infrastructure as a service (IaaS), these cost-effective solutions help accelerate business and offer new opportunities for innovation.

Within the Cisco network, we’ve seen an impact from changing traffic patterns as our clients adopt to Cloud Services. We see more and more traffic going to the Internet and cloud services, and this level of traffic is growing at a very fast rate. This change meant we saw a 200 percent increase in peak Internet and cloud traffic within just 12 months. During that time, growth across our internal, private enterprise backbone also rose steadily, primarily due to large transfers between data centers. We quickly realized the traditional enterprise network is not ready to deliver the scale and resiliency needed to support this drastic shift in traffic patterns.

Technologies such as cloud, bring your own device (BYOD), and Internet of Things (IoT) require us to think differently about security. The enterprise network is becoming more segmented and each segment has different connectivity and security needs. Previously, the private backbone was a single, flat network; it now needs to deliver multi-tenancy and the ability to extend security segments across the globe.

These challenges have put us on an evolutionary path from a traditional enterprise backbone design to a software-defined and cloud-ready backbone. (Figure 1)

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Figure 1. New software-defined design in the Cisco Cloud Backbone

From an enterprise-like backbone to a service-provider-like backbone


Cisco IT is deploying a new global backbone powered by Cisco ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Services Routers running Cisco IOS-XR software. This highly scalable and programmable platform provides a strong foundation for the new backbone and will allow us to operate more like a service provider for our internal clients.

Although our initial priority is to address Internet and backbone scalability challenges, we also need to offer more advanced services to support our users. For example, can you imagine a day, a few hours, or even a couple of minutes without access to the Internet and your business-critical SaaS apps? To avoid this potential disruption, our new backbone needs to deliver an always-on and excellent user experience. It needs to detect failure conditions and automatically steer traffic over resilient peering connections across the globe.

By more intelligently routing traffic over the new backbone and augmenting it with cheaper bandwidth, we hope to increase capacity without affecting our telecom budgets. By supporting multi-tenancy, the new backbone will be able to deliver customized services for each of our internal tenants and extend security zones globally.

From the beginning, we are taking a “no command line interface” approach, which will allow us to deploy and operate the new backbone through software. The goal of this approach is to translate the user’s intent and program it into the network within minutes instead of days.

Where Are We in our Journey?


Although standardization and simplification has always been top of mind for Cisco IT, over the 20 years of its existence our backbone has become a complex environment. This complexity makes the transition to a new backbone design a high-risk and cumbersome effort. Before using the new backbone design to deliver more advanced services, we know that it’s key to take the time to build a rock-solid foundation. This foundation work includes:

◉ Deploying Cisco ASR 9900 Series routers in 13 colocation facilities and Cisco campus buildings globally

◉ Addressing challenges of Internet route table growth

◉ Implementing a hierarchical Global Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) AS109 network

◉ Migrating existing tenants onto the new backbone

When the foundation work is completed, we will evaluate user needs in order to focus on deploying network capabilities that deliver the most business value.

Future objectives include improvements for:

◉ Delivering global network as a service

◉ Speed of delivery through programmability and automation

◉ Assurance through streaming telemetry

◉ Multi-tenancy and traffic steering through multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and segment routing

IT needs to assure the enterprise backbone evolves to support internal business users. Cisco IT has started this transformation. Our users expect ordering IT network services to be as simple as shopping online. This new backbone will enable us to more efficiently connect our clients to Internet and SaaS applications, extend security zones globally, and interconnect sites, private clouds, and public clouds.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Webex Meetings June 2020 Update: Transcriptions, Background Blur and Mobile Grid View

Webex Meetings Updates


June brings some good news, which is something we can all use! This month’s edition will provide you with updates on Webex Assistant, blurred backgrounds, and VDI support as well as insights to improved user experience with Webex Meetings on desktop and mobile. We are continuously working to keep Webex Meetings a user friendly and intuitive platform which is why I am excited to share these updates with you.

Webex Assistant Trials Have Started + Webex Assistant Edits on iOS and Android


You can now use just your voice with Webex Assistant to handle some of the mundane meeting tasks and enhance your Webex Meetings experience. Now, in trial, Webex Meetings gives you live transcription, automated closed captioning and highlights, voice commands, recorded transcripts and post-meeting support such as keyword search across your recording meetings. The 90-day free trial is available and to all Cisco customers*. Contact your collaboration sales specialist or account manager for more information on how to sign up.

Webex Assistant is officially supported on this month’s update and will be orderable toward the end of the month. Webex Assistant is also coming to the Webex Meetings mobile app. For iOS and Android users, after a meeting, mobile hosts and content owners will be able to:

- Edit transcript

- Edit/remove the highlights/title of the record

- Share highlights/transcript to others

For the Desktop


MAC background blur – You can already do this today on iOS devices, but we’re now bringing it to Mac users. And just in time, because this feature will be very useful while working from home or from an open workspace. You can now blur the background of your webcam video when joining Webex Meetings and Webex Events from a Mac. The blur capability can help clean up a messy or unprofessional background and quickly get you ready for your video call.  It offers privacy and removes items from your background that may detract from your meeting. So, go ahead and join a video meeting from anywhere without worrying about what others might see behind you. And very soon, you’ll be able to choose a different background altogether. Stay tuned for that!

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Choose Scheduler for Webex Meetings Desktop App – Webex site meeting scheduler has been added as a customization option to the Schedule button in the desktop app. This is a great benefit for those who do not use Outlook as their scheduling tool. IT administrators can choose the setting and deploy it to all users on their site.

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VDI supporting VMWare and Citrix with Ubuntu and eLux – I am excited to announce the availability of the early field trials (EFT) of Cisco Meetings VDI now being supported on VMWare with Windows thin clients and Citrix with Ubuntu and eLux thin clients. Now end users can experience optimized audio and high definition video on their VDI desktops in the same way as laptop devices with minimal latency and high fidelity.  Administrators can download the VDI plug-in for these thin-client platforms from their Webex site to easily deploy to their end-users.

Improved Call Me option – Put this in the no brainer category. Whether connecting to your meeting audio from your computer or from your mobile/desk phone, we want the experience to be as simple as possible. With the June update, you now can very easily add or edit a phone number more intuitively when dialing in from mobile using the Call me feature. It is now more clear where a user needs to add (or edit) their phone number.

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Mobile Updates

Increased grid view: iOS and Android

Want to see everybody in the meeting when you’re on mobile? With this month’s update, we’ve added the number of videos and made a video grid view the default layout for meetings! This enhances the quality of mobile meetings by allowing you to see more of your meeting participants at the same time, including your own self-view in the grid.

Android:

◉ phone user’s default meeting setting will be a 3×2 grid view for landscape mode
◉ tablet user’s default setting will be a 3×3 grid view in landscape mode
◉ Tablet user’s default setting will be a 4×2 grid view in portrait mode

iPhone:

◉ (Beta) a 3×2 grid view for landscape mode
◉ 2×2 grid view will be the default setting for portrait mode
◉ An additional 3×3 grid view is available for iPhone landscape mode that can be turned on in-app settings.

Both Android and iOS users can revert to their original grid view via their in-app settings.

Smart Meeting Bandwidth detection – Your mobile meetings will no longer be interrupted when you experience poor network connections. Mobile users will be prompted to turn off video when they are experiencing low bandwidth so that the audio quality remains strong. This feature is available for iOS and Android.

Mute/Unmute from the lock screen – When you are walking to your car while in a meeting, you will be able to mute and unmute your audio from your lock screen. No more awkward pauses while fumbling with things in your hand, trying to type in your passcode to answer a question in a meeting.

One Tap to Join for Android users – Android users now only have to touch one button to join a meeting. No more being late to your meetings because you are searching emails for access codes and passwords.

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Saturday, 27 June 2020

When it comes to security, how many vendors is too many?

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How many security vendors do you have in your environment? 10? 25? 50? Are you finding this number manageable, or is it difficult to monitor and maintain solutions from so many different companies? And what about security alerts? Are you able to investigate all the alerts you’re receiving, or are there just too many to address?

If you’re like many other organizations today, you’re getting inundated with alerts, have too many interfaces to pay attention to, and therefore wish to secure your environment with fewer products and vendors. According to the below figure from our 2020 CISO Benchmark Report, in 2017, 50% of organizations were receiving 5,000 or fewer daily security alerts. Now, only 36% of organizations fall into this category. And the amount of organizations that receive 100,000 or more daily alerts has grown from 11% in 2017 to 17% in 2020 – an albeit small, but still troubling rise. This number should be going down, not up.

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Not surprisingly, 81% of respondents in our survey said they find managing a multi-vendor environment to be challenging. And 28% find it ‘very challenging.’

Does any of this sound familiar? Are you struggling to manage a constant deluge of security alerts from multiple products? Are you spending more time being reactive than proactive when it comes to security?

An intricate spider web versus tangled shoelaces


What if instead of stringing various security solutions together, they were all intertwined into a single, unified platform? What if instead of resembling a pile of tangled up shoelaces, your security infrastructure looked more like an intricately woven spider web? A spider web whose various threads connect and work together as a system to efficiently catch prey (aka attackers).

Webs enable a spider to catch prey more effortlessly, without having to chase it down. This serves as a great metaphor for what we’re trying to do with Cisco SecureX. Recently launched at our Cisco Live digital event, Cisco SecureX is a platform designed to help security teams more holistically combat threats while saving time.

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Cisco SecureX – A platform approach to security


Cisco SecureX provides integration between our security portfolio, third-party offerings, and customers’ core infrastructure to dramatically streamline protection. The integrated approach strengthens defenses by fostering automation and reducing the need to manually toggle between various security technologies to figure out what’s going on. Cisco SecureX delivers pervasive visibility across the enterprise to allow for faster threat detection and mitigation, simplified workflows, and better collaboration – without you first having to untangle a pile of mismatched shoelaces.

Embedded and included with all of our security products, Cisco SecureX is not a new offering that you have to buy. Instead, it unites your existing security stack to make each product work better as they share intelligence and automate remediation. And, it provides one view into these products from a single interface to make things clearer and minimize complexity, thus freeing up time for your team to better understand and utilize each of your security products. That way, you can finally get the full benefits from your investments.

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Vendor consolidation on the rise


With Cisco SecureX, we are responding to our customers’ challenges of having too many alerts and products to manage, and a subsequent desire for simplification. Through our CISO Benchmark Report, we see that the trend of reducing the number of security vendors within the enterprise environment is growing. Today, 86% of organizations are using between 1 and 20 security vendors, and only 13% are using over 20. According to the below chart, organizations continue to use fewer vendors each year.

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The Cisco SecureX platform provides broad coverage across your entire network and all threat vectors. It can help reduce redundancies among your security infrastructure and decrease the need to continuously add new vendors and products to the mix. Instead, the open, scalable platform can enable you to simply add new functionality as it becomes available or as new threats arise.

Addressing cyber fatigue


This new approach couldn’t come at a better time, as 42% of respondents in our CISO Benchmark survey say they are suffering from cyber fatigue (defined as virtually giving up on proactively defending against malicious actors). Of those suffering, 93% receive more than 5,000 alerts every day, indicating that complexity appears to be one of the main causes of security burnout.

In fact, our data shows that due to a lack of time and resources, today’s organizations are only able to remediate 50% of legitimate security threats. Think about that. Fifty percent! That’s not a great number.

Here are some better numbers:

◉ 95% of customers say that our security platform helps them take action and remediate.
◉ 98% of customers find that the unified view provided by Cisco SecureX enables rapid threat response.
◉ 91% of customers say that our security platform helps their teams collaborate more.

All of this leads to stronger, less complicated security.

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According to Steve Martino, Cisco’s own CISO, “I need visibility to help my team understand what’s happening in our environment, whether it’s on prem, in the cloud, or wherever it is. If I have to do it through 20 or more vendors, I’m never going to get that visibility across all of it.” Providing that visibility, and more systematic security, is exactly what Cisco has set out to do.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Tips on How to Host a Great Virtual Event

Hosting a Virtual Event with Webex Events


Let’s face it… hosting a virtual event can sound pretty daunting. But don’t stress, we are here to help! Let’s pretend the big day is right around the corner and so far, you’ve scheduled your virtual event/webinar with Webex Events and the attendees are registered.

Now you may be trying to figure out “how can I keep everyone engaged?” or “how will I be able to reach my full audience?” or simply “OMG – How do I NOT screw this up?”

Well, sit back, relax, and let us help you navigate your way through hosting a great virtual event.

Days Before the Event


Recruit an event team– It may be helpful to have team members at your side during the event. Look into having a moderator to help with introductions, to transition between talking points, to interact with audience members through chat, and to deliver closing statements.  Also, identify a Q&A response person(s) who will manage the polling and Q&A panel. This will help you focus on delivering the best quality content. The “event team” (Q&A responders, moderators, etc) should be invited to the event as panelists instead of attendees.

Set up a time to rehearse- Schedule a 30-minute “practice event” through Webex Events with those that are helping you with the event (panelists). Make sure everyone understands the event format, which controls to use, and what their role is.

Check internet connection- Run the “health checker” report during your rehearsal to make sure you are fully connected. For optimal internet connectivity, we suggest hardwiring your internet connection.

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Day of the Event


Minimize background noise – Ensure you are in a quieter location with minimal distractions. Less background noise will give your audience a better chance of hearing you clearly.

Check-in with the preview window- Chose your audio and video delivery platform whether that is your computer, video device, phone, or headset. We suggest using a headset/mic for optimal audio. The preview window also gives you a chance to check your background. Your kids’ playroom doesn’t make the best virtual event background? We get it. Customize your background by choosing one of the virtual backgrounds or apply a simple blur effect.

Be camera-ready- If you look good, then you will feel good. If that means jeans and a tee-shirt, great. If that means a blazer and a tie, then that is cool too. However, solid colors do work better for the camera. Being camera ready will help set the tone for the entire event.

Showtime – During the Event


Turn on video – Now that you are dressed for the part, make sure your video is actually turned on. Face to face interaction goes a long way. Turning on video creates a more intimate, realistic environment.

Join early and Turn on the practice session – Host, panelists and other event team members can join a practice session, while the audience is joining, without being seen or heard by the attendees. This session allows the host and panelists to communicate with each other without the attendees being able to listen in. It allows the host and panelists to connect, get on the same page, and make sure things are working properly before going live. When you’re ready to go live, end the practice session. Now it’s showtime!  (You can now be seen and heard by the attendees.)

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Join your audience early- Once you are finished with the practice session, close the practice session to join in with the attendees. Join your attendees 15-25 minutes early to allow the audience to get settled and figure out audio/video before the session begins.

Identify the schedule- Create a clear event agenda and stick to it. Be clear as to what the purpose of the event is and what information will be covered.

And if need be, don’t forget to record!

Extend Your Reach


Live stream capabilities – Reach as many people as possible by live streaming your event through platforms such as Facebook Live or LinkedIn. (link to live streaming article) Live streaming your event will enable you to reach a wider audience.

Engage Your Audience


Emphasize the Q&A panel – Highlight the Q&A panel to encourage your audience to ask questions that may come up along the way. Designate a team member to help answer questions.

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Videos/Content Sharing – Show a video or share content that you have created for the event. Break up the pace to keep your audience on their toes.

Ask for interactions (hand raise) – Work in commentary that allows your audience to identify with a statement using the hand raise feature. For example, ask your audience to raise their hand if it is their first time joining a virtual event or if they are tired of being stuck at home. The chat panel and polling feature also facilitate event interaction.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Meeting the Network Requirements of NVMe Storage with Cisco Nexus 9000 and ACI

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One of the interesting things about working with Cisco’s high-end data center switches is seeing how well they adapt to new challenges.  We put a lot of engineering and R&D into products like the Nexus 9000, and for us it’s not just “faster and denser and more reliable.”  We like the challenges that network managers throw at us, and we like to help solve their problems.

Recently, a new type of storage transport “NVMe-over-fabric (NVMe-oF)” has been evolving, and we’re excited to see it shake up the world of storage area networking.  Until now, network managers haven’t had much of a challenge when it comes to storage: the network was so fast and the spinning hard drives so slow that natural network upgrades to 10G Ethernet (iSCSI) and faster Fibre Channel (FCP) speeds have kept storage managers happy.

What we’ve found in testing these new NVMe ultra-fast solid-state storage SANs in our labs is that things aren’t so simple anymore.  Storage teams now have the ability to saturate data center networks with incredibly fast devices. And this means that network managers need to look closely at this new generation of storage to understand what is different—and how they can meet the performance demands of truly high-speed storage.

NVMe storage offers multiple transport options namely NVMe-FC for Fibre channel fabric and NVMe-RoCEv2, NVMe-TCP for IP storage. Fibre channel networks can seamlessly handle NVMe-FC traffic and for IP storage we found some very interesting challenges for the network manager including:

◉ Flexibility – Integrate NVMe systems into existing networks using evolving protocols.

◉ Security – Securely deliver networking to NVMe storage systems, ensuring that clients and servers are isolated and that network connections between devices are tightly controlled.

◉ Performance – Deliver a high-performance network that meets the strict latency and loss requirements of these new storage protocols, even in the face of congestion and oversubscription.

◉ Visibility – Look deep across a whole network fabric to ensure that SLAs are being respected from end-to-end, all the way from client to server, and that capacity is available to handle failover events.

◉ Manageability – Accurately and easily deploy complex configurations, including access controls and traffic engineering across large switch fabrics.

We found that Cisco Cloudscale ASIC Powered Nexus 9000 switches and ACI Fabrics are great at meeting the challenges of NVMe-oF for IP based storage systems in data centers. We have done some testing and the findings are written in a white paper that does a deep dive into these five areas with testing results and configuration advice for network managers.

Here’s a summary of our results:

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Cisco believes that different workloads will utilize different NVMe transport options and Cisco switches can provide the support for all three options (i.e. NVMe-FC, NVMe-RoCEv2, NVMe-TCP) today. We’re also working on a companion white paper showing how NX-OS powered Cisco MDS 9000 family products are taking the advantages of NVMe-FC innovations including, but not limited to, the NVMe analytics engine on the Cisco MDS 64GFC ASIC. Stay tuned for the NVMe-Anywhere whitepaper.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Enabling Cisco Enterprise Calling from Microsoft Teams and Slack Messaging

Strategic Alliances and Integrations Enable Comprehensive Calling, Meetings, and Messaging Capabilities


In my role as a product manager here at Cisco, I regularly talk to customers about their collaboration environments. One question I get asked is what they can do to bring together collaboration tools from different vendors…

The Webex unified app is providing our customers with comprehensive calling, meetings, and messaging capabilities that integrate with our award-winning video devices and IP phones. The result is seamless and consistent workflows.

But we are also aware that many customers have existing investments in place with collaboration tools from other vendors, and we are committed to making sure that Webex is an open platform, that integrates with 3rd party applications to ensure our mutual customers have a solution that delivers the best possible outcomes.

Earlier this year one of my colleagues talked about how we are enabling organizations with Microsoft Teams and Slack messaging users to start Webex Meetings from these applications.

Now, new Cisco calling integrations allow you to use all your enterprise-grade voice and video calling features in combination with these messaging platforms.

Cisco Calling Integrations


Calling integrations allow you to expose Cisco calling buttons directly in other vendors messaging apps. We’ve built the Cisco calling integrations to provide you with flexible solutions plus we’ve made them very easy to deploy. We started with Microsoft Teams and Slack messaging apps. To deploy a Cisco calling integration you simply select the Cisco client you are using for calling and the calling platform you want to use.
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Figure 1. Cisco Calling integrations for Webex and Jabber in the Microsoft Teams app store

When you have added the Cisco calling integration, you can launch a Webex Teams or Cisco Jabber call directly from your messaging app. When you click the call button, the integrations identify who you’re chatting with, resolves their calling address, and passes this information to your installed Cisco client which starts a Cisco voice or video call. The integrations support all Cisco calling platforms including Cisco Unified Communication Manager (UCM) based on-premises and hosted deployments, and Webex Calling for cloud.

There are no complex back end changes to make as these are client integrations. There are no call routing policies or dial plan changes to make, no additional licenses required, and no new hardware to manage. You can even use the calling integrations with desk phone control, which means your users don’t have to replace their handsets.

Cisco Calling from Slack


Slack has made its messaging platform very open to integrating calling providers like Cisco. Adding the Cisco calling integration to Slack means you use the native Slack call button to start a Cisco call directly from Slack.

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Figure 2. Placing a call using Cisco Jabber from Slack

This could be using Webex Teams or Cisco Jabber as your softphone or controlling your desk phone. If your Cisco client is controlling your Cisco desk phone clicking the call button in Slack causes your Cisco desk phone to go off-hook and call your colleague.

Slack is popular with developers where users tend to like keyboard commands to take actions like making calls. Talking to Slack users it becomes clear this is a requirement for Slack users so we implement “/jabber” and “/webexteams” slash command allowing you to make calls at the command line.

We are continuing to work in partnership with Slack and plan to implement Slack’s new shortcut controls shortly. This will give you more calling destination selectable directly in Slack.

Cisco Calling from Microsoft Teams


The Cisco calling integration for Microsoft Teams has been available from the Microsoft Teams app store for just over a month now. This month we have extended it with new features and functionality. In addition to supporting Microsoft Teams desktop and web users, this month we added support for mobile and tablet devices. We also added new contact search capabilities, you can now search your Microsoft 365 Outlook contacts and call them using your Cisco calling platform via the integration.

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Figure 3. Placing a call using Webex from within Microsoft Teams

Building Bridges with Webex


These two new calling integrations are just examples of the many integrations that the Webex platform supports, enabling people to enhance their communication and collaboration within their everyday workflows. For example, we’ve also worked with Microsoft to integrate Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions into Webex team messaging services to streamline collaboration on documents.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Cisco SD-WAN Soars Towards SASE with Simple, Secure and Scalable Innovations

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The world is changing, and the workforce is changing with it. The move to distributed teams, telework and pop-up clinics has only accelerated the path to cloud adoption that customers have been on the past few years. IT professionals surveyed by ESG say that half of the workforce will be operating remotely in 2021. The survey also says that 60% of organizations expect that the majority of their applications will be delivered as SaaS then, too*. This makes the Internet itself the wide-area-network, displacing traditional WAN connectivity like MPLS. Enterprises want to be able to extend their reach from campus and branch offices into their employee’s home offices and micro-branches, as part of this distributed workforce trend.

The architectural concept for today’s SD-WAN is often called Secure Access Service Edge (SASE). It reflects the reality that WAN security and features today must be distributed, cloud-based, flexible, and agile. But there is a clear need for an integrated solution from a single vendor and Cisco has been working on this for the past several quarters. Today, we are proud to announce that with the latest 17.2 release of Cisco SD-WAN, we have the industry’s first fully integrated SASE offering that combines best-of-breed SD-WAN with the cutting-edge Cisco Umbrella Cloud Security portfolio.

Cisco SD-WAN 17.2 offers customers:

◉ Simple Management and One-touch Connectivity from SD-WAN to Umbrella Secure Internet Gateway (SIG),

◉ Deployment Flexibility for any design – Teleworker, Branch or Campus

◉ Automatic assessment of the Identity of the user and their context, to enforce policies,

◉ Simple and Flexible Consumption models that include Cloud Security capabilities at no additional cost,

◉ A complement of the Cisco SD-WAN on-premise security stack that includes the newly added SSL Proxy capability.

We have heard loud and clear from our customers that they simply do not have the time or the resources to stitch together disparate products and build their own SASE solutions. The analogy that customers have given us is that no one wants to buy different parts of a car and assemble it themselves anymore!

Cisco has a clear, differentiated strategy that will enable customers to get the best of SD-WAN and Cloud security as a single, integrated solution. I truly believe no other company is better positioned than Cisco to help customers on their SASE journey as we navigate this new environment.

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Cisco SD-WAN 17.2 is the industry’s first fully integrated SASE solution.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovations in our new 17.2 SD-WAN release. We are enabling 60+ innovations in this release. Beyond the SASE innovations described above, here are a few more of the most noteworthy capabilities.

◉ Unified Communication Integration: With a growing demand from customers for reliable and secure unified communication from private and public clouds over broadband internet connections, Cisco SD-WAN now supports Unified Communications, with a voice gateway capability. This allows customers to create a communication network that ensures an optimized UC application experience, and it can be managed from a single dashboard.

◉ Cloud OnRamp for SaaS: We continue our Cloud OnRamp journey by adding OnRamp capabilities to the industry’s most-used SaaS products:  Office365 plus 14 other SaaS products on the IOS XE portfolio. This will enable customers to get a differentiated user experience for SaaS, using their existing ISR router installed base.

◉ Managed Service Provider Innovations: Cisco has the largest ecosystem of managed service providers, reflecting our understanding of the complexity of providing a managed SD-WAN offering to our joint customers. We continue to enable our MSPs to deliver flexible and customized WAN services through capabilities like CLI templates that unlock the power of 30+ years of IOS innovations to the SD-WAN. This complements our new post-paid licensing packages.

We have already seen over 3000 downloads of our 17.2 software, which illustrates the demand for these capabilities from our customers. We look forward to even more customers and partners adopting these new SD-WAN and SASE capabilities.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Cisco is Identified as a Leader in Aragon’s Globe for Intelligent Contact Center 2020

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Driving Business Growth for Customers with the Intelligent Contact Center


Over the past year, Cisco has been advancing our contact center portfolio to help our customers drive business growth and competitive differentiation.  We’ve launched Webex Contact Center in multiple geographies, and recently introduced Webex Contact Center Enterprise, a robust, scalable, cloud contact center solution that meets the unique and sophisticated needs of very large enterprises.

We acquired Voicea, and quickly integrated new AI-powered agent call transcription capabilities that improve productivity and call wrap-up efficiency through best in class word error rate and transcription accuracy performance. Our second major acquisition was CloudCherry, which resulted in Webex Experience Management, our first experience management SaaS solution that enables companies to do meaningful analyses of their customers’ feedback and journey experiences to improve business outcomes such as Net Promoter Score and customer lifetime value.

We made significant enhancements to our on-premises solutions providing our customers with a simpler way to manage their software licenses, and integration to advanced cloud services such as analytics reporting, call transcription, and customer feedback metrics at the agent desktop – all reducing pain of adoption for cloud services.

We announced the Webex Platform for Contact Center, an open and flexible multi-tenant cloud solution, based on the Webex architecture that is the underpinning of our contact center portfolio and forms the foundation for all future innovations.

Lastly, our AI portfolio grew substantially during the year, with the introduction of a conversational IVR solution, deep integration to Google Cloud Dialogflow, and plans to deliver more AI-based capabilities in the near future.

Identified by Aragon Research


We are thrilled that our portfolio and strategy have been acknowledged again this year by globally recognized industry analyst firm Aragon Research. In their 2020 Aragon Globe for Intelligent Contact Center, Cisco was identified as a leader in its Intelligent Contact Center category.

Aragon Research is an independent research and advisory firm, with decades of experience in helping business and IT executives make more informed technology and strategy decisions.  The Aragon Research Globe is a market evaluation tool that looks beyond size and market share, using those as comparative factors and evaluating a providers’ complete portfolio capabilities. Positioning in the Globe reflects how complete a provider’s future strategy relates to their performance in fulfilling that strategy in the market – a balance of both performance and vision.

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Copyright © 2020 Aragon Research Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Aragon Research and the Aragon Research Globe are trademarks of Aragon Research Inc.

Aragon’s analysis evaluated key areas such as product strategy, performance and execution, and global reach. According to the report authored by Aragon Research lead analyst Jim Lundy: “Cisco, a leader in UCC, has made a series of announcements in 2019 that strengthened its overall focus on contact center, with AI at the center.”

Here are some of the key reasons that we believe contributed to our leadership position:

The Cisco Brand

Cisco’s brand is globally known for its innovation, extensive R&D, open platforms, digital transformation, and for shaping the future of work.  We’re known for our ability to execute in scale for large enterprise contact center deployments, and for our deep familiarity with the needs of enterprise IT and line of business leaders.

Contact Center Installed Base

Over 3 million agents across 36,000 different enterprises are using Cisco Contact Center solutions today, making us a market-share leader for contact centers – number one in North America and number two worldwide. Our customers range from small businesses to very large enterprises across all industries. We have a specialized contact center sales organization and an extensive partner network serving our customers globally.

Focus on AI

We’ve made significant investments in our AI practice through acquisitions such as Accompany, Voicea, MindMeld, and CloudCherry. From those organic capabilities, we have developed a robust set of AI solutions that are powered by our own in-house AI, and through our partnership with Google Cloud, we leverage their Cloud Contact Center AI (CCAI) platform which allows us to accelerate the adoption of advanced AI capabilities to the market.

Flexible Cloud, Premises, and Hybrid Deployment Options

Our multi-cloud approach and flexible consumption model makes it easy for customers to take their first steps to cloud transformation to effectively meet the pain of adoption and scalability issues while enhancing their on-premises investments. Our Webex Platform for Contact Center provides a practical path for every Cisco contact center customer to benefit from cloud agility and continuous delivery of innovative features, while they migrate without disruption over time.

End-to-End Encryption

Cisco has an industry-leading reputation for enterprise security. We continue to invest to make your contact centers more secure, and protect your customer’s privacy and confidentiality. Our products adhere to Cisco’s high-security standards and adherence to quality of service and performance, giving our customers a rock-solid contact center foundation and the peace of mind they expect from a security leader like Cisco.

Overall Unified Communications and Collaboration Capabilities

Cisco stands apart from other contact center providers by focusing on the “big picture” delivering a broad and integrated portfolio in all areas of communications ranging from contact center, messaging, meetings, calling, security, networking, and devices. This allows us to offer tremendous productivity benefits and economies of scale through the integration of key capabilities. These capabilities support a concept we call the Collaborative Contact Center, where front and back-office resources work hand in hand on real-time customer issues. Another example of this is how we are integrating Webex Calling with Webex Contact Center to improve call quality, reduce costs, and ease of solution acquisition.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Workspaces in Control Hub— What’s in it for you?

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Optimize your Workspace Through Control Hub


As announced at Cisco Live, we have introduced a new range of intelligent features in Control Hub under the new Workspaces tab. This will revolutionize the way IT, facilities, and HR work together, making the transition back to the office as seamless and safe as possible.

Control Hub is the single pane of glass management platform that provides administrators a view into their Devices, Meetings, Calling and Messaging environments, all without transitioning to different tools. Administrators have the ability to deep dive into analytical trends or troubleshoot reported issues directly in the platform. On the devices side, Control Hub has mostly focused on technical issues, such as packet loss and jitter. Now, we are expanding that to include what is happening in the physical workspace! By giving visibility into what is happening in the workspace, you will gain deeper insights into emerging and existing trends within the four walls of your workspace. Knowledge is power, and with these new insights, you can make better strategic decisions.

How to Navigate the Workspaces Tab


The first part of this new Workspaces section is the ability to set a “Workspace Type.” You can choose between a plethora of room types, such as “Meeting Room”, “Huddle”, or even “Desk.” This allows for effortless filtering and reporting on different workspace types to easily find trends. For example, if a certain style of workspace is not being adopted, or it is all the rave being spoken about around the coffee machine!

The other new attribute you can add to a workspace is capacity. Now administrators can easily find out their capacity in certain locations or find out if their workspaces are being utilized correctly. If the capacity is exceeded, you will be notified with visual indicators. This makes it easy to ensure you are staying in line with the recommended people counts in different rooms.

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Real-Time Utilization and Environmental Data

That leads me to the next new change in Workspaces, and that is the ability to see real time usage of utilization and occupancy directly in Control Hub – no need to refresh! This data is not just limited to showing whether the room is being occupied or by how many people, but it also has environmental data like ambient noise level and sound levels. This data is vital to ensure the workspace is the set up for collaborative success. A workspace with ambient noise above a certain dBA level will impact the quality of the meeting experience, both for in-office and remote participants. No one wants to work in a noisy environment. It is simply distracting!

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Let’s say you need to install some acoustic treatment based on the recommendations of our advanced troubleshooting tools to test the reverb of the meeting space. Then it is useful to know whether the workspace is booked for later, so that you can schedule the best time to intervene. We got you covered! You don’t even need to leave Control Hub to view the calendar in a different application – booking information for the next 24 hours is right at your fingertips. For privacy reasons the meeting title won’t be exposed, so no worries there.

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These are just some of the changes, all designed to give administrators a better experience and help manage their workspaces and devices more efficiently. With the ability to see data directly on one page, it really is like a virtual cockpit for your workspace!

This is just the start of a journey. We are investing in bringing more tools and metrics of the workspace to the fingertips of administrators, the next thing on our roadmap is bringing historical metrics and APIs to connect to existing workflows.

Friday, 19 June 2020

6 Essential Elements of Your Managed Detection and Response Lifecycle – Part 2

This is Part 2 of our series on developing a managed detection and response strategy. If you missed Part 1, catch up here.

In the first part of this blog, we discussed the growing trend of remote work, how organizations have adapted to new working styles, and how this shift has created new challenges for security operations. We introduced a security operations detection and response methodology created around use cases, examining the first two of six phases – identify and prioritize.

In Part 2, we’ll guide you through the remaining four lifecycle phases: develop, evaluate, deploy, and enhance.

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Develop


As we discovered previously, establishing and documenting a procedure for identifying and prioritizing threat scenarios allows you to maintain rigor and discipline throughout the security operations lifecycle.

Here’s an example of steps SecOps teams could follow when developing a use case:

◉ Step 1: Review and refine the description of the threat and the requirements for addressing it
◉ Step 2: Ensure monitoring tool deployment and configuration
◉ Step 3: Validate data sources
◉ Step 4: Validate context sources
◉ Step 5: Perform a gap analysis against security operations procedures

Evaluate


Once a use case is developed, you’ll need to determine what will trigger a review or reevaluation of its function.   This will help avoid the “set it and forget it” approach that often leads to security operations teams losing sight of the need for this critical part of the lifecycle.

The better approach is to define clear notification criteria, so SecOps teams can ensure each use case stays relevant. This way, when thresholds are met – or when there is a change or update to the available context data – use cases can be reevaluated.

For example, age/duration, changes in compliance, threats, and data security can require a reevaluation of threat definitions, monitoring tools, contexts, validation metrics, and performance – or they could make a use case redundant entirely. Having a clear set of metrics that trigger reviews ensures necessary evaluations are not overlooked.

Deploy


The deployment phase involves the following practical tasks:

◉ Training security operations teams to respond to new alerts with clear actions
◉ Updating and publishing runbooks, ops guides, and process documents
◉ Promoting code through testing, staging, and production environments
◉ Reporting threat validation metrics

Once deployed, use cases must be continuously incorporated into the evaluation and enhancement workflows.

Enhance


Unlike the evaluation phase, fine-tuning a use case is not driven by network or business changes. Rather, it is driven by the evolution of threat tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as changes in data and context. The purpose of this phase is to provide clear actions and remove any uncertainty.

Like other phases in this lifecycle, a defined process will allow teams to successfully address the rapidly expanding threat landscape.

Elements that could justify a reevaluation include:

◉ Event generation settings, thresholds and metrics
◉ Outputs, such as impact and urgency
◉ Environments leveraging automation
◉ Additional response options

Similar to the previous phase, you need to address operational processes, update runbooks, and provide training to Security Operations Center analysts.

Overlooking these activities or handing them over to operations analysts is a recipe for losing ground in the fast-paced threat landscape. It can lead to analysts being unable to effectively manage the overwhelming number of alerts, and increase the risk of human error, which in turn prolong investigations and increase workloads.

Taking a disciplined approach to structuring responsibilities and expectations for your teams will ensure continuity, while supporting the continued growth and maturity of your security operations program.

Learn from the experts


If you don’t have the resources to keep pace with the evolving threat landscape and manage security operations comprehensively, consider a solution like Cisco’s Managed Detection and Response (MDR). Our team of security investigators and responders utilize the unmatched threat research of Talos, and proven playbooks to guard your organization’s IT around the clock.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Webex Cloud-Connected UC: Add the Power of Cloud to Your On-Premises UC Systems

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Enabling the Workforce with Cisco Webex Cloud-Connected UC


The last ninety days have transformed business operations, globally. Enterprises are adjusting to the new “work from home” reality and are working around the clock to enable their workforce with the tools they need to be successful. Customers and partners are looking for an easy way to understand how their unified communications usage pattern is changing and how their network is handling the increased traffic load. The need for a single-pane view of business and operational insights is more important now than ever.

This is the first, of a two-part blog series where we will discuss how Cisco is meeting this need, through the introduction of Cisco Webex Cloud-Connected UC, a suite of cloud services that provides global business and operational visibility for our unified communications (UC) customers.

The Unified Communications Landscape


Cisco is the market share leader for on-premises UC, in large part because we have the broadest and deepest UC portfolio. We have helped many on-premises customers migrate their calling and messaging workloads to Cisco cloud offers – Cisco Webex Calling, Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), or Cisco Unified Communications Manager Cloud. For a variety of reasons, many customers intend to continue to operate their UC applications on-premises on their own or their partner’s data centers. We continue to invest and innovate to deliver compelling values for these customers.

Cisco Webex Cloud-Connected UC is one such innovation that enables on-premises customers to reap the benefits of cloud-delivered services while retaining their on-premises investments. For them, it is the best of both worlds. Powerful, agile, innovative management, delivered from the cloud, serving their own secure, reliable, private UC platform.

What is Cisco Webex Cloud-Connected UC?


Cisco Webex Cloud-Connected UC is a suite of cloud services that allow Cisco Unified Communications on-premises customers & partners to connect their UC deployments in their data centers to the Cisco Webex cloud and consume value-added services from the cloud. These services include:

1. Management services, that improve the experience of the UC administrator, and
2. UC supplemental services, that improve the experience of the enterprise end-users.

In this blog, we will focus on management services. We will cover supplemental services in part two of this series.

UC Management from Webex Control Hub


Our UC customers have been asking for an administrative tool that gives them a centralized, single-pane view of their entire deployments, across regions, in order to simplify their administration. Cisco and other industry vendors offer various UC management products. While these tools were fine for handling management requirements in simpler times, they fall short, when compared with the latest cloud technologies and the rapid innovation cycle offered by cloud services.

Cloud-Connected UC addresses this by centralizing and simplifying the on-premises management workflows on Cisco Webex Control Hub. Now, Control Hub can bring you the “single pane view” for on-premises deployments, in addition to the centralized management it already provides for Webex cloud and edge services.

The initial release of Cloud-Connected UC offers the foundational ability to connect on-premises systems to the cloud to get a rich, global cloud analytics service dashboard. We will build upon this foundation by adding various operational workflows to simplify the life of the UC administrator.

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Webex Cloud-Connected UC Analytics


Webex Cloud-Connected UC Analytics provides historical insights into business and operational metrics that will serve customer and partner IT administrators, as well as the IT buyer.  Cloud-Connected UC Analytics serves the IT mission by answering the following questions:

For IT Administrators:

◉ What is the operational health of my clusters & servers?
◉ What is the Quality of Experience for my users?
◉ Are there any issues I need to act upon (expired certificates, missing security fixes, etc.)?

For IT buyers:

◉ How are my assets being utilized? How can I optimize my asset usage?
◉ Are users adopting and engaging with new endpoints and features?
◉ Do I need to increase my service capacity to prepare for increased usage?

Tying back to the increased “work from home” usage situation that we started with, the analytics dashboard also provides enterprises the necessary insights to enable work from home usage and manage their users’ return to the office.

Cloud-Connected UC Analytics is built with intelligence to recognize patterns in the historical data, identify potential issues, recommend resolutions, and proactively notify the administrator. We are continuously exploring new ways to leverage cloud technologies, like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing to simplify the life of an administrator. The possibilities are practically unlimited.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Smart Parking: A Cisco IoT Solution with LoRaWAN

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I’m going to give you a behind the scenes look at the architecture of this small, but real, IoT application. It shows an easy way to get a digital output from an analog action. But first, let me introduce you to the problem and solution components.

Do you know the feeling? When you’re in a large parking garage and looking for an empty parking space? You are circling around with your car. Perhaps you’re late! You know there’s an empty spot somewhere. But where?!

There’s a Cisco IoT solution for that

Well, there is a Cisco IoT solution for that which we implemented for our e-parking spaces in our Cisco office in Frankfurt, Germany. There, we have 4 parking spaces where you can charge your e-car. That’s good, but 4 spaces are too few to meet demand, and can be occupied quite fast. To solve the problem we implemented a solution using LoRaWAN parking sensors. The solution helps our visitors and employees with the following:

Website

The website is where the user can check live data on what parking spaces are empty and occupied.

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Web-Dashboard with historical data

By simply storing data in a time-series database (InfluxDB), the web-dashboard (Grafana) can showcase the number of parking processes per parking space and time/date. As you can see below, because of the Covid-19 crisis nobody went to the office the last months.

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Proactive and reactive Webex Teams Bot

Users get notified via push-messages if only one parking space is still available and if all parking spaces are occupied. The same is also possible the other way around: Users can reactively ask the ParkingBot what parking spaces are empty or occupied.

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Architecture & Behind the Scenes

In this scenario, the data is being sent from the LoRaWAN sensors to our Cisco IXM LoRaWAN gateway which is directly connected to the industrial router IR829. Both devices are managed by the IoT Field Network Director with zero touch deployment. Then, the sensor data is sent via the cellular network to the LoRaWAN network server Thingpark Enterprise (Cisco Partner Actility). The cellular connectivity of the IR829 is managed by the Cisco Control Center which is an industry-leading SaaS SIM-card management platform. The SIM card was provided by our partner KPN.

After decrypting the LoRaWAN sensor payload, the data is forwarded via MQTT to the Python script and to InfluxDB, where the sensor data is stored for long-term. The python script also orchestrates the Webex Teams bot notifications and serves as the back-end to the website for sending the latest parking information data. Grafana is directly connected to InfluxDB.

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◉ Special thanks to Michael Eder who helped building this showcase application.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

6 Essential Elements of Your Managed Detection and Response Lifecycle – Part 1

We’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of organizations growing their remote workforces over the last decade. In fact, at the start of 2020, the number of remote workers in the U.S. stood at 4.7 million, which represents 3.4% of the population.

The advent of cloud, multi-cloud, and hybrid cloud architectures has made it possible for businesses to rapidly adapt to changing workforces and working styles. However, these changes have also introduced new challenges in managing security operations.

The key reasons for this include:

◉ Workers are accessing organizations’ servers and applications remotely, which opens up new entry points for cyber attacks

◉ Employees are relying increasingly on cloud-hosted services to work and collaborate

◉ Remote workers are being targeted by more and more malware sites

◉ Employees fail to consistently practice good cyber hygiene

As the remote workforce grows and cyber threats stack up, its important organizations have the capability to manage risks and uncertainty to keep critical assets secure. Where risks are known, actions are clear. But with unknown risks, there needs to be a focus on disciplined research and investigation. This helps generate intelligence to develop detailed use cases, providing Security Operations (SecOps) teams with a guide to respond to threats.

By defining known and unknown risk scenarios in your security operations lifecycle, you can meet the demands of remote workers using cloud and network services, while ensuring you remain protected.

Let’s explore how to establish a six-phase threat detection and response methodology that addresses uncertainty.

Managing uncertainty with disciplined security operations


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Identify

Establishing a clear methodology for security operations teams to follow is a critical element of effective and efficient threat detection and response.

This methodology starts with identifying uses cases.  Uses cases are the definition and analysis of an attack method.  In addition to the type of attack, use cases include step-by-step detail on how an attack unfolds, e.g. exfiltration of data from an organization or compromised privileged login, as well as possible control points for use in mitigation. Establishing a methodology that SecOps then leverages to identify and create new use cases is crucial to ensuring the organization maintains a strong security posture.

Building a disciplined approach to use case identification and analysis is the foundation of your detection and response process; providing insights on use case relevancy and organizational asset protection effectiveness.

Without these insights you will lack the visibility needed to truly maximize the value of follow on process steps such as developing, evaluating, and enhancing.

Organizations that follow a defined methodology to discover, collect, refine, validate, and apply changes to use cases address a critical weakness in “set it and forget it” programs. These programs assume the security policies and use cases developed at the time of implementing advanced operations tools remain static – an assumption that can create broad gaps in your threat visibility.

Prioritize

Prioritizing use case development is very important given it directly impacts how fast your organization is ready to respond to specific threats.  It is often debated which use cases to do first, which are most important, and how to assess the lifecycle for additional use cases. While prioritization could be based on importance, you’re likely to be more effective balancing importance with feasibility (e.g. how complex and risky is the use case to implement) and the speed at which a particular business operates.

Establishing a model to prioritize use cases will help you manage this balance. One approach is to create relative categories. For example:

◉ ‘Control’ based use cases relate to a regulatory objective, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)

◉ ‘Threat’ based use cases leverage threat intelligence related to Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs)

◉ ‘Data or Asset’ based use cases relate to specific datasets or assets that represent additional risk to the business

Reviewing new use cases in each of these categories with a balance between importance and feasibility provides a great strategy for new use case prioritization.