A few months ago, in conversations with customers, Cisco executives asked how Cisco could help them. Chuck Robbins, the company’s president and CEO, divulged some of the results of those conversations in his opening keynote at Cisco Live! 2024. “The first thing they asked us is to be a great networking company. Help me modernize the infrastructure. Provide platforms that help me automate the things I have to do in my core infrastructure on a daily basis. Create great collaboration tools that I can offer my employees to make them more productive, and help them interact with their customers more effectively. First of all, it continues to innovate on the core technology I need to run my business,” the executive quoted echoing his customers.

“Second, and not far behind, they asked us to help them with security.” For Robbins, “the threat landscape they’re facing today, particularly in this hyper-distributed world, particularly in a world where you don’t control all the assets, is a huge challenge.” Third, customers asked for help navigating AI and leveraging the massive amounts of data they had in their infrastructure. It is not surprising to see that the main themes around which the first day of this Cisco Live! was built responded to these three demands.

Chuck Robbins, Cisco
Chuck Robbins on stage at Cisco Live!

Robbins focused the first part of the presentation on the differences between the organizations of a few years ago and those of today, highlighting aspects such as the hyper-distribution of organizations and what this implies in terms of lack of control. The latter, he said, “limits your ability to gain truly effective insights from this new architecture we are all dealing with.”

“As this AI Era begins, we are very, very proud and ready to help you navigate this as we move forward. But fundamentally this starts with connecting and protecting everything,” Robbins defined. “There are companies that can do parts of the Security architecture for you, and there are companies that can provide you with some level of information, or what we call observability. But my goal this week is for you to understand that only Cisco can really connect you, protect you, and provide you with information about every domain. All the technology: the private cloud, the multi-cloud, the SaaS applications, the remote users, the IoT devices. And, in fact, also help them bring all of that together to get unparalleled visibility into what’s going on in their technology architecture. By doing that, we can better protect them and help them protect the assets that they have.”

Cisco Live 2024

It is in this context that some of the announcements at the meeting should be interpreted, such as Cisco Nexus HyperFabric AI – a solution provided in conjunction with NVIDIA, which makes it easier for customers to deploy, manage and monitor generative AI models and applications without requiring extensive IT knowledge and skills – or the revolution sparked by the announcement of Hypershield in April (and recent support for DPUs), and the purchase of Splunk (and its integrations, which will continue to grow).

In this vein, Gary Steele, former Splunk CEO and current President of Go-to-Market at Cisco –one of the guests on Robbins’ stage– made the case for bringing analytics to the data, not the other way around (meaning no matter where the data is stored). “(At Splunk) We’ve been focused on delivering excellent security outcomes for our customers, helping them keep their environments up and running through our observability offerings, and that connects naturally with Cisco. Overall, when you incorporate all the amazing data that Cisco has, combined with the value we can offer from Splunk, I think that combination can deliver tremendous value to every customer.”

“my goal this week is for you to understand that only Cisco can really connect you, protect you, and provide you with information about every domain.”

__Chuck Robbins

On another note, Robbins announced a $1 billion AI fund. “We’re thinking about it slightly differently, because what we’re doing with these companies that we’re investing in, is not only investing but also defining the unique characteristics of our partnership with each of them, which will help us help them effectively,” he said.

Among the commitments the Cisco CEO elaborated on in his Cisco Live! presentation, he included providing AI responsibly and securely, and promoting innovation, but with a high degree of simplicity.

Partners also talk about Cisco Live!

Marcus Maddox - Global Alliances Manager en Hitachi Vantara
Marcus Maddox, Hitachi Vantara

A brief tour of the Cisco Live! spaces allowed us to interact with some spokespeople from key partners. One of them was Marcus Maddox, Global Alliance Manager at Hitachi Vantara, who explained that the event gives them the opportunity to showcase themselves to a new ecosystem of customers. These customers are reached only with the offering segment that can help them be successful in their bottom line, he clarified. “What we’re doing now, more than ever before, is helping the Cisco customer community and the partner community appreciate the power of this partnership. Two mega-brands with an extensive track record, who have been very strong in solving some of the toughest problems and dealing with the largest companies in the world.”

Luis Adolfo Morales -Global Alliances Manager en Eaton
Luis Adolfo Morales, Eaton

For his part, Luis Adolfo Morales, Global Alliances Manager at Eaton-D-IT, acknowledges that at the meeting they have been able to have “very, very interesting talks with the attendees. The truth is that AI is revolutionizing everything, and people are very interested in what we can do around it using Cisco applications.And certainly how we can protect this Cisco ecosystem with Eaton’s power management elements.”

Ciaran Ryan, Vice President of IBM Software
Ciaran Ryan,IBM Software

For Ciaran Ryan, Vice President of Product Management at IBM (part of the Software Product Management team), the alliance with Cisco is really strong and valuable. “We’re obviously very close partners, obviously, in the Networking area. We have the ability to look at networks, automate them, we can control them and shape their traffic, et cetera, so we can work closely with Cisco on this. “Ryan also commented on his expectations for the new WatsonX technology and its contribution to the tools that will be able to manage and control the network, and find insights in the vast amount of data that the network generates.