At this year’s Cisco Live event in San Diego, I’m not sure you could say that Cisco really “focused” on anything specific. The announcements and highlights came from everywhere. Fans of anything technology were able to walk away with something to look forward to. In fact, as evidence of their growing role in all things business IT, Cisco highlighted all of the following in the opening keynote:

  • Intent-based networking
  • Multicloud & SD-WAN
  • Data Center
  • IoT
  • 5G & Wi-Fi 6
  • Security
  • Cognitive Collaboration

And that’s just the categories they had specific product announcements around. Add in where they have an eye for the future, and you introduce Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML), Drones, I-Apps, Quantum Computing, Blockchain, Robotics Process Automation, VR / AR and more!

Still I was a little disappointed by the lack of tech heavy substance in the keynotes. Maybe it’s just the geek in me, but I didn’t see many major upgrades/updates. Just iterative improvements in existing tech, or the showcasing of tech announced earlier this year at Cisco Live in Barcelona.

Not that there weren’t a few special moments between the keynotes, the expo hall floor, and the DevNet playground (which focused on that transition to reframing infrastructure as code!). From the perspective of a first time Cisco Live attendee, an End User Computing architect, but all-around tech geek, here’s what I found most share-worthy:

1. HyperFlex Anywhere

I figure I’d start with Cisco HCI, as EUC (specifically VDI) is its prime use case! The HyperFlex announcements are not new from Cisco Live San Diego, so this serves as more of a recap. I’ll also add some commentary below about where I think long term vision for Hyperflex is going.

When HyperFlex 4.0 was released earlier this year, Cisco announced increased support for edge deployments, and improved performance with all NVMe and Intel Optane drives. The edge improvements allowed for 2-node deployments, with Intersight acting as the witness. All NVMe and Intel Optane support improved storage performance 50 – 70% over all SSD deployments. We EUC enthusiasts also saw improved integration between Citrix Cloud and Intersight!

Now, to the future of Cisco Hyperflex. It would appear that the increased deployment options, whether it be storage only, compute only or all NVMe, etc. are bringing Cisco to a point where all non-network Cisco infrastructure will fly under the Hyperflex flag.

The modular approach Cisco is taking with HyperFlex is encouraging, and reminds me of HPE’s Composable Infrastructure, at least in its approach. Of course, these thoughts are purely my own, and do not necessarily represent Cisco’s objectives or direction as it relates to Hyperflex. That said, I do expect to see greater focus on HyperFlex as the answer to Cisco’s hybrid cloud model.

2. Cisco Jabber for VDI

Jabber is the Cisco Softphone application that allows direct video and audio calling. Although a relatively small aspect of the Cisco product line by many an engineer’s standards, Jabber still plays a major role in Cisco’s exposure to the end user.

Just as both VMware and Citrix have done with key collaboration platforms, Cisco has optimized Jabber for VDI integration through their Jabber Softphone for VDI (previously Virtualization Media Experience Engine) client and agent. Rather than hair-pinning traffic through the VDI infrastructure, Jabber offers peer to peer communication. Media is offloaded to the endpoint or thin client, with no load on the Virtual Desktop or data center networks.

Cisco Live introduced the 12.6 version of Jabber for VDI, which brought improvements seen in the latest Jabber release, including Binary Floor Control Protocol (BFCP) screen sharing, connection status updates specific to Jabber for VDI, ActiveControl, and Expressway for Mobile and Remote Access (MRA).

3. Keynote Highlight Day 1 – Cisco DNA Center and Intent Driven Networking

Using AI/ML, Cisco has taken their collective 35 years of networking understanding to deliver intent driven networking. These algorithms gather and analyze traffic patterns to show when results show standard vs anomalous throughput/latency. The onstage demo showed an example of data being gathered from multiple networks, with each packet increasing the resolution of analysis. The system then learns what is normal for the network, and compares actual to normal.

Shown below is that example, with the red dots indicating where the network dropped below normal, meaning a potential issue was encountered.

Cisco outlined the prime use cases they are working on to leverage this technology:

  • SD-WAN: performance comparison and analysis of internet vs. MPLS
  • SD-WAN: prediction of tunnel failures in SD-WAN
  • Application heat map analysis

4. Keynote Day 1 – Part 2: AI-Driven Troubleshooting

Continuing on with the AI theme, Cisco has added the ability to perform more advanced root cause analysis on problem detection.

For the demo, Cisco recapped an existing feature for wireless networks, which automatically begins packet capture when detecting degradation. That wasn’t the main point of the demo though! There will now be a new option available called AI-Driven, that will filter the analysis to the specific customer environment using the algorithms mentioned above.

In this example, there was a drop in packets from the baseline. An analysis yields results on truly anomalous behavior — not just static benchmarks. As shown below, the drop occurred between 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM.

From here, Cisco showed off the new capability: Root Cause Analysis. Using machine reasoning and Cisco developed runbooks, the system will navigate through a workflow of troubleshooting steps to identify specific issues. Best yet, it will provide a “fix it” option, and increase the focus of the fix to all affected devices/systems within the environment!

In the future, Cisco is planning to make these runbooks available to customers. I’m also still waiting to see how they plan to integrate the “fix it” option with change control, though I imagine it will support ITSM integration near day 1 of GA.

5. Keynote Takeaway Day 2 – Meraki Smart Cameras and VR!

And finally, for a “this is pretty cool moment”! During the second day’s keynote, Cisco showcased its recently announced Meraki Smart Cameras… in VR! They set the stage with a view of their Cisco store in San Jose, showing off one of the fish eye lens based cameras as it provided real-time and historical video. First, they demonstrated how using mathematical remodeling, the video could be rendered to allow dewarped navigation throughout the video’s landscape. Next, people tracking was introduced. This allows for the viewer to select a location and see all people who moved through the given location, or see where a given person moves throughout the camera’s field of vision. It doesn’t allow for identification, just detection, but does make traffic tracking and monitoring of suspicious behavior much easier!

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