How have the recent developments in the world affected business at Cisco?
Hugues Beyerman: The global pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, across all sectors and sections of society. IT investment has increased. That’s a good thing. Prompted by the coronavirus measures, companies made the change to a hybrid work environment, one that combines teleworking and office working. From one day to the next, employees found themselves working from home. Employers did what they could to ensure a comfortable homeworking environment, by providing a reliable internet connection and videoconferencing tools.
What developments did you notice as a result of coronavirus?
Big companies are speeding up the renewal of their infrastructure. With fewer people currently at the office, they are able to carry out structural changes.
There is a lot of investment in the cloud. Many companies are still opting for a hybrid setup, with their critical processes being stored in a local data centre. Anything hybrid cloud and security related is booming. Another area seeing a lot of activity is multi-cloud. This involves working with multiple cloud environments of different providers such as Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and the company’s own data centre. It’s an interesting approach, for sure, because every cloud has its advantages, but it does make for more complex management. Multi-cloud strategies are becoming the norm.
IT is also starting to play a bigger role in the control and monitoring of industrial processes. New technologies such as artificial intelligence and IoT are increasingly making their way onto the shop floor. While this has its advantages, it does mean that cybercrime has now also penetrated the OT (Operational Technology, ed.) environment. So, a secure collaboration between IT and OT is crucial. And that’s something Cisco provides solutions for.
What do you see as the dominant trend for the future?
Artificial intelligence (AI) will explode in the future. We are already using AI in our products. Think of Webex, our videoconferencing tool which saw a huge boost as a result of the pandemic. AI makes meetings more efficient. You can access data on the participants of your call, for instance.
We also use AI in the cloud, just like in our infrastructure solutions. For infrastructure management, for instance, specifically troubleshooting. AI programmes locate the problem and speed up identification by comparing with previous situations.
AI also helps identify risks, by signalling unusual files or unexpected behaviour and taking action. AI will be standard in all our developments.
How will Cisco continue to be a key player in a fast-changing market, in a world of lean and mean start-ups?
Innovation is in our DNA. Thirty years ago, we ourselves were a start-up. That’s eons ago now, particularly in the tech world. But we have never lost that start-up mentality. We are experiencing strong growth thanks to the acquisition of start-ups. Just this past December, we acquired two companies: imimobile, a provider of cloud communication solutions and Slido, a company that provides a better user experience in online meetings in Webex. Our network solution Meraki is another example of a strategic acquisition of a start-up. We have many entrepreneurial minds in our ranks. That keeps us young. Competition is fierce. We have a ‘can-do’ attitude. The will to succeed, the belief in a better future: that’s a constant. I have worked for this company for a decade now, and that mentality has remained unchanged.
Cisco sells its products and services mostly through partners like Rank 1. What does Cisco expect from a partner?
Cisco is a well-known provider of networking and infrastructure solutions. Disruptive changes such as virtualisation, software-defined networking and the cloud have caused a fundamental shift in market dynamics in recent years. With ownership moving increasingly from the end user to the provider of technology and services. Cisco, too, is capitalising on this trend with its own intelligent business platform. Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service models give partners and customers access to cloud infrastructure. Our partners help customers use our platform through expert knowledge of our solutions: computing systems, networking, storage systems, management and security. Rank 1 is continuously investing in certification. Proof of their commitment to a long-term partnership. To our customers and us, that’s essential.
What makes Rank 1 stand out?
Rank 1 is part of a group of companies. That provides opportunities for co-creation, which fits in perfectly with the evolution towards open systems. In this new world, you can no longer adopt an island approach. Solutions must be able to communicate with each other. You need to have expertise in a variety of fields. That fact that, as a company, you are embedded in a structure that facilitates the exchange of knowledge and ideas, makes you stronger. The more competencies you surround yourself with, the more problems you can solve.
At Cisco, we regularly organise hackathons to generate ideas. We have twenty coaches dedicated to this. We encourage this mentality in our partners too, so that they can stimulate co-creation in their customers. It’s is the only way we can come up with custom solutions for actual business challenges. That kind of openness and flexibility are essential today.
Cisco is an American supplier of networking equipment. The company provides products, solutions and services for networking, wireless & mobility, security, collaboration, data centre and IoT, among other things. Today, Cisco has over 65,000 employees worldwide. The networking giant sells its products and services to companies and consumers via channel partners and its own sales network.
This article was first published in Gumption Snapshot Magazine. Order your own free copy! https://gumption-snapshot.eu