Saturday 31 October 2020

Design Thinking Leads to Innovative Solutions

Cisco’s most passionate customers agree with experts inside our company: Design Thinking is a powerful tool to leverage the benefits of software and a programmable infrastructure.

We believe Design Thinking is so important that we developed a framework and toolset around it. It takes the best research-based methodologies from this discipline and can help you become proficient in using it in your own projects.

Design Thinking is a tool for creative problem solving. It’s for everyone who is building products or services. And that includes network engineers and software developers. I’ve long been a proponent of Design Thinking, and I recently joined the Cisco Champions podcast to talk about what it means in the world of software and programmability.

Listen to the Podcast: Design Thinking for Innovative Solutions – a discussion with Cisco Champions Jose Bogarin, Altus Consulting; Matyas Prokop, Natilik; Paul Giblin, Presidio; Edwin Zhang, Cisco; Lauren Friedman, Cisco.

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Know Your Customers

The core of Design Thinking is empathy. The better we know our users and customers, the greater the chance we can serve them with the right products and services.

Nearly all business and technology problems are complex and require expertise from people in multiple disciplines. Design Thinking is a crucial tool for helping people on multi-disciplinary teams build understanding – for the other people on the team and for the users. From a foundation of empathy and understanding, it is much easier to move forward effectively.

Inside Cisco, we use Design Thinking in cross-functional teams that include developers, product managers, designers, business development managers, community managers, developer support personnel, and so on.

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Design Thinking and Programmability

Design Thinking takes on a critical role when you’re building automated solutions, or using Cisco software and APIs to extend open platforms into new areas of business. When you embark on these projects, it’s even more important that you include all stakeholders in the project scoping process. As Cisco Champion Matyáš Prokop, Principal Architect at Natilik, says, “Design Thinking is an important tool to better understand and serve customers.” Natilik is a Cisco partner that has used Cisco software and APIs to find new ways to engage with their customers and grow their business.

For engineers and developers, APIs make it easier to develop business solutions quickly. (For multiple examples of this, check out the automation solutions developer have posted on Cisco DevNet Automation Exchange.) Design Thinking is one great tool our developers use to make sure they are building the right solution for the customers — to address solutions to the right stakeholders, to understand their pain points.

And If you have a useful automation innovation, you too can share your code with other developers, on the DevNet Automation Exchange.

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Design Thinking and software are playing critical roles in the digital transformation of businesses. Our Cisco Champions are as excited about these new opportunities as I am.


Thursday 29 October 2020

Ace Cisco 350-501 Certification with Actual Questions

Cisco 350-501 spcor Exam Description:

This exam tests a candidate's knowledge of implementing core service provider network technologies including core architecture, services, networking, automation, quality of services, security, and network assurance. The course, Implementing and Operating Cisco Service Provider Network Core Technologies, helps candidates to prepare for this exam.

Cisco 350-501 Exam Overview:

Cisco 350-501 Related Articles:

Transforming Data Center Operations with Nexus Dashboard

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Transformation is definitely top of mind in many IT, business, and personal conversations I have these days with customers and partners. We used to focus primarily on the need for more agile and flexible infrastructure driven by the ongoing refactoring of their applications and how Cisco can help to deliver the desired business outcomes. The increasingly distributed nature of the applications used by enterprises requires tools that transform how IT operates. IT organizations are measured by the speed, simplicity, and security they can provide to support their organizations’ business objectives.

The speed of digital transformation is often a key competitive differentiator for our customers. A crucial part of the IT transformation is the leverage of cloud and edge data center locations as well as the use of service-centric cloud operations models. Now our daily work habits are transformed further by global events beyond our control, dispersing us to work, bank, shop, learn almost anywhere, at any time. The ability to adapt to these transformations while maintaining business resiliency and agility depends on a connective fabric—the network. 

Managing the network that connects on-premise, cloud, and edge applications to the workforce is a multi-disciplinary effort among NetOps, SecOps, CloudOps, and DevOps teams. These teams control multiple facets of the IT infrastructure: the tools that manage where workloads are run, the service level objectives (SLO) defining user experience, and implementation of zero trust security to protect vital business assets. 

Enabling these teams to deliver the best experience is the goal of an agile automation platform powered by real-time insights. An automation platform enables cloud and data center network operations to adapt to the new normal of shifting workloads and distributed workforces. With both workforce, application developers, and operations teams increasingly working remotely, separated by time and distance, it’s critical they have the tools to align and collaborate more efficiently than ever before. 

Cisco provides a data center network automation platform that is fabric agnostic and delivers a consistent, simplified experience to Ops tams. Enterprises can accelerate their IT transformation whether they focus purely on network automation or implementing more comprehensive IT automation that leverages an Infrastructure as Code (IaC) operating methodology.

An Agile Automation Platform for Data Center and Cloud Operations

The Cisco Nexus Dashboard brings together real-time insights and automation services to operate multi-cloud data center networks spanning on-premise, virtual edge, and cloud sites. It provides a unified view into proactive operations with continuous assurance and actionable insights across data center fabrics for seamless management. The Nexus Dashboard incorporates Nexus Insights, Network Assurance, and Multi-Site Orchestrator, as well as seamless access to network controllers and third-party tools and cloud-based services. 

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Cisco Multi-Site Orchestrator (MSO) provides consistent connectivity and security policies across multiple data center network sites such as ACI, DCNM, and cloud fabrics. MSO also enables end-to-end automation across data center, SD-WAN, and enterprise branch and campus networks. Integration with Cisco SD-WAN optimizes path selection for traffic among data centers and branches to deliver on application SLOs. Integration with Cisco DNA Center delivers consistent identity-based security policies across the workforce and applications.

Cisco Nexus Insights brings together in a single service the current Cisco Network Insight and Cisco Network Assurance Engine capabilities. It delivers real-time insights, assurance, and compliance needed to deliver the SLOs required by IT and the business. Nexus Insights applies baselining, predictive analytics, and machine learning techniques to move from reactive to a proactive operations model. Nexus Insights can easily integrate with other services leveraging standard and open APIs. Existing integrations with Cisco AppDynamics, Cisco Intersight, Hashicorp Consul, and Cisco TAC provide rich visibility across operations teams.

Delivered with Nexus Dashboard, these services provide Ops teams with a commanding view of the entire network fabric and tools to take immediate and proactive actions to maintain business resiliency. Nexus Dashboard also offers the ability to define multiple personas that enable IT to provide role-based access to specific operations teams.

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Bridging the Gap from NetOps to DevOps

Looking ahead, the Cisco Nexus Dashboard becomes a collaborative focal point where operations-critical third-party services and tools can be consumed via a single-pane of glass interface. IT can custom build automation workflows employing Cisco and third-party services to support their IT transformation processes.

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For example, through the Nexus Dashboard:

◉ NetOps teams can integrate directly with ServiceNow to generate tickets for centralized incident management.

◉ DevOps teams can map application, network and compute context by linking Nexus Insights with Cisco AppDynamics and Cisco Intersight, providing rich contextual information that enables DevOps to monitor application performance, identify network bottlenecks affecting applications, and fine-tune workloads accordingly.

◉ DevOps can leverage an Infrastructure as Code approach to link Ansible or Terraform services with the MSO API.

Multiple Deployment Options for Maximum Flexibility

Just as changes in the workplace and workforce are transforming the way IT works, the Nexus Dashboard will be available in various form factors to match the IT transformation organizations are going through. Flexible deployment options for Cisco Dashboard include:

◉ As an on-premise appliance.
◉ As a virtual appliance to deploy on existing compute or hyperconverged infrastructure (Q1CY21).
◉ As a cloud-based application for remote deployment and management (Q1CY21).

Reduce Complexity, Accelerate IT Transformation

Complexity is the enemy of efficiency. To manage distributed networks, you need tools that are easy to deploy, simple to access, and sharable among operations teams. With Cisco Nexus Dashboard you get a scalable, easy-to-use console that brings together Cisco operational services with commonly used third-party services and tools. Operations teams can work together to assure that the entire network is performing as intended. They can leverage automation coupled with real-time analytics to deliver the agility IT and the business needs for success. The nexus of the network makes it simple.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Zero to One Device Provisioning and Discovery with PnP Connect

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What is PnP Connect?

Cisco Plug and Play Connect (a component of the Cisco Network Plug and Play solution) is a secure and scalable cloud-based service that provides a discovery mechanism for a network device to discover it on-premise Cisco DNA-Center or DNAC-Cloud. It’s the go-to solution for simple day-zero provisioning across all Cisco Enterprise platforms (routers, switches, and wireless access points).

What drives the necessity for this solution?

Installing and deploying the vast number of networking devices that reach their data center, branch networks, and campus rollout are costly for enterprises and campus deployments. Any computer usually has to be pre-staged by a professional installer and equipped with a CLI configuration via a console connection that allows it to connect to the rest of the network. This method is expensive, time consuming, and vulnerable to error. Due to these factors, customers would like to increase the speed and reduce the complexity of the deployment without compromising the security.

For PnP solutions we have the following 3 major pillars:

1. The solution should be simple, as that is critical for automation. For this our device should be able to call home to our controller, and this path should be robust.

2. The solution should be secure. We know some vendors have ZTP provision but that is traditional and not secure, specially through WAN connections. In PnP, the device gets secured connection via HTTPS solution and this gives the image to device. SUDI authentication is an added layer on top of this. When device calls home, a challenge is sent over the tunnel, and device will un-sign the certificate with a private key and it will be determined if the device is legit.

3. The solution has to have a consistent workflow for all kind of devices. Hence, we needed a simple secure unified and integrated solution that eases new branch rollouts or provisioning existing deployments.

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What are the PnP solution components?

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1. First, we need a server or orchestrator that makes the device do what it needs to do. This could be running on DNAC.

2. Second, the PnP agent is embedded in Cisco devices and communicates to the Cisco Network Plug and Play application using the open plug and play protocol over HTTPS during device deployments. The PnP agent attempts to obtain the IP address of the PnP server it wishes to connect with. The agent interacts with the PnP server to conduct deployment-related activities after a server is identified and a connection has been created.

3. PnP Server communicates with the PnP agent on the device using PnP protocol.
PnP protocol is the main connection. From that connection they will start using PNP schema (XML schema) to tell each other what they need to do and from there we provision the image or config.

4. If the device is not able to communicate to the server using DHCP or DNS it can use the PnP connect cloud-based service. This is the PnP Connect solution we launched that redirects device to the on prem DNAC.

How does PnP connect work?

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PnP connect is a highly automation-based pre -provision workflow. Under this solution all the configurations that are to be pushed, site hierarchy and software image details are associated to a certain Serial Number of a device. All of this information will be linked to the device using the Smart Account. We can put our smart account information in our order when we buy it.

If you order plug and play network devices through Cisco Commerce Workspace (CCW), these network devices are automatically registered with Plug and Play Connect as long as a Cisco Smart Account is assigned to the order and you include the NETWORK-PNP-LIC option for each device that you want to use with Cisco Network Plug and Play. This option causes the device serial number and PID to be automatically registered in your Smart Account for plug and play.

There is also an option to manually add the device. The users can import a device from a CSV file or enter the devices information manually.

We also need to register DNAC as the default controller for the Smart Account, which will port all the SNs to DNAC. So, we will not need to import separate CSV files. Now, when device boots up their SN will get mapped and it will be sent to the mapped on-prem DNAC and all of configurations that were supposed to be pushed will be done accordingly in association to site.

The flexibility and efficiency that is achieved by using PnP connect is what makes it the true-blue solution.

Sunday 25 October 2020

One Architecture on Multiple Devices with No Compromise

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Service providers, web scale companies, and equipment manufacturers have long struggled with networks comprised of multiple unique architectures driving up huge operational complexity and cost. Power-hungry routers, feature-limited web scale switches, and an ever-expanding footprint have them seeking new alternatives. Unfortunately, it seems the only solution is to wait for another chip family release once every 24 months.

Well, we have some good news. Those days are over. In December of 2019, we made a bold announcement about how we’ll forever change the economics of the Internet. Two of the key elements in that announcement were the introduction of Cisco Silicon One and a new business model. For the first time in the industry, customers can buy our state-of-the-art silicon and discrete optics parts directly from us.

The 10Tbps Cisco Silicon One Q100 is the first device in a family of chips that mark a fundamental shift in the routing silicon market. Whereas it once took at least five pieces of routing silicon to build a complete system, this can now be accomplished with just one. More than ever before, customers have the freedom to innovate at their own pace. We designed the new Cisco Silicon One architecture to be endlessly scalable, enabling faster iterations of future generations. Naturally there were skeptics – after all, this defied the norm.

Today, less than 10 months later, we’re proud to announce six new 7nm additions to the Cisco Silicon One portfolio: three highly efficient web scale switching devices, and three high-scale and deep-buffered routing devices covering an expanded performance range between 3.2Tbps and 12.8Tbps. The Cisco Silicon One portfolio now covers the entire space from service provider and web scale routers all the way to the Top of Rack (TOR) switches and everything in between. With one architecture, one Software Development Kit (SDK), and one P4 forwarding code, Cisco Silicon One unifies the network across routing and web scale switching.

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The Cisco Silicon One Q200 extends our market leadership in routing silicon with a 7nm high performance, large scale, run-to-completion P4 engine and deep buffers. At 12.8Tbps, it enables customers to build a 32x400GE 1RU router with a single piece of silicon while others on the market require between two and 10 pieces of silicon. This dramatic difference alters the fundamental economics of building fixed-box routers.

Multiple Q200 devices can then be interconnected to create massive multi-petabit systems with a fully scheduled Ingress Virtual Output Queueing (VOQ) fabric. The Q201 and Q202 extend the portfolio down to enable lower bandwidth and less expensive 64x100GE and 32x100GE 1RU systems. Cisco Silicon One now covers the entire routing market, from 3.2Tbps to multiple petabits.

Today we also expand the market addressability of Cisco Silicon One in a big way by adding purpose-built devices for the web scale switching market. The Q200L is a 7nm 12.8Tbps web scale switching device featuring high performance, run-to-completion P4 engines and a fully unified on-die buffer. The Q200L is also foot-print compatible with the Q200, which enables one hardware design to support a 32x400GE router with the Q200 or a 32x400GE web scale switch with the Q200L, simplifying the development costs for our customers.

Although the leading switching devices are at rates of 12.8Tbps (and soon 25.6Tbps), we found that many customers are searching for highly efficient 3.2Tbps and 6.4Tbps to play different roles in their network. Because Cisco Silicon One is built with a scalable, slice-based architecture, we can easily create fully optimized, lower-speed devices from the same architecture. The Q201L at 6.4Tbps enables a highly efficient 64x100GE web scale switch and Q202L at 3.2Tbps can be used to build a 32x100GE web scale switch.

The efficiency of the Cisco Silicon One architecture combined with 7nm creates a truly unique offering in the web scale switching market.

Cisco Silicon One erases the hard-architectural boundaries that have existed for decades in the industry between routing and web scale switching devices by providing a single architecture that optimally spans both market segments. Customers can port one SDK and address multiple markets, while network operators need only train their support staff once to troubleshoot one architecture across their entire network. But in the end, this unique level of convergence wouldn’t be so interesting if each of the devices weren’t best of breed themselves. What sets Cisco Silicon One apart from the competition is how it brings convergence without compromise.

Cisco Silicon One was created by the team that built the silicon carrying more than 90 percent of the world’s Internet traffic and we believe this clean sheet architecture will serve the industry for the next several decades. To do this, we had to solve many of the problems that other architectures stumble over, but just as important, we’ve created an architecture that is highly efficient and scalable.

The impacts of a unifying architecture are clearly visible today. Most silicon vendors announce new silicon once every few years, whereas today we’re announcing six new devices in less than a year, just as we promised back in December 2019.

But as exciting as these new devices are, this is just the beginning. We’ve started a journey and we have more devices on the way. Stay tuned because there will be exciting news ahead!


Thursday 22 October 2020

Deploying World-Class Rural 4G/5G Networks Just Got a Lot Easier

Rural areas need fast, reliable mobile connectivity just as much as cities. As service providers know, actually delivering that is far from simple. With new service opportunities that come with 5G, the demand picture for new rural investment is more attractive than it was with 4G. However, with sparse populations and long distances between population centers, making the numbers work is still challenging.

If you’re a service provider serving rural regions, that’s the baseline you’re starting from. Now, add a need to overhaul existing infrastructure or add new cell sites, and things get even harder. At least, that’s how it used to be. Now, Cisco is making it much easier to bring 4G/5G connectivity to rural subscribers—even for service providers who’ve never dealt with mobile networks before.

With the Cisco Cloud Services Stack for Mobility, we’re providing best-in-class mobile packet core solutions that are pre-integrated, validated, and ready to deploy. You can expand your mobile footprint much more quickly and cost-effectively. By working with Cisco, you can ensure your network is secure, reliable, and delivering the performance your subscribers expect.

Overcoming Complexity

Service providers may have any number of reasons for updating rural infrastructure. Maybe you need to replace your existing technology stack. Maybe you’re preparing to roll out new 5G services. Maybe you’ve historically focused on wireline services, and you’re looking to 5G or CBRS as a cost-effective option to bring fixed-access broadband to residential customers.

In all cases, you’re likely looking at a virtualized solution—deploying mobile core components via cloud software running on general-purpose hardware. There are big benefits to this approach; it’s much more scalable, flexible, and cost-effective than buying and maintaining dedicated appliances. But, as service providers have discovered in recent years, assembling all the components and integrating them into your environment can be enormously complex. Here’s what you’re looking at:

1. Design and build your solution. Do you have the expertise in house to select and assemble all the right components? How long will it take you to test everything (not just at the component level, but as a complete system) for functionality, security, scalability, and performance? Keep in mind, there’s a good chance you’re using a unique combination of products and software versions that no one else has used before.

2. Plan your deployment. Will you be working with multiple vendors? Will they be able to automate and accelerate your rollout? If you run into issues, will you be able to call one vendor for help, or will you be playing phone tag with half a dozen or more?

3. Strategize how you’ll maintain and evolve the solution. Do you have the resources in-house to manage roadmaps for all the components in your stack—across potentially dozens of combinations of products and software versions? If issues crop up (and they inevitably will), how long will it take you to isolate which vendor’s product is causing the problem and get it fixed?

For all these reasons, rural service providers are shying away from the “DIY” route, looking instead for pre-integrated mobile core solutions. A number of vendors now offer them, and some even claim their solutions are “pre-integrated” with other vendors’ products. Even in those cases though, there is no guarantee that the vendor has a roadmap for that solution that it plans to manage. Nor can you be sure that integration testing has been conducted on the most current versions of all software components.

The vendor may have plugged some version of these components together and confirmed that they worked. They may have successfully deployed some variation of this solution in the past. But, unless they’re providing a formal reference architecture—with every component thoroughly tested and validated to operate as a single, secure solution—you’re taking a big risk. That could entail blown timelines, extra costs, and frustrating delays in your rollout. In the worst case, it could mean exposing your network and subscribers to a serious security vulnerability.

Introducing the Cisco Cloud Services Stack for Mobility

Now, Cisco is bringing rural service providers a pre-integrated, ready-to-deploy mobile core solution that’s fully tested and validated by the industry leader in network security. It’s the Cisco Cloud Services Stack for Mobility, and it’s changing the game for deployment-ready mobile connectivity in rural regions.

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This cloud-based “packet core in a box” combines best-in-class components from Cisco—designed by Cisco experts, pre-integrated and validated as a secure building block for 4G/5G mobile core networks. The solution includes all the foundational components (SAE gateway, CUPS, MME, 5G non-standalone architecture) to run 4G and deploy new 5G NSA-based services. It’s the fastest path to offer new services such as fixed wireless access (FWA). And, the best part: it eliminates the long list of tasks and risks you’d have to worry about when building out the solution on your own—such as those illustrated in the table below.

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Simplify and Accelerate Your Rollout

With a complete, validated mobile core stack, you’ll be able to bring new 4G/5G services to rural customers much more quickly, with less risk and lower costs—both upfront and over the life of the solution. At the same time, you and your stakeholders can move forward with confidence, even if this is your first foray into mobile services. By working with Cisco, you’re getting:

◉ A proven reference architecture for your mobile core, designed and integrated by the market leader in network security

◉ A comprehensive, feature-rich solution used in the world’s largest (T-Mobile USA) and most rapidly deployed (Rakuten) mobile networks

◉ A platform to underpin your end-to-end mobile network solution—not just the core—via the Cisco Open vRAN Ecosystem

◉ Expert assistance automating and accelerating your rollout from the Cisco Customer Experience team

◉ Single-point-of-contact support for your entire solution—no matter where the problem resides—from the award-winning Cisco Technical Assistance Center

Just as important, Cisco understands exactly what rural service providers are up against and what they need to succeed. In the United Kingdom, we have invested in the world’s most ambitious rural 5G trial to date, 5G RuralFirst (a project I’m happy to note that I kick-started back in 2018!). No other vendor comes close to this level of investment in rural networks.

Bottom line, mobile core technology may be complicated, but your network rollout and operations don’t have to be. Reach out to your Cisco account manager today. Let’s work together to bring next-generation services to your rural subscribers and accelerate your 4G/5G success.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Collaboration in the Age of AI: How Cisco is Pioneering the Use of AI and Emerging Technology Within Collaboration

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become all the rage. Just the mere mention of it makes us think of hi-tech and some futuristic state that promises simplicity and instant knowledge. According to research from O’Reilly, engagement with artificial intelligence technology grew 58% last year.* Additionally, the global artificial intelligence market is expected to grow nearly 50% in 2020, to a staggering $40.74 billion.** For the collaboration industry, their use brings hope of frictionless and instant connections.

Webex’s Rich History in AI Innovation

Cisco Webex has pioneered the use of AI within collaboration to bring this hope into reality. There is no other vendor in this space with a rich history in AI innovation like Webex.  All for the purpose of helping people to connect like never before from wherever they work, play, or learn. To enable a safe return to the office. And to make decisions about collaboration spaces and office floor plans. From your home to the board room, our, AI, and automation technology provide intelligent experiences and drive changes, that keep everyone safe and productive.

And it isn’t something that will happen in the future. It’s happening today; in fact, we’ve been doing it for years following our strategy to apply AI and Machine Learning (ML) to practical applications in collaboration. We identified the most important areas where machine learning would make a difference in collaboration solutions and have focused our efforts on relationship intelligence, audio & speech technologies, bots & assistant, and computer vision.

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This involved the application of a range of AI-based technologies including:

◉ Conversational AI, a combination of natural language processing, dialog management, and question answering
◉ Wakeword speech technology
◉ Speech To Text (STT) and Text To Speech (TTS)
◉ Speech Transcription and Translation
◉ Noise detection and removal
◉ Face Recognition
◉ People Insights

To support the advanced machine learning techniques used in these technologies several of them were optimized to run on NVIDIA GPU’s. Additionally, these features were deployed in the cloud or directly on client devices in order to provide optimal processing and the best data privacy position for end users.

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After several years of research and development, this was the year Webex first introduced AI that could change the way we meet and interact. For example, two big challenges we noticed back then were how we could reduce distracting noises (sirens, doorbells, dog barking, etc.), and how to present the best view of the conference room for remote participants. As a result, we introduced the following:

◉ Machine learning-based noise detection – Webex used AI to recognize these loud and annoying noises in the background. Once detected, the system prompted you to mute your microphone or suppressed common noises such as typing on a keyboard or rustling papers.

◉ Best overview and Speaker Track camera framing of participants – Video systems in the past were able to detect and zoom in on different speakers using multiple moving cameras. Modern Webex Rooms added intelligence to do this digitally with fixed cameras. They automatically framed up attendees as they talk to provide closeups of where the conversation is happening. This dramatically improved the experience of remote participants.

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The rise of small, agile teams meant that collaboration wasn’t just happening in traditional conference rooms. Every shared space was effectively turning into a huddle room. Whatever space people met in, they wanted the same easy join/start/share experience.  So, our engineers not only made the conference room look even better to remote participants, but also improved the experience of people in those rooms. Webex Rooms systems have a modern hardware architecture that includes NVIDIA GPUs. This architecture allowed us to build sophisticated computer vision applications and bring AI-driven features to market faster. These included:

◉ Face detection and people count – Webex Room devices used computer vision and a collection of sensors to determine how many people are in the room, unlocking powerful room utilization insights for customers

◉ Presenter tracking – By detecting people and faces, Webex Room cameras could automatically follow the active speaker if they paced or moved about the room, so they always stayed in frame

◉ Conversational AI on devices (Webex assistant) – Webex brought to market the first voice-activated assistant to help you call someone, start meetings or share your screen without touching anything

◉ Automated pair and share: The Webex app connected to your Webex video devices wirelessly through ultrasound, and that’s when the magic happened. The proximity sensors in Webex Rooms could detect when you walked into a room, and the prompt on the screen would welcome you by name. And your Webex app could automatically pair to that device in order to share content without ever touching cables or fiddling with remote controls or cables!


As the remote collaboration experience became better, what people wanted next was building a better, more intimate connection to the people they were meeting with on the screen. How could we shave off the 10 minutes of going around the room for introductions, and yet help you feel you already knew everyone you were meeting with?

◉ Relationship intelligence (People Insights) – Webex brought to market People Insights to provide users with comprehensive, real-time business and professional profiles of meeting participants, giving users context and increased insight about the people they meet with…either before the meeting or during the meeting.

◉ Facial recognition with name labels – To go along with facial detection, we launched facial recognition. Adhering to strict data privacy rules, those who opted in for this feature were able to have the camera system recognize their face and then display their name label under their face to all remote participants.

◉ Proactive collaboration assistant – With advancements in natural language abilities, Webex Assistant became even smarter. Previously, it was able to respond when spoken to and carry out actions. But now it could also proactively start a conversation. For example, when it was time for a meeting, Webex Assistant would wake up and ask the user if they want to join.

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This was/is the year where work from home become mainstream, and #RemoteWork started trending on social streams. Working from home presents some unique challenges and it became clear that new innovations were needed to make it easier to work from anywhere, without distraction. This has been a watershed moment for needing AI in collaboration, as more people dealt with all sorts of background and noise distractions.  How did Cisco Webex respond? With intelligent technology for the hybrid workplace:

◉ Background blur AND virtual replacement options across any device or OS – While other vendors offered this, Webex was the first to offer both blurring and virtual background across any device or operating system

◉ Mask-friendly People Counting: Webex Room devices are able to detect & count people regardless of which way they are facing, even if they are wearing masks! This information can now also be used for social distancing alerts based on room capacity.

◉ Noise Removal WITH Speech enhancement – Solving for background noise has become table stakes. With the recent acquisition of BabbleLabs, Webex has taken the technology to reduce meeting interruptions to the next level. This noise removal technology, powered by AI, goes beyond noise suppression by 1) distinguishing speech from background noise, 2) removing background noise in real-time, and 3) enhancing your voice to elevate communication, independent of language.

◉ A personal in-meeting assistant (expanding Webex Assistant in Meetings) – Now you have a personal collaboration assistant in every meeting! The Webex voice assistant expands beyond Room devices, to any Webex meeting, and uses advanced speech recognition and natural language understanding to turn talk into action.

◉ Real-time closed captioning – See what is being said, even if you are in a place that makes it hard to hear what is being said.

◉ Capture action items and highlights – Users can simply tell Webex to highlight certain points in a meeting or to create action items.

◉ Searchable and editable meeting transcript – After the meeting see the transcript, edit it, search within it, and easily share it. It automatically captured for you.

◉ Speaker labeling in transcripts– names are shown on notes, highlights, and transcripts to let you know who said what.

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When working from home, many people are faced with spotty Wi-Fi or bandwidth constrained home networks that just aren’t as robust as corporate networks. We improved Webex performance in such conditions by applying machine intelligence in a few core areas:

◉ Video Super-resolution – When there isn’t enough bandwidth to deliver HD video, Webex intelligently applies adaptive super-resolution. We’re able to deliver HD-like quality even when receiving 360p or lower resolution video.

◉ Region of interest encoding – Webex can intelligently identify the most important regions in a video frame, like a person’s face. When bandwidth is limited, Webex can still deliver high-quality video by making sure that the important parts of the frame look better, whereas other parts like backgrounds might be slightly lower quality.

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◉ AV1 Next-Gen Video Compression – AV1 is a new, next-gen video codec with an extensive toolset that delivers state-of-the-art compression performance. Last summer, in an industry-first demonstration we not only showed live encoding of 720p30 camera video at half the bandwidth of H.264 but also high frame rate share encoded at 1080p30 using around 2/3 of the bitrate of H.264 encoding 720p30, all on a commodity laptop. We’ve been making steady progress on this technology and soon you will see us implement it in Webex meetings, further reducing the amount of bandwidth required for a high-quality experience. 

What About my Data Privacy?

Webex brings powerful artificial intelligence and machine learning to your collaboration experience, at home or at the office, to help to foster relationships, enhance customer interactions, and build high-performance teams across boundaries. But what about data privacy? How are my data privacy rights being protected?

Our AI/ML initiatives are guided by a few core principles:

◉ Don’t retain data if you don’t have to
◉ If you do, keep it for the shortest possible time
◉ Be transparent about data usage
◉ Provide edit and deletion controls
◉ Empower end-users and admins

Monday 19 October 2020

Get Ready to Crack Cisco CCNP Enterprise 300-425 Certification Exam


Cisco CCNP Enterprise 300-425 Exam Description:

The Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks v1.0 (ENWLSD 300-425) exam is a 90-minute exam associated with the CCNP Enterprise and Cisco Certified Specialist - Enterprise Wireless Design certifications. This exam certifies a candidate's knowledge of wireless network design including site surveys, wired and wireless infrastructure, mobility and WLAN high availability. The course, Designing Cisco Enterprise Wireless Networks, helps candidates to prepare for this exam.

Cisco 300-425 ENWLSD Exam Overview:

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Saturday 17 October 2020

Stop playing whack-a-mole and put threats to rest with Cisco Stealthwatch Cloud

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I was recently able to grab some time with a Cisco customer to hear about their experience with Cisco Stealthwatch Cloud, a SaaS-based Network Detection and Response (NDR) solution. Aspire Technology Partners, a Managed Security Service Provider, explained their use of the product for one of its customers that was in a dangerous situation involving some slippery malware floating around in the network. As I worked on this case study, I couldn’t help but think of one thing in particular…The North Carolina State Fair.

I am a relatively new North Carolina resident. Prior to working from home, I was no stranger to the commute up I-40 to building 9 of Cisco’s RTP campus. As I found my way around my new home state, I kept hearing that the NC State Fair is a rite of passage for new residents. I decided to check it out. What an experience that was. I got to see a monster truck show, a lot of farm animals and the world’s largest pumpkin. I also ate more fried food on a stick than my heart could handle. We also got to play whack-a-mole, a game that requires you to smash each mole as they poke their heads out of the machine with a mallet. As you progress, you earn points for each successful ‘whack’. Unfortunately, you can never really win since they never stop popping up.

Without an NDR tool like Stealthwatch Cloud in place, the modern Security Operations Center (SOC) is effectively doing the same thing. Their endpoint and perimeter solutions, while critical to network safety, are playing whack-a-mole: stomping on malware and isolating devices as they become infected while still knowing that the network is still at risk. Without east-west monitoring and visibility into encrypted traffic, businesses are susceptible to subsequent attacks once malware has established a foothold on the network. If your security team can’t identify how threats are accessing the network, malware could stay hidden for months…or even years.

Aspire Technology Partners was working with a customer who deployed an Incident Response (IR) team to contain a threat, believed to be ransomware, that was surfacing all over their network. The Aspire SOC team decided to deploy Stealthwatch Cloud to track the malware through east-west traffic monitoring. Here are a few reasons why Stealthwatch Cloud was critical to not only detecting the threat, but also stopping it dead in its tracks:

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Stealthwatch Cloud deploys almost instantly

The Aspire SOC team deployed Stealthwatch Cloud on the customer’s private network in just 2 hours. This allowed the team to immediately start digging through east-west flows to hunt down the threat.

Stealthwatch Cloud detects threats behaviorally

Stealthwatch Cloud uses the network itself as a sensor, and offers both automated threat detection and the ability to search manually for threats. The team needed to identify the foothold of the attacker, and with comprehensive visibility provided by Stealthwatch Cloud, was able to discover that the malware found its way into the network via a vulnerable 3rd party device. No endpoint or agent-based solution could have figured this out.

Built-in remediation methods enable quick response to threats

Stealthwatch Cloud offers a wealth of integrations with 3rd party and Cisco solutions that allow users to go one step further and communicate across their organization, pivot into other tools to carry on an investigation and much more. Alerts come alongside their supporting observations that contain bits of context that users can leverage as they continue to investigate. A simple firewall rule blocked out this malware for good.

So, stop playing whack-a-mole, unless you’re at the fair. Even with proper agent-based and perimeter protection, your network may still be at risk. You can fill that gap and gain comprehensive visibility on-prem or in the cloud with Stealthwatch Cloud.

Friday 16 October 2020

The Must-Know Techniques to Prevent IT Downtime

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Everyone in IT knows the feeling. It’s the little voice in your head that pings you out of nowhere, and asks:

“Have I covered everything? Are we as prepared as we should be for an outage? How much does our resiliency plan have to change?”

You’re certainly not alone. Over the past three years, 96% of IT leaders have experienced at least one significant outage. In the same period, the average U.S. organization experienced 10 IT blackouts or brownouts.

Outages have become alarmingly close to common. Thankfully, there are strategies you can introduce to prevent unexpected downtime before it happens – and get the reassurance of comprehensive network insight to preempt issues.

The true cost of IT outages

When an organization’s network goes down, the effects can be anywhere from inconvenient to catastrophic. In total, IT outages cost North American businesses $700 billion every year.

These losses aren’t confined to revenue. Losses can impact internal productivity, mitigation costs, and even the brand. Just one hour’s downtime can cost an average of $250,000 to $300,000, depending on the size of an organization and its industry.

In the new era of ‘the customer experience’ – where expectations for a superior experience and network access continue to grow – the stakes for staying connected have never been higher.

The basics of incident prevention

The biggest challenge in preventing brownouts and blackouts is identifying root causes in advance and preempting their effects. To achieve this, your organization needs proactive processes to monitor your network, identify risks, and take preemptive actions.

However, monitoring can be difficult for understaffed IT teams, who are focused on the delivery of immediate business goals. Monitoring takes time, and automation is required to identify risk faster, accelerate remediation and reduce the chance of error.

There is another way. Cisco Business Critical Services (BCS) augments your team with analytics and expertise. By investing in experts who’ll continuously engage with your IT professionals and share proactive recommendations to prevent incidents, your teams can get greater visibility into their IT infrastructure to improve uptime, performance, and availability.

Become an expert by learning from others

It’s one thing to understand what could go wrong in your organization. The next step is learning from other businesses’ experiences, and how their outages can help prevent yours.

Thanks to advances in predictive analytics and machine learning, businesses now have access to global intelligence to predict weak points in their own networks. For example, Cisco’s BCS experts draw on their anonymized and proprietary database collected and aggregated from over 30 million devices worldwide.

By cross-referencing our data with your devices, we can help you identify and mitigate vulnerabilities before they impact your organization. Empowered by Cisco intellectual capital, our expertise – powered by analytics, insights, and automation – can help your IT teams avoid costly downtime.

How to review an outage

Likewise, if an outage does take place, a consistent, proactive approach is critical to reaching a positive outcome. As part of Cisco BCS Advantage, our Expert Incident Review recommends best practices to shore up your own incident review framework, then practice it, to improve your network stability and performance:

Turn adversity into opportunity

Network brownouts and blackouts are costlier than ever. But with incident prevention, regular reviews, access to Cisco experts, analytics, insights, and more, IT decision makers are well-positioned to deliver an always-on network.

Thursday 15 October 2020

Cisco Data Centers Segment Routing Traffic Engineering for Service Providers

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We are entering a new Era moving to 5G in global pandemic

As we move into the exciting era of 5G and witness an ever-growing number of new devices coming online, the transport network is finding its overall capacity tested in ways we’ve never seen before. Millions of mobile voice, data, and video users and millions more Internet of Things (IoT) devices connecting 24 hours per day means handling this traffic load will present a real challenge in the future.

Cisco predicts* there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020. Advancements in 5G make it more possible to connect industrial IoT, cars, virtual education, smart communities, industrial machinery, and robotics around the world, all piped through the same ultra-fast network.

There is a new perspective on the modern workplace. The first half of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most tumultuous times in living memory. The number of people working from home worldwide has doubled during the corona virus crisis. The pandemic is likely to cause a permanent increase in remote working even after the crisis. With little notice, this culminated in many businesses having to shift a large proportion of their workforce to a home working model – Leading to humongous reliability on technology to communicate and collaborate within an enterprise and between businesses.

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Where Service Providers stand nowadays?

We’re living in a world where application loyalty has become a real measure of brand loyalty. Service Providers are striving to make the application capable of reaching the end-user quickly enough to prevent the degradation of the experience. Network slicing and segment routing provide intelligent routing and traffic differentiation required to efficiently support this distributed architecture.

Service Providers end to end network starts with a fabric relying on the Cisco Nexus 9000 Switches, which provide the foundation for data centers, data centers interconnection with the core and segment routing traffic engineering SR-TE for network slicing.

Segment Routing Operation

Segment routing divides the network into “segments” where each node and link could be assigned a segment identifier, or a SID, which gets advertised by each node using standard routing protocol extensions (ISIS/OSPF or BGP), eliminating the need to run additional label distribution protocols.

As service providers architect the 5G transport domains, leveraging segment routing with traffic engineering is the next generation network design direction.

Nowadays, many Service Providers are moving to Segment Routing because it allows the network to differentiate the way it delivers applications with unmatched simplicity and scalability.

We have engineered segment routing to the NX-OS software code on Nexus 9000 series switches. The unprecedented growth requires Service Providers to transform their networks, and Segment Routing is becoming one of the keys to successfully paving the way to that transformation.

Segment Routing Traffic Engineering (SR-TE)

Segment Routing Traffic Engineering (SR-TE) provides a simple, automated, and scalable architecture to engineer traffic flows in a network. SR-TE takes place through a tunnel between a source and destination pair where it uses the concept of source routing, where the source calculates the path and encodes it in the packet header as a segment.

TE is a discipline that assigns traffic flows to network paths in order to satisfy Service Level Agreements (SLAs). For example, assume that a service provider maintains an SLA with a customer. The SLA guarantees low loss but does not guarantee low latency. Therefore, the service provider might apply a TE policy to that customer’s traffic, which forces it to take low loss paths.

Nowadays, Cisco Nexus 9000 series switches enables customers with segment routing for traffic engineering (SR-TE), which enables Services Providers not needing to maintain a per-application and per-flow state. Instead, it simply obeys the forwarding instructions provided in the packet. This is the corner stone capability to have 5G networking slicing within a backhaul network.

SR-TE utilizes network bandwidth more effectively than traditional MPLS-TE networks by using ECMP at every segment level. It uses a single intelligent source and relieves remaining nodes from the task of calculating the required path through the network.

What is Network Slicing and what the Nexus Switching platform with NX-OS offers to Service Providers?

Network slicing is a flexible, scalable architecture that allows the multiplexing of virtualized, independent networks on the same physical infrastructure, taking advantage of concepts such as Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). It enables the management of multiple logical networks as virtually independent business operations on a common physical infrastructure.

With end-to-end network slicing, Services Providers differentiated services can be offered on the same network infrastructure with guaranteed SLAs, creating a sizable opportunity. As the underlying virtualized 5G networks become more complex, automation is essential to operate at scale to contain costs. And an open environment is critical to enable new industry partners to develop new services and drive revenue.

It offers the ability to partition mobile networks into a set of virtual resources, and each “slice” can then be allocated for different purposes. It is a key concept in 5G and a way to utilize the network in a more intelligent and cost-effective way than ever before.

How Does Network Slicing Differ from Segment Routing?

Network slicing and segment routing are two separate functions that work together to improve the end-user experience.

Segment routing is gaining popularity as a means of simplifying Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks. We see segment routing changing the way MPLS networks function and facilitating the adoption of SDN. Because segment routing directs traffic on a stateless, flexibly defined path, it has the benefit of being programmed by an SDN controller or locally by the head-end source-based routing.

Introducing Service Provider 5G Networking with SR on NX-OS – SRTE – Flow-based Traffic Steering

Cisco NX-OS provides a seamless protocol gateways functionality that merges the border leaf/spine and the MPLS provider edge router into a single device (WAN Edge) to provide Layer 3 external connectivity to data center fabric.

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Unified data plane in transport MPLS SR hand-off

Seamless Protocol Gateways

Data Center deployments have adopted VxLAN EVPN for its benefits such as EVPN control-plane learning, multitenancy, seamless mobility, redundancy, simple expansions, and proportional multipath for VNF.

Within the data center fabric, VxLAN QoS enables Service Providers to provide Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities to traffic that is tunneled in VXLAN. This includes classifying traffic and assign different priorities, and queuing & scheduling process which allows to control the queue usage and the bandwidth that is allocated to traffic classes.

For large scale deployments involving several VRFs extending to the core transport, configuration and operations becomes cumbersome especially using VRF-Lite with large number of routing sessions. A single control plane session (MP-BGP EVPN) is used for all VRFs instead of having per-VRF session between VxLAN EVPN fabric node and core network.

Cisco Nexus functionality seamlessly interconnects VxLAN EVPN fabric with Segment Routing L3VPN by allocating a per VRF (tenant) label and advertises to the L3VPN peer(s) across the Telco core transport network providing an end-to-end traffic classes path control by matching the 5-tuples and/or DSCP values which is a key 5G network slicing concept.

This functionality seamlessly interconnects VxLAN EVPN fabric with Segment Routing L3VPN by allocating a per VRF (tenant) label and advertises to the L3VPN peer(s) across the Telco core transport network providing an end-to-end traffic classes path control by matching the 5-tuples and/or DSCP values which is a key 5G network slicing concept.