Wednesday 30 December 2020

Webex App Hub: The Premier Collaboration App Ecosystem To Help You Get Stuff Done

Webex App Hub is a Connections Platform that Helps Everyone do Their Best Work Everyday, Everywhere

As announced today, we are thrilled to bring to market the all new Webex App Hub! This reimagined app ecosystem is designed to help people find industry-leading apps with deep integrations with Webex in order to help move work forward.  It’s easy to visit the all new Webex App Hub to find apps that automate and enhance your work experience.

Our joint work with developers, partners, and independent software vendors help extend the value of Webex by offering you a suite of collaboration solutions across multiple industries and functions. The Webex App Hub makes it simple for users and IT to take advantage of native integrations, bots, and widgets to make work flow easier and smarter.

Integrations Making it Easy to Add and Collaborate with Third-Party Applications 

Webex already integrates seamlessly with many industry-leading apps, including brand new integrations announced today with Workplace from Facebook, Box, Salesforce, ServiceNow, DropBox, and Miro.

Webex isn’t just about video conferencing and meetings. Webex is a connections platform that helps people to get work done, whenever and wherever they need to. With open APIs, SDKs, and workflow connectors including IFTTT, Zapier, and Microsoft Power Automate, Webex allows you to create truly powerful custom integrations to redefine workflows and save time. You’ll also find a wide variety of third-party apps on the Webex App Hub that work out-of-the-box and support everything from productivity and working from home to telehealth and personal reminders. Some recent additions include:

◉ PagerDuty: Automatically create a War Room space with the team responsible for a service. Add service owners and acknowledge, resolve, and escalate incidents quickly using the bot.

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◉  Microsoft Outlook Alerts: Stay on top of your inbox with notifications from the Outlook Alerts for Microsoft Office 365 bot for Webex. Create custom rules based on subject lines and email recipients and never again miss a business-critical email. For greater efficiency and fluidity, you can even have those insights sent directly to relevant Webex spaces and teams.

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◉ Trello: Use the Trello bot to easily update and create new Trello Cards and Lists directly from the Webex app and get real-time notifications that enable all members of the team to stay in the know.

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◉ ExtendedCare Cloud Virtual Care : ExtendedCare Telehealth™ and ExtendedCare Bedside™ are available as cloud-based solutions powered by Cisco Webex Meetings. The world’s most robust collaboration infrastructure now enables enterprise-class performance, reliability, and security delivered in tailored, carefully phased deployments that meet your facility’s precise needs and expectations.

◉ ADP: With ADP Virtual Assistant, companies using ADP for payroll and Webex for internal collaboration can give their employees convenient access to their own workplace information – directly within Webex.

We make it easy for users to find and use integrations within a Webex messaging space, and soon you’ll be able to experience the same thing in a Webex meeting. Users will be able to easily add and collaborate with third-party applications while in a Webex meeting. When the meeting ends, the work is automatically saved so you can pick up where you left off when the time allows.

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Out of the Box Integrations Help You Get Work Done Faster and Better

What sets the all new Webex App Hub apart is the breadth of these integrations across calling, meeting, messaging, devices, intelligence and analytics. No other collaboration app ecosystem compares in scope.

And especially for developers, we’re introducing a whole new world of opportunity: Webex is OPEN!  Come work with us and build the apps that will help power efficiency in this new world of work. The Webex SDKs and widgets make it easy  for developers to embed high quality audio-video calling and messaging into any web or native application. We’ve also exposed more powerful capabilities, like programmatically adding an embedded app to a space.


Tuesday 29 December 2020

Building Adaptive IT that Runs at Market Speed

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The challenges of 2020 have pushed the reset button on nearly every aspect of business, including the way you work, operate, and deliver products and services. As organizations work toward recovery and growth, there needs to be a focus on creating an adaptive IT environment.

Why adaptive IT? New research tells us adaptive organizations enjoy three times’ faster revenue growth than their competition. Given that 80% of revenue growth could depend on digital offerings and operations by 2022, adaptive IT is necessary for delivering a resilient and sustainable future.

Cultivating adaptive IT starts with your workforce

There are several ways to improve your adaptability as an organization, according to Forrester. These include:

◉ Acting on insights: Let the data drive your decisions to boost your odds of meeting future customer demand.

◉ Leveraging platforms to deliver new value: Use powerful technology advancements to transition to new business models.

◉ Building a culture that embraces change: Inspire employees to think outside of the box to improve flexibility and reduce fear of change.

The success of these actions depends on the capabilities of your workforce.

With 76% of organizations challenged to find the expertise they need, organizations need to think differently about how they build and maintain an adaptive workforce.

Creating a flexible workforce

Engineering an adaptive workforce enables you to address evolving business priorities as the market changes. This means tapping into the right skill sets, where and when you need them. To ensure organizations of all sizes have access to the expertise, analytics, and insights they need, Cisco Business Critical Services (BCS) recently restructured our lifecycle services portfolio into a three-tier service: Essentials, Advantage, and Premier.

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With each tier, you get a pre-determined set of services with the right amount of intelligence and guidance – at every step of your Cisco lifecycle journey. For organizations that need access to dedicated experts, our Specialized Expertise – Scrum Services and Expert-as-a-Service – can help.

With BCS, your teams can create adaptive IT by:

◉ Identifying capabilities and deliverables to address changing priorities, speed adoption, support cross-architecture projects, and accelerate transformation.

◉ Augmenting your workforce with industry-leading expertise in strategy, design, implementation, operations, and optimization

◉ Accelerating complex problem solving through 1:1 coaching sessions and workshops based on specific use cases and insight reviews

Ever found yourself in a situation where you didn’t have the right capabilities to drive a new initiative or address a technical initiative? For assistance with priority projects or unexpected events, Specialized Expertise is a great fit.

Say your business kickstarted its digital transformation journey, but it’s progressing at a slow and steady pace. You realize the urgency of enabling digital ways of working and delivering services. However, to ramp up digital transformation, your IT teams need to modernize legacy systems to ensure applications run smoothly.

With our Scrum Services, you could proactively address your top initiatives throughout the lifecycle with​ flexible IT engagements that allow you to adjust skill sets to match the evolving business needs of your large, multi-domain Cisco solutions.​ Capabilities range from planning and architecture, design and engineering, implementation planning and execution, operations and enablement, automation, cloud transformation, to security readiness, and security breach and attack simulation.

With BCS Expert-as-a-Service, you can close technology gaps by adding the precise expertise you need to elevate collective knowledge and perform at peak levels.

◉ For domain knowledge and architectural design and support, you might select a solution architect.

◉ For hands-on confirmation of your Cisco technologies, a consulting engineer could be the right choice.

◉ For large strategic projects requiring end-to-end delivery management and team coordination, a project manager can assist.

In addition, BCS also offers teams Accelerators best practice coaching sessions to skill-up together.  During these sessions, your staff get the chance to dive into real-world technical cases and engineering challenges, analyze your IT environment to uncover strengths and opportunities for improvement, and learn best practices from experts.

With continuous access to expertise, analytics, and insights, our customers have achieved three times’ faster software upgrades and 70% faster configuration changes.

An operating model to help you adapt

For more than three decades, Cisco has been helping organizations operate at market speed to address changing business priorities. Whether you’re looking to optimize performance and de-risk IT, accelerate technology adoption and transformation, or address the changing priorities of your multi-domain solutions, BCS can help.

To fast-track your path to recovery and growth, BCS recently created a business resiliency operating model that accelerates transformation by improving IT resilience and adaptability. Grounded in best practices and Cisco intellectual capital, this model can help you survive and thrive in these dynamic times.

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When used in conjunction with our lifecycle services, our model empowers organizations to respond quickly to emerging needs with an adaptive workforce, enable continuous transformation to strengthen infrastructure to support emerging workforce models, and deliver a fully optimized digital customer experience.

Find out how Cisco Business Critical Services can help you create an adaptive workforce with Specialized Expertise.

If you missed our webinar on how to create resilient, adaptive, and transformative IT, you can watch it on demand.


Sunday 27 December 2020

The Future of the Cell Site is the Router

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Evolving Cell Site to Multi-Service Cell Site

With 2G, Cell Sites were primarily (designed around circuit-switched TDM Based connectivity and ) responsible for enabling Voice traffic. As the 3G/4G picked up momentum, Cell Sites were upgraded to carry (IP based traffic for) both Voice and Data traffic. This upgrade of Cell Site functionality aligned well with the profitability of Operators. The networks which were aggressive in this transition of Cell Site enabled the profitability. With the 5G around the corner, the role of the Cell Site will be even more crucial. It plays a critical role in adding a new revenue stream, enhance the current offering, and build the business case for 5G adoption. Cell Sites would need to evolve to Multi-Service Site which would offer new revenue-generating streams like B2B service for Small Enterprises and SMB customers, enhanced user experience for social media and streaming services, public safety applications, IOT/Smart City applications, and far edge use cases.

For the Multi-Service Cell Site – it’s imperative that it would demand much higher bandwidth, resiliency, and significantly lower latency. However, most of the Cell Site deploys sub-optimal architecture with layer 2 technologies. While layer 2 solutions have a lower capex, they tend to have higher opex and extremely restrictive in terms of new service creation. To realize the full potential of the Cell Site, it’s critical to bring Layer3 to Cell Site. The backhaul networks have already evolved from MPLS-TP / TDM to Layer3/IP-MPLS-SR. Extending these technologies to Cell Site will bring significant benefits to the service which can be delivered.

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Cisco Converged 5G Transport

Let’s look at some of the key benefits of such evolved architecture:

Robust Infrastructure: The Infrastructure which enabled 3G/4G will not be sufficient to fully realize the potential of the Multi-Service Cell Site. It needs to secure, redundant, reliable, scalable, and SDN enabled. Any compromise on this aspect could result in sub-optimal performance of the network. Using Router/Layer3 based devices at the Cell Site would enable:

◉ Site Sharing/Densification
◉ Best in class Timing capability with Class C precision and SyncE up to the cell site
◉ Carrier-Class Reliability and Redundancy
◉ Consistent OAM end to end
◉ Trust Worthy System with complete visibility of Device Security health.

Service Agility: As we look ahead and build a business case for 5G investment, every network port in the cell site would be viewed as a service port. Uniform function availability / Flexibility and consistency of features will be of utmost importance. The gateway device at the cell Site should have the capability of Network Slicing / Service Demarcation / Quality of Service / Monitoring capability of Service and seamless integration. The Cell Site router provides all the capabilities mentioned along with:

◉ Ease of Integrating 5G Core with AMF/SMF/UPF.
◉ End to End Network Slicing
◉ Seamless Service provisioning & workflow
◉ Consistent QoS across the network
◉ Consistent Service Monitoring across the network.

Operational benefits: Apart from the Capex investment and generating the business case for new revenue-generating streams, the subject of Operational Expenditure has also been the primary part of the 5G journey. It’s unfathomable to build a network that relies on manual intervention apart from racking and stacking activities. Using Router at Cell Site will make the operation seamless and aligned to the rest of the networks. Consistent Tools cross the network allow for stronger control over the network. While the Backhaul & Edge networks have been using the Automation capabilities for a while, given the remoteness of Cell Site – it’s even more critical to have an Automation-first approach for the Cell Site. Features like ZTP, Telemetry

◉ End to End Automation and tighter integration with backhaul.
◉ End to End Layer3/IP for consistent reporting & analytics
◉ Reduced network Touch Points

Saturday 26 December 2020

Drive business efficiency with secure remote work technology

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Remote work is nothing new. In fact, it might be one of the most dominant phrases in 2020’s word cloud. The good news is that with the right technology in place, remote work can deliver benefits across your organization.

Cloud-delivered solutions enable remote workers to remain productive, efficient, and secure – even from the couch. All while helping drive down costs. And with the tips below, you can get even more out of your remote work experience.

Secure your remote workspaces

The three most important words in real estate are location, location, location. In remote work, they’re security, security, security.

The FBI has seen a 300 percent – yes 300 percent – increase in cybercrime since the start of COVID-19. With multiple sites to protect, and employees using home networks and personal devices, remote work opens you up to increased risk. You need to give your remote employees and your business the confidence to collaborate safely with security solutions that:

◉ Offer built-in encryption

◉ Ensure secure endpoint access for any device in your network

◉ Protect sensitive data with robust identity verification for users and devices

◉ Allow employees to communicate and share files securely

◉ Defend against threats with cloud-delivered security

Keep collaboration simple

Login issues, dropped connections, poor audio quality, and other issues like blurry video can affect your team’s ability to work together. Give your employees access to reliable, high-quality voice, video, and messaging in a single solution. Choose collaboration technology that allows employees to:

◉ Seamlessly communicate and collaborate across devices

◉ Share messages and files quickly 1:1 or with a whole team

◉ Quickly find conversations and documents

◉ Brainstorm using a digital whiteboard

◉ Integrate with the apps they use every day

◉ Record meetings and get automatic transcripts

Reduce IT complexity

IT should work for you, not vice versa. Make sure your collaboration technology helps you maximize your time while minimizing your IT hassles. To that end, look for simplified solutions that:

◉ Effortlessly integrate virtual meetings, calling, WiFi, and security

◉ Can easily be deployed and managed by employees who might not have IT skills

◉ Scale with you as your business needs change

Cisco Designed Secure Remote Work  

Fortunately, you don’t have to look far to find the right work from anywhere technology. At Cisco, our small business portfolio includes the collaboration and security solutions you need to simplify, secure, and support your remote work environments. With Cisco Designed Secure Remote Work, you get everything your business needs to deliver an exceptional remote work experience.

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◉ Cisco Webex®: Make it easy for your remote teams to meet, securely share messages and files, search for information, private message, group chat, brainstorm, and work together efficiently.

◉ Cisco Secure Access by Duo: Protect your remote workers’ sensitive data with robust two-factor security that verifies the identity of users, devices, and applications attempting to access your data.

◉ Cisco UmbrellaTM: Protect remote users wherever they’re working with flexible, fast, and effective front-line security by blocking malicious destinations before a connection is established.

◉ Cisco Cloud Mailbox Defense: Scan all your email, internal and external, without difficult technical challenges or interrupting the regular delivery of messages from the cloud while detecting and blocking threats.

Friday 25 December 2020

How I Got Started with Network Automation

Recently I joined the Cisco DevNet team as a Content Developer Engineer. This is exciting for me, because I have an opportunity to merge the two things that I love most: learning more about network automation and helping the IT community grow within their skills.

This year marks 20 years that I have been in information technology. I’ve seen the industry change multiple times, and right now we are in the middle of another major shift. That shift is being driven by organizations needing to expand and extend their networks, resources and services rapidly and at scale. In other words, automation.

By the end of this post, I will share my journey into network automation, Cisco Systems, as well as provide you with everything you need to join the #DevNetClassOf2020. Quick note: I am also going to let you know how you can get a 25% off exam voucher too!

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How I started with Network Automation

In my career, the greatest rewards have come when I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and taken some risks. From joining the Military (USAF), to starting my YouTube channel, learning Python, and now being a part of Cisco Systems. Each one of these moments has helped me get to where I am today. Now that I am here, I am committed to helping you walk, run, and fly in network automation! Are you ready to step outside of your comfort zone?

Three years ago, I was a Systems Administrator working in a comfortable government position. Back then, I thought I would never need to learn to code. To be honest, I could have stayed in that environment, but I decided to take a risk so that I could follow my passion which is network engineering.

In that position, I was tasked with some highly visible projects that drove me to learn the programming language Python. My road to this point has been awesome. I am DevOps certified, DevNet certified, and I have been in a NetDevOps role for the past year. Balancing software sprints and network engineering have prepared me for this new role within Cisco Systems.

Learning Python

People ask me often, “do you need to know Python as a network engineer?” The answer is no you do not… That is until you need a tool to perform a task that has not yet been created. Python gives you the ability to customize and create applications as you need them.

When I first began coding, I could have started with Ansible. However, I found Netmiko to be one of the best tools available for network automation. Because it allowed me to write my python scripts and then parse my return data exactly as I needed. So, I started there. My first automation script was to change the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) configuration for over 300 devices in our network. My second automation script was to update the enable secret password on 700 devices. All of this was achieved in under 50 lines of code. This task normally would take days, to manually login and update each router and switch. But with the power of automation, I took about a day to write and test my code in a nonproduction environment. Then about 30 minutes to run and verify the completion of my script in production.

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How you can get started

When I started automating, learning resources were scarce on these topics. Now, you have a great opportunity to leverage platforms like the DevNet sandbox. Here you can access multiple Cisco platforms and labs that will walk you through utilizing tools like Python, Postman, and Ansible to configure and manage your networks. Many of these resources are free and always available. If you are totally brand new to automation, I recommend you visit the “Start Now” page on DevNet to get started.

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Get DevNet Certified

One of the top questions being asked of network engineers right now is, can you automate? Organizations want to manage their networks more effectively and efficiently. The Cisco DevNet Associates certification can set you on the path to do that. The certificates not only validates your skillset but also will add value to your resume to help you stand out. Lastly, the DevNet Associates certification will give you the ability to speak the same language as software developers and other automation stakeholders.

Here’s a link for a 25% off exam voucher. If you pass before the end of the year, you will get a cool digital badge, free DevNet merchandise, access to special DevNet sessions with the one and only Susie Wee, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco DevNet & CX Ecosystem Success. 

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Call to Action

If I can automate, so can you! Change is inevitable and the more you embrace it, the further ahead you will be. I wish you much success on your automation journey. I look forward to welcoming you to the #DevNetClassof2020.


Thursday 24 December 2020

Cisco MDS 9000 and IBM FICON: Just Got Married Again

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We know humans like to celebrate. The wedding date represents a significant one for many couples and there is a tradition to celebrate again, even if with less fanfare, upon reaching a specific amount of years together. Apparently originated from an ancient German tradition, there is also a symbolic name to represent how long ago the wedding occurred. For example, the golden wedding indicates 50 years of marriage.

Cisco MDS 9000 series and IBM mainframe FICON have not reached that level yet. The original wedding date was in 2004, and 2020 marks 16 years, assuming my math is not wrong. There is a name for this, despite not popularly used. It is called ivy wedding….but don’t ask me why.

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IBM originally announced FICON channels for the S/390 system in May of 1998. Since then, FICON has evolved from 1 Gbit to the 16 Gbit FICON Express16S channels, announced in January 2015 in conjunction with the IBM Systems z13. Each generation of FICON channels offered increased performance and capacity. Initially, the FC-SB-2 Fibre Channel upper-level protocol (ULP) was used by FICON. As the name implies, a single byte (SB) link address was used to specify the switch port on the director, out of a range of 00-255. It supported key features like native FICON storage devices, channel-to-channel connections, FICON directors (or switches), and more. But it did not allow for switched paths over multiple directors. In 2003, with the introduction of a new and enhanced ULP, this limitation was removed. In fact, FC-SB-3 employs a dual byte address.

Funny enough, rather than changing the name from SB to DB, it was decided to change the version instead, increasing its number from 2 to 3. This was the beginning of cascaded FICON. Two directors per fabric, also known as single-hop cascading, became possible since then. Recently multi-hop cascading has been qualified and has opened up new deployment options. Fibre Channel Single-Byte-4 (FC-SB-4) standard followed in 2008 and accounted for a big step forward in terms of performance, by reducing FICON channel overhead with the introduction of the high-performance FICON for System Z (zHPF).

A few years later, FC-SB-5 was standardized and in 2020 work is still in progress for the FC-SB-6 standard and new improvements are expected. Meanwhile, new routing schemas have come along, specifically FICON Dynamic Routing (FIDR), creating an exchange-based routing model (OXID-based routing). Meanwhile, the mainframe gained enhanced monitoring capabilities for switching devices with a revamped version of the CUP protocol.

Just as the protocol and the topologies have evolved over time, the same is true for requirements, expectations, and underlying hardware products. Cisco MDS 9000 series has just completed the most stringent testing and validation exercise, successfully receiving its latest FICON certification letter and can be found on the IBM resource link page (registration is needed to access this website).

With software version, NX OS 8.4(2b), Cisco MDS 9710, MDS 9706, and MDS 9250i and their IBM c-type counterpart have renewed their approval for use within mainframe environments with the full feature set. It is a great achievement, putting Cisco MDS 9000 series at the center of customers’ preferences when it comes to both FICON and Fibre Channel switching. Specifically, the new certification adds support for:

◉ IBM Fiber Channel Endpoint Security
◉ CUP Diagnostics
◉ Support for z/OS health checker
◉ 16G and 32G ELW optics for extended reach on dark fiber

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Cisco CCNP Collaboration 350-801 Certification Practice Test


Cisco CLCOR Exam Description:

This exam tests a candidate's knowledge of implementing core collaboration technologies including infrastructure and design, protocols, codecs, and endpoints, Cisco IOS XE gateway and media resources, Call Control, QoS, and collaboration applications. The course, Implementing Cisco Collaboration Core Technologies, helps candidates to prepare for this exam.

Cisco 350-801 Exam Overview:

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Cisco DNA Spaces helps businesses weather the pandemic

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As we wrap 2020, I want to reflect on the year gone by and what it meant for us folks at Cisco DNA Spaces. I think we can all agree that 2020 was a year like no other. It was a time of crisis, it was a period of upheaval; but it was also a period of innovation and transformation for location analytics products.

DNA Spaces is Cisco’s indoor location and IoT services cloud platform.  It enables Cisco Catalyst and Meraki wireless customers to use their existing network to drive digitization within their buildings.

In a world where our websites and mobile apps are becoming smarter by the day, DNA Spaces was launched with the vision to make buildings smarter, for our customers to drive seamless Wi-Fi onboarding for people and IoT devices, for loyalty based differentiated experiences and for behavioral analytics across your business locations.

Prior to Covid-19, we fulfilled our industry’s need for location analytics, behavioral insights, engagement and onboarding tools. In the two years since launch we are the most deployed indoor location services platform in the world, with over 120,000 global business locations on the platform at present. Most customers used the platform to set up Wi-Fi onboarding, engagement rules, locate assets or collect monthly analytics reports and stats on how their locations were performing. Setup DNA Spaces one time and you are all set from an indoor location services perspective.

And then the pandemic hit.

New circumstances require new solutions

Schools and universities closed without notice. Companies went remote overnight. Stores had to close for in-person shopping. Venues had to cancel their events. The Covid-19 crisis was turning out to be most difficult for our customers that operated out of physical locations.

As the state and federal governments started imposing restrictions and social distancing became a survival tactic, everyone woke up to the importance of understanding how people move and interact within buildings—not just in retrospect but in real time. Navigating the global pandemic required enterprises, policymakers and health officials to understand indoor location behavior trends intimately and use those insights to drive safety and compliance.

The product team at Cisco DNA Spaces saw this as an opportunity to help the community adapt for long-term business resiliency. For a product whose mission is to digitize physical spaces, it was clear that if there was ever a moment we could make an impact, it was now.

Pivoting to meet immediate demands

Our team decided to quickly pivot and reprioritize our product roadmap to include apps that would help customers respond to the pandemic and prepare them to safely get back to business. At the heart of our product pivot strategy were our users. We engaged in conversation with them at every step – acknowledged their needs, collected their feedback, understood their point of view.

Any product team will tell you that taking new features to market with a very short runway isn’t exactly an ideal scenario. But we learnt that if your purpose is clear, if your whole team is onboard and if executed well, the experience can be extremely gratifying.

We tapped into some of our core features and repurposed them to build apps more relevant to the new needs created by the pandemic. This resulted in a suite of apps that facilitate a safe return to work in a suite of Back to Business apps and features, including:

◉ Proximity Reporting App for contact tracing based on wi-fi presence

◉ Right Now App for real-time people count and behavioral monitoring on a single pane across your business locations

◉ Density threshold-based triggers for safe capacities and social distancing

◉ Instant Captive Portals for contact-less customer experiences

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Smoothing the path to adoption

We built and shipped these apps in the shortest time possible. But our work was far from over. How could we scale adoption at a time when customers were working from home and short on both time and money?

Our adoption strategy was based on two key principles:

1. We ensured that all new features would work with zero support– no training, no long customer meetings and no demo. We wanted it to be possible for customers to sign-up, activate and deploy the new Covid-19 apps in 30 minutes or less. This required heavy focus on simplifying and scaling onboarding, providing in-product guidance and proactively addressing support issues with 24/7 service-level agreements (SLAs).

2. We opened up our tier offerings for everyone as a free trial so customers who hadn’t yet adopted DNA Spaces could get started and do contact tracing, monitor real time occupancy within their buildings and deliver contactless experiences. Every Cisco wireless customer deserved to make their buildings safe for business.

Build it and they will come

Over 300 Cisco enterprise customers deployed the new features across 50,000 business locations in the first 60 days after release, leading to improved management of social distancing in places like retail stores, workspaces, hospitals, universities, malls across the world.

The positive response and validation motivated us to stretch ourselves even further and make our apps ready for Meraki as well.

Countless hours and many sleepless nights went into building and shipping these features but all of our efforts were rewarded when we received the ‘Customer Choice’ recognition on Gartner Peer Insights. To be recognized for the value that DNA Spaces continues to deliver was the icing on the cake. The real reward has been the opportunity to share the journey with our customers and be part of their commitments to caring for their employees, customers and communities.

Looking back, but actually looking ahead

As I look back on 2020 one last time, I see what a tough year it has been for all of us. But I also realize that if we broaden our perspective just a little, life becomes that much easier. That said, I believe that for the product and engineering team at Cisco DNA Spaces, 2020 was a year of courage and shared responsibility. But most of all, 2020 was the year of indoor location services – a year when our product found its true relevance and meaning. We will go into 2021 with all our learnings and I believe, we will all be better for it.


Tuesday 22 December 2020

Enabling Innovation in Customer Experience while Optimizing the Multi-Cloud: Part Two

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As you read in part one of this blog, due to the pandemic and the resultant exponential increase in digital transactions, Customer Experience is far more paramount than ever before, across all demographics. It is imperative that as financial institutions embrace multi-cloud, the impact of how services are consumed from different clouds but presented in a consistent manner for the desired Customer Experience is vital.

Impact of the Multi-cloud environment on CX

As institutions go Cloud-All-In to enable this digital transformation, an application customer transaction will bounce across multiple clouds before reaching the end goal. In the recent State of the Cloud 2020 Report by Flexera, customers indicated that their #1 initiative is to reduce cloud bills, but their #2 is go move more workloads to the cloud. This is mainly due to the fact that existing individual cloud-provided tools are not integrated and create data silos. Also, most companies are unable to connect the dots between poor digital performance and the cost to the business. Most importantly, executives want — but don’t have — real-time performance metrics of their applications. There were consistent patterns found when CXO’s were asked how they assure application performance, namely:

◉ They over-provision – on an average 20% more, which is expensive.

◉ They monitor for alerts, which doesn’t always prevent the problems in the first place. In fact, people tell us that they ignore most of the alerts.

◉ They troubleshoot issues with people, which no longer scales given the volume and complexity of workloads.

◉ And they suffer with slow applications. Few companies tell us that they can “assure performance”.

When application workloads get the resources they need, when they need them:

◉ Your applications would perform as designed – no more resource contention.

◉ You’d be able to get the most out of your data center infrastructure.

◉ Sticker shock would be a thing of the past for your cloud projects.

◉ With the infrastructure constraints gone, you would not have to relax your policies.

◉ And best of all, your developers would have time and flexibility to innovate instead of chasing alerts.

The issue is around providing that flexibility for the DevOps teams to experiment at scale  as costs are kept in control, ensuring compliance is maintained and operationally the services are manageable, while assuring application performance is above par. As you constantly aim to find that equilibrium, there are 5 key areas one must keep in mind:

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1. Assuring your applications: Do you understand your application portfolio ‘beyond the CMDB’ ? How will you be prioritizing your application migration? What KPIs will you use to baseline and measure success?

2. Streamline your operations: Will you be enabling developers to deploy infrastructure on demand? On multiple clouds? How do you plan to cost-optimize your infra?

3. Multi-cloud & cloud hosting: How will you develop the right level of abstraction across multiple clouds? How will developers manage container platforms across multiple clouds? How will you host legacy workloads?

4. Multi-cloud Optimized Networks: How will you achieve common operations, policy, visibility, and performance across multiple clouds? How will you assure and secure user experience to any cloud from anywhere?

5. Zero Trust Security: How will you deliver a cloud-ready security policy across multiple clouds, without slowing developers down? How does your cloud security strategy fit with your overall security strategy?

Taking a holistic solution approach

The true value of the application is not just on the hosting but on the consumption. Providing end to end connectivity, security, assurance and visibility to consume the apps is the key, looking at it consistently is the right way to provide the desired outcomes.

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Cloud Hosting: Create cloud-agnostic, cloud native software solutions to enable and optimize your multi-cloud. Cloud-agnosticism means different services consumed from different clouds but presented in a consistent manner across clouds.

Cloud Consumption: Providing end-to-end connectivity, security, assurance, and visibility to consume those services across all clouds.

All cloud providers within themselves have strong capabilities, but as you undoubtedly are embracing multi-cloud, it’s imperative to be able to create consistent services across multiple clouds or as some people like to say – keeping the cloud providers honest. Thereby giving your development teams the flexibility to meet and surpass business asks and expectations, when it comes to the digital experience from their applications, but do it while keeping costs in check, maintain compliance and operational teams happy too.

Thus, evolving your applications experience not just from a FUNCTIONAL one to a JOYFUL one, but further raising the entire digital experience to a MEANINGFUL one. Thereby increasing your brand value and in-turn your desired customer recall.

Realizing this vision, backed by a business case

Cisco has always been at the forefront of providing the underlying infrastructure in enabling the expected connected experience, enabling businesses to get the most out of their ever-changing foundational layer. Cisco’s Performance IT program takes a consultative approach to assessing how your current multi-cloud environment is set up to help achieve your expected application experience. Keeping business outcomes in mind, Performance IT takes a 360˚ view of architectural transition, operational efficiency, and financial oversight in one go. It provides organizations with an architectural blueprint and a target operating model to demonstrate how this architecture can be run effectively. The cherry on top is the financial benefit in making this possible and setting up your teams to assure application performance in a multi-cloud environment of the future.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Enabling Innovation in Customer Experience while Optimizing the Multi-Cloud: Part One

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Digital Experience is the Brand

We live in a world where customers expect a digital experience. That experience makes or breaks brands today. According to The App Attention Index, people today are far less tolerant of problems with digital services than they were just two years ago, and they’re now far more likely to take decisive action – deleting apps, turning to the competition, and sharing their negative experiences far and wide.

The index gives us some key insights into these changes in consumer behavior:

◉ An average person used 34 digital services every day

◉ 61% admit they reach for their mobile phone before talking to anyone else when they wake up

◉ 55% can only go without a mobile device for up to 4 hours before they find it difficult to manage tasks in their everyday life

◉ 71% admit that digital services are so intrinsic to their daily lives, they don’t realize how much they rely on them

It’s evident that the penalty for poor application experience is very high, with over 49% of surveyed users stating they have switched suppliers due to poor digital experience. Not to mention, a 100ms delay in load time resulted in a 7% drop in conversion, which when compounded, substantially impacts the bottom line.

The digital experience is not just scanning a document or having a video call with a regional manager; it means actually doing an end to end transaction completely digitally. Today, application loyalty is the new brand loyalty, meaning that consumers are loyal to the brands that deliver digital experience perfection. In the same report, 70% of consumers said they want digital experiences to be more personalized than those that happen face-to-face. Furthermore, 50% stated that they would be willing to pay more for an organization’s product or service if its digital services were better than a competitor’s.

The Pandemic’s effect on Customer Experience

As the pandemic has hit us, it pushed all age groups towards extreme digital adoption. This is no longer a gen x or gen y statement; it is true across all ages, making it far more important to act upon than ever before.

In a recent McKinsey & Company study, interesting demographics emerged during these pandemic times, which led to some key observations:

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◉ Digital preferences of older Western European consumer cohorts (ages 51-64 and 65+) aligning for the first time with those of younger demographics for most banking services

◉ Declines across markets in consumers’ desire to visit branches for transactions—shifts that may stick for the long-term

◉ Digital is expected to become the default channel for most customers and the sole sales and service channel for many

Because of this scenario, users don’t just compare one bank’s app experience with another bank’s app experience, but as the apps on their phones sit next to the apps from other industries (Amazon, Facebook, Uber, etc.) subconsciously, the expectation is set in that the banking app should be as good in the experience as the others, if not a leap ahead: That is the bar we are measured against.

The good news is that the technology to not only meet the app experience bar set by these companies, but to surpass them is available, and our development teams are always keen to get their hands on them and embed them within our customers’ journeys towards making the app experience exceptional. But as the customer experience simplifies, there is a multifold explosion in application complexity:

◉ Businesses are investing in making things better, easier, and more engaging for their customers

◉ This innovation is driven by investments that only increase complexity

◉ Highly distributed, multi-cloud, micro-services, APIs, containers, IOT environments, and relentless code releases that introduce constant change

◉ And all of this is happening at a staggering scale

Saturday 19 December 2020

Industrial IoT: Top 3 trends for 2021

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After 2020’s twists and turns, here’s hoping that 2021 ushers in a restored sense of “normal.” In thinking about what the upcoming year might bring for industrial IoT, three key trends emerge.

Trend #1: Securing operational technology (OT)

IT will take a bolder posture to secure OT environments.

Cyber risks in industrial environments will continue to grow causing IT to take bolder steps to secure the OT network in 2021. The CISO and IT teams have accountability for cybersecurity across the enterprise. But often they do not have visibility into the OT network. Many OT networks use traditional measures like air gapping or an industrial demilitarized zone to protect against attacks. But these solutions are rife with backdoors. For example, third-party technicians and other vendors often have remote access to update systems, machines and devices. With increasing pressure from board members and government regulators to manage IoT/OT security risks, and to protect the business itself, the CISO and IT will need to do more.

Success requires OT’s help. IT cybersecurity practices that work in the enterprise are not always appropriate for industrial environments. What’s more, IT doesn’t have the expertise or insight into operational and process control technology. A simple patch could bring down production (and revenues).

Bottom line? Organizations will need solutions that strengthen cybersecurity while meeting IT and OT needs. For IT, that means visibility and control across their own environment to the OT network. For OT, it means security solutions that allow them respond to anomalies while keeping production humming.

Trend #2: Remote and autonomous operations

The need for operational resiliency will accelerate the deployment of remote and autonomous operations – driving a new class of networking.

The impact of changes brought on in 2020 is driving organizations to increasingly use IoT technologies for operational resiliency. After all, IoT helps keep a business up and running when people cannot be on the ground. It also helps improve safety and efficiencies by preventing unnecessary site visits and reducing employee movement throughout facilities.

In 2021, we will see more deployments aimed at sophisticated remote operations. These will go well beyond remote monitoring. They will include autonomous operational controls for select parts of a process and will be remotely enabled for other parts. Also, deployments will increasingly move toward full autonomy, eliminating the need for humans to be present locally or remotely. And more and more, AI will used for dynamic optimization and self-healing, in use cases such as:

◉ autonomous guided vehicles for picking and packing, material handling, and autonomous container applications across manufacturing, warehouses and ports

◉ increased automation of the distribution grid

◉ autonomous haul trucks for mining applications

◉ Computer-based train control for rail and mass transit

All these use cases require data instantly and in mass, demanding a network that can support that data plus deliver the speed required for analysis. This new class of industrial networking must provide the ability to handle more network bandwidth, offer zero latency data and support edge compute. It also needs security and scale to adapt quickly, ensuring the business is up and running – no matter what.

Trend #3: Managing multiple access technologies

Organizations will operate multiple-access technologies to achieve operational agility and flexibility.

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While Ethernet has always been the foundation for connectivity in industrial IoT spaces, that connectivity is quickly expanding to wireless. Wireless helps reduce the pain of physical cabling and provides the flexibility and agility to upgrade, deploy and reconfigure the network with less operational downtime. Newer wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G also power use cases not possible in the past (or possible only with wired connectivity).

As organizations expand their IoT deployments, the need to manage multiple access technologies will grow. Successful deployments will require the right connectivity for the use case, otherwise, costs, complexity and security risks increase. With wireless choices including Wi-Fi, LoRaWAN, Wi-SUN, public or private cellular, Bluetooth and more, organizations will need to determine the best technology for each use case.

Cisco’s recommendation: Build an access strategy to optimize costs and resources while ensuring security. Interactions between access technologies should deliver a secured and automated end-to-end IP infrastructure – and must avoid a “mishmash” leading to complexity and failed objectives.

Friday 18 December 2020

The Why of AI and ML

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In recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have been in the spotlight. I think by now folks understand that neither are some strange form of technological magic, but rather a science and some working knowledge of the domain is now well understood. However, up to this point, the question has been “what are AI and ML?”  But what I want to take some time to ask, is why? Why do we need them? Why will they still be a part of products and services; not just in security but throughout our digital lives?

The short answer is because we can no longer operate at human-scale to be competitive. It is necessary that we operate to some degree at machine-scale and this is where advanced computer science techniques become valuable. AI and ML are just a few of these techniques and to maximize their benefits, we must know how to use them safely and effectively. Like any advanced technology, they can be used for good or for bad or maybe I should say that it could be used for your benefit or your demise.

There is a pattern that joins humans to machines, machines to machines, machines back to humans, and humans to humans. We have hundreds of years of social science that we can use when examining human to human patterns. Machine to machine includes a multitude of well-known patterns in computer science discussed on a daily basis. So for now, let’s concentrate on the patterns that integrate humans with machines and vice versa.

Human-to-machine communication is largely based on the human’s ability to communicate their “intent” to the machine. This is done via a model that the machine can process and that the human can express and understand. The precision of this model is critical to the overall success. A model that is too coarse limits the machine’s accuracy in its automation; while a model that is too precise may lead to humans making errors in their expression or just be too tedious to maintain. A great example of a model done well is cloud-native orchestration like Kubernetes. The admin can specify his/her intent for production in a model and Kubernetes orchestrates these microservices in an adaptive manner depending on future demand of the environment – scaling up and down depending on criteria.

One last thing to add about these models that sit in-between human-to-machine is that in the example above, the initial model may have been instantiated by the human, but over time, machines via their observations, can create their own models at scales well beyond human perception. You could say that these machine derived models are “machine-learned.”

The machine-to-human pattern is largely constrained by human cognition and human understanding. No matter how fancy your machine learning system may be, if the human cannot understand how the machine arrived at an answer, it cannot be trusted. Machines must “explain” their findings and analytical outcomes in a way that humans can understand. Failing to do so means that automation is not being safely managed and should not be coupled with actions that are critical to human life or to the business. To operate at machine-scale effectively and safely, machines must be able to communicate their operational integrity and analytical outcomes in ways that their human steward can comprehend. This is challenging because in some cases, machines are interfacing with experts and in some cases, non-experts. In the end, you must design systems that are observer-centric and accommodate for the different personas that use the system.

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Getting this right means that we can leverage machines as tools that help us go beyond human perception and even what is humanly possible to build as a workforce. This would not have been such a useful capability if it were not for the Internet. Because of the Internet, businesses are asked to understand questions that are global in scale, that deal with petabytes of data, quantities of data processing that are just no longer at human-scale. Businesses are also having to operate with dynamic ranges never experienced in our recorded history: On Monday you may have to service 30,000 customers, on Tuesday THE ENTIRE INTERNET SHOWS UP, and on Wednesday 20,000 customers. Without the help of machines, we could not take advantage of these opportunities.

The term Machine Learning has been used synonymously with Artificial Intelligence when in reality, ML is a child of AI. So, if AI is the parent of ML, does ML have any brothers and sisters? The answer is yes and over the years, we will move beyond the data science-biased ML as we meet and get to know these new siblings that will help us humans operate safely and securely at machine-scale.

Thursday 17 December 2020

Forget the New Normal. Experience a New Difference With The All New Webex

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Staying Connected and Getting Work Done with the All New Webex

The rapid uptake of remote working has led to a parallel increase in use of Webex as businesses key collaboration tool for colleagues to stay connected and get work done.

The power of the all new Webex is the ability to bring together everything you need to see a project through to fruition – One easy-to-use and secure app to call, message, meet and make exceptional work happen. As a result, you may find yourself operating within one app for most of your working day.

With this in mind our Cisco Collaboration team have been brainstorming ideas that not only help you complete your work, but also represents your style and personality.

In this new release we are excited to introduce:

1. Fresh new color themes

2. Backgrounds for your profile, contact card and spaces

3. Cobranding options to reinforce your corporate brand

Fresh New Color Schemes

First up, we have added 3 new color themes to reinvent your Webex experience. You now have a choice between Jade, Lavender and Bronze – each available in light and dark mode on your desktop and mobile app. Easily transform your app color theme within the ‘Appearance’ tab in the app settings.

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Expressive New Backgrounds

Next up, you can now add fun and a splash of personality to your Webex app with new backgrounds for your profile, contact card and spaces. Backgrounds can also act as great way to help you differentiate between each of your workflow spaces.

Backgrounds are easily accessible in your app settings. You can now pick from a select number of designs to change a standard space into a fun and visually appealing work area. But stay tuned, as custom backgrounds are coming soon!

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The Power of Webex with Your Own Brand

Finally, we have introduced the ability to co-brand Webex with your own company brand. Your brand is your company’s identity, it has value, gives you direction and customer awareness.  And, now you can include that within your Webex experience by adding your company colors to the app header and your company logo on the side panel bar.

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Color themes, backgrounds and co-branding are just the start in the Webex journey to bring yourself to your virtual workplace.