Thursday 24 August 2023

How SD-WAN Solves Multicloud Complexity

Cloud is the undisputed center of gravity when supporting distributed workforces. But managing secure connectivity in a growing multicloud environment continues to be more complex, expensive, and time consuming.

Enter the software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), a powerful, abstracted software layer that serves as a centralized control plane to enable organizations to automate, simplify, and optimize their network transport for any application to any cloud.   

Are you ready to steer traffic on demand, based on centralized policy, network insights, and predictive AI, and further enhanced by end-to-end visibility? Do you want to be more proactive instead of reactive in how you manage this traffic and run your network? If so, read on! 

Abstracting the complexity of multicloud 

Enterprises accelerated their transition to cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) during the pandemic to support their distributed workforces at home and on the go. This has seen multicloud environments become the norm. Our 2023 Global Networking Trends Report found that 92% of respondents used more than one public cloud in their infrastructure and 69% used over five SaaS applications.  

Connecting to different providers and network layers in multicloud environments has led to a patchwork of infrastructure and management controllers. This results in more complexity and cost for organizations looking to ensure a secure, consistent user experience.  

Networking complexity, from first to last mile 

Let’s look at these networking layers and why IT simplification is crucial in connecting today’s highly mobile workforce to business-critical applications.  

In the first mile, users access services from offices and campuses near data centers or remotely, from uncontrolled facilities using various devices (Figure 1). Workers connect through Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), broadband, Wi-Fi, and cellular. Remote workers use their internet service provider (ISP) to connect them to concentrators at regional peering points of presence (PoPs).

SD-WAN Solves Multicloud Complexity, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco Skills
Figure 1. New architecture for the distributed workplace  

The middle mile is the long-haul transport layer that has grown in complexity with the migration to the cloud. It serves as the connective tissue between first and last mile, interconnecting different types of cloud services, cloud applications (e.g., SaaS, IaaS), and data centers. Specialized middle-mile providers like Equinix and Megaport provide cross-connects between business networks, the internet, and cloud providers globally. Adding to the array of choices in the middle mile, public cloud providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure offer customers the ability to access their apps with site-to-cloud, site-to-site, region-to-region, cloud-to-cloud, and other connection options with different quality of experience metrics.  

The last mile is the connection between the data center or service provider and the end user’s device and application.    

Managing multicloud complexity with SD-WAN integrations  

Using applications distributed across multiple clouds and SaaS, workers have widely different experiences depending on their location. Adverse and unpredictable amounts of downtime, latency, and speed, for example, can threaten business continuity. So, establishing reliable, consistent, high-quality experiences is very much on the minds of enterprise IT managers today. 

More than half (53%) of respondents to the 2023 Global Networking Trends Report said they are prioritizing integration with cloud providers to improve connectivity to cloud-based apps from distributed locations. Additionally, 49% said they are using SD-WAN integrations across providers and multiple clouds to provide a simpler, consistent, optimized, and secure IT and application experience. 

SD-WAN unifies the entire WAN backbone and brings secure, private, cloud-aware connectivity that is agnostic to all kinds of link types, providers, and geographies (Figure 2).  

SD-WAN Solves Multicloud Complexity, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco Skills
Figure 2. SD-WAN integrations with IaaS, SaaS, and middle-mile providers are vital for a better IT and user experience 

With SD-WAN providing connectivity between cloud, SaaS, and middle-mile providers, real-time traffic steering based on centralized policy and end-to-end analytics is possible. Network admins can be proactive instead of reactive, changing traffic parameters on demand, according to application, congestion, location, user, device, and other factors. 

SD-WAN multicloud integrations in action 

Tamimi Markets, a major Saudi Arabian supermarket chain, was having trouble providing a consistent experience to users at markets, warehouses, branch offices, and remote locations. Dependent on three ISPs for end-to-end connectivity in a hub-and-spoke architecture, they moved to a cloud architecture to eliminate the need to backhaul network traffic through the headquarters and in the process quadrupled bandwidth speeds. An integrated SD-WAN enables them to steer their traffic over a variety of link options based on network demand, cost, and quality of experience metrics.  

Asian food manufacturer Universal Robina Corporation shifted to a multicloud architecture to support remote workers after the pandemic. It uses SD-WAN to connect users and apps to its multicloud architecture securely, wherever they are located. The multicloud integrations enable secure connectivity from branches to the Microsoft Azure cloud and with Microsoft 365 for a superior application experience with informed network routing (INR) that enables the exchange of telemetry between Cisco and Microsoft while providing full visibility to Universal Robina’s IT team. 

Foundational for a SASE architecture 

Another benefit of SD-WAN is that it is one half of a converged secure access service edge (SASE) architecture. SASE radically simplifies security and networking through unified and centralized management to connect users to applications in complex and highly distributed environments. By combining SD-WAN networking infrastructure and routing traffic through a cloud-centric security service edge (SSE) solution, companies can maintain the same level of security for cloud users as data center users (Figure 3).

SD-WAN Solves Multicloud Complexity, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco Skills
Figure 3. SD-WAN is foundational to a SASE architecture 

It’s a multicloud world and SD-WAN―with tight integrations to leading cloud, SaaS, and middle-mile providers―is the connective tissue from first mile to last, managing complexity and driving agility throughout sprawling multicloud environments.

What’s more, SD-WAN multicloud integrations bring together each organization’s many different types of transport connections and policies under one management system for secure, consistent service.

The cost savings from automation and the ability to steer traffic on demand with optimized routing are further compelling reasons why SD-WAN continues to grow in popularity. Once established, these features enable IT departments to build an optimized global network in a simplified, fully automated way, within hours. 


Tuesday 22 August 2023

Why are CEOs Cyber Resilient?

Cyber Resilient, Cisco Certification, Cisco Career, Cisco Prepartion, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Learning

I recently attended a session run by the Said Business School at Oxford along with an organisation called Istari. The discussion was based upon their research into at the view CEOs had of cyber resilience.

There were two immediate points which struck me. The first is that major cyber incidents are hugely traumatic for CEOs. It is an experience they are ill equipped to deal with when compared to other business challenges. This is not surprising considering the speed at which an incident can stop a business from operating and its relative recent appearance when compared to other risks. The second was that cyber security is not a topic to interest a CEO but cyber resilience certainly is. So, a lesson for security professionals is to “watch your language” and use more recognised terminology.

So, what practical steps can a CEO take to address Cyber Resilience rather than just heaving it on to the shoulders of the CISO.

One of the issues could be a possible difference between views on Cyber Resilience between Business Leaders and CISOs. A recent report by the World Economic Forum showed a comparative difference between these two groups in their organisations cyber resilience capability. Whereas CISOs saw a definite improvement Business Leaders were not so sure.

Cyber Resilient, Cisco Certification, Cisco Career, Cisco Prepartion, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Learning

One action could be is to define and agree what resilience means to the organisation. It can be very different according to the nature, risk and priorities of the organisation. In a key, regulated member of the CNI there will be a different idea of resilience when compared to a born in the cloud start up chasing market share. The former will be focused on ensuring stability and compliance, the latter on availability and speed of change. So different views of what it means to keep the business operating, adapting and innovating.

The CEO should be agreeing on a Risk based approach and clearly expressing the importance of this is at the start. One principle I was told to follow many years ago as a young consultant is that CEOs always make decision with a Risk vs Opportunity mind set. If we do this, what will we gain, what could we lose and how do we minimise the downside? So, security teams can always present an issue on those terms. What the priorities are, how should they be addressed and the identifiable benefits.

From the CISO perspective this can be a great help in practical terms. For example, during a discussion with a couple of CISOs, it became apparent that they had different levels of budgetary support from their CEO. One had aligned all expenditure with the Risk Register and was well funded. The other had a funding surge after an incident but interest had waned and now funding was harder to justify. The former had the support of the CEO for the security function whilst the latter was seen in the light of a specific incident which became less valid as memories faded.

This observation led me to another topic. A lot is talked about Culture, the soft art of improving security and resilience. This is increasingly referred to by CISOs but shouldn’t the CEO be leading this change? To draw a comparison. Over the years the concept of Health and Safety has increased in profile as CEOs committed to the principles especially in industries such as Oil and Gas. This developed into a clear set of ordered  priorities, employees, customers, shareholders. Now the principles of Sustainability are also becoming fundamental to how an organisation operates. Cyber Resilience can likewise be developed into the fabric and values. Become part of the culture.

The best place to start is at the most senior level. Some years go the World Economic Forum produced a set of Board Principles to support CEOs and which are valid today. They encompass the basic needs which a Board to address from Accountability to Collaboration. Adopting an internationally recognised framework has been successful in the past and I am aware of a CISO who used these Principles to gain greater traction internally. Driven by the CEO this will create a sense of Cyber Resilience as part of the fundamental management of the business.

All preparation is improved by constant repetition and developing the ability to act when needed. Tabletop exercises are commonly carried out. But for the CEO to lead on these and ensure full cooperation is a further way to change the culture and thinking.  Being trained in a situation will intuitively increase awareness of the importance of cyber resilience as well as building in response capabilities. Learning in the middle of an incident is not the best option.

When addressing culture at a more tactical, day to day, basis the CEO should ensure that the ELT have Security Champions working in all areas of the business. People who understand how colleagues work to and align security with them. Understanding the User Experience. The benefit of this will be to feed back to the security teams the needs of the business from a resilience perspective. Whether following set procedures is more important than being able to adapt quickly and securely for example.  In addition, it makes security a cooperative rather than an antagonistic exercise where the security team impose controls.

As a final thought. The CEO could support the CISO in getting the right communications around the risk and benefits to the business by not holding the CISO responsible for communicating the ideas and principles. In other words, make it the responsibility for the business leaders to communicate what resilience means to them and their areas of responsibility.

One CISO was supported by the adoption of  this approach and got the support from within the organisation they secured.  The brand was of paramount importance to the business. Built up over years. A major corporate asset. The CISO asked the marketing team to define the impact and cost, tangible and intangible, of an incident on the brand and how resilience could be worked into the brand values as a positive element for customers. Whilst it may be a long trek for the CISO to achieve this support, for the CEO it could be a simple first step to inculcate cyber resilience into the culture and thinking of the organisation by asking the functional leads to take the initiative.

For the CEO an incident could be traumatic. But there are a range of proactive steps that could be taken at the most senior level through to daily operations.

There is an adage that the most expensive security is the security that is applied after the event. If the CEO leads Cyber Resilience journey, not only will security make the organisation more resilience, it could also save money. It will weigh the Risk vs Opportunity decision in favour of the opportunity by understanding and mitigating the risk. And by being part of the solution the CEO will find the traumatic impact of an incident is reduced.


Saturday 19 August 2023

Cisco Full-Stack Observability Platform: Rapid Development and Partner Collaboration

Collaboration was key in the development of the platform

In June 2022, Cisco announced plans to develop Cisco Full-Stack Observability (FSO) platform, expanding upon the foundations set by AppDynamics Cloud. By February 2023, during Cisco Live Europe, we introduced the tech preview of Cisco FSO Platform. In just six more months, our promise of general availability was fulfilled by Cisco Live US, and we exceeded initial expectations by releasing six innovative modules.

Cisco Certification, Cisco Career, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Prep, Cisco Learning

A significant aspect of this achievement was our collaboration with external partners. Rather than solely do the development in-house, many of these modules were built by partners trained on the FSO platform. They utilized its tools and SDKs to create these modules, which were then published on our App Exchange. Rather than having a platform land with a thud, Cisco FSO Platform launched with enthusiastic partners who helped battle test it, and whose modules offered very real, market leading value from the outset.

The modules, available now on Cisco FSO Platform App Exchange, introduce features ranging from real-time cost insights to machine learning-based Kubernetes performance optimizers.

Being open, extensible and programmable makes the platform powerful

At its core, the platform incorporates a comprehensive MELT fabric — Metrics, Events, Logs, and Traces. This system is designed to efficiently process vast amounts of data from diverse digital systems. But the real power of the platform doesn’t just stem from MELT storage and query. It derives from seven powerful features that can be programmed collectively, or individually, and a unique application packaging system for deploying these solutions to the Cisco FSO Platform exchange. From the customer point of view, this manifests in the form of subscription solutions that can provide diverse feature sets, ranging from small enhancements to full-blown applications with a specific industry focus. From a competitive point of view we can confidently say that the platform offers the most sophisticated and comprehensive approach to building cloud native full stack observability solutions.

Before we dig into the pieces of the platform and the development model, consider for a moment the challenge of what it even means to define this new category of application – the MELT app. Perhaps the best analogy for what the platform provides, is that it acts as a distributed operating system that governs the complete lifecycle of MELT data, from collection and ingestion to processing, storage, and query. This means that a MELT app is a distributed application, and the complexity could easily spiral out of control.

Consider distributed microservices based “applications.” They are themselves so complex and so distributed that in many ways they are the raison d’etre for monitoring platforms such as Cisco FSO Platform. When we approached the problem of how to enable this “MELT app” we knew that we had to embrace the concept of declarative versus imperative, applications. We had to provide a very clear framework versus a low-level free-for-all. That is to say, a Cisco FSO MELT app is a set of declarations, each declaration telling a particular piece of the platform how it should behave.

Cisco Certification, Cisco Career, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Prep, Cisco Learning
How Cisco FSO Platform works

A winning, customer-centric governance model from the get-go

We also knew that the platform had to provide solid isolation primitives that would guarantee that App A and App B could safely co-exist. We took to heart the idea that the data flowing into the platform is absolutely owned by the customer, and that applications are guests that a customer grants revocable privileges to. We heard arguments that “applications ingest data” and “apps own the data.” We soundly rejected these ideas. The customer ingests their data. The customer owns their data. An application is a guest that a customer invites and allows to perform clearly articulated, non-destructive, actions on the MELT stream.

With that preamble out of the way let’s dig into the primitives that the platform exposes to solutions.

  1. Dashboards and Microsites – MELT UI may be the most important and front-facing component of the platform. Dashboards are not just a way to throw charts onto a page. They are a comprehensive framework that applications can leverage to build fully interactive experiences on MELT data. When we took on the challenge of data driven visualization, we knew we couldn’t just coexist with Grafana dashboards. We had to do something game-changing and raise the bar. We aspire to be nothing less than the best MELT dashboarding platform in the industry. While we can’t explain it all in this summary, the nutshell is that we embrace an emerging standard called JSONata for the manipulation of JSON data that puts the dashboard builder radically in control of how data is transformed and manipulated so that virtually any data source can be paired with any visualization. On top of that, microsites allow our solution developers to provide containers that serve their application experiences from the backend frameworks and languages of their choice, while maintaining a consistent authn/z experiences for the user. This comprehensive approach to UI provides partners with an unequaled set of capabilities.
  2. Extensible Access Control – In a dynamic digital environment, one-size-fits-all access controls are too restrictive. Our platform’s extensible access control adapts to varying application domains. Developers can easily create domain-specific roles, ensuring precise and secure access over features that they themselves provide. Customers benefit from robust, customizable roles ensuring their data is only accessed by the right personnel. Developers are unlocked to create new roles that make sense for their own verticals vs generic “admin” roles that may be too broadly scoped.
  3. Cloud Collectors and Custom APIs – It would quite literally be impossible to predict the shape and variety of APIs that partners and solution developers want to integrate. The platform’s support for custom data gatherers, or “cloud collectors” allows the developer self-service over their integrations. Developers can gather data from diverse endpoints using any programming language with containerized collectors. For businesses, this means unparalleled flexibility in data integration and the capability to extend the platform’s API for unique needs.
  4. Knowledge Store – The knowledge store, acting as the platform’s distributed brain, stores non-MELT related information. This can be anything from an investigation workflow, to a dashboard. The knowledge store is internally globally replicated and layered but presents as a simple store. This vastly simplifies the developer’s lifestyle. Developers can create “knowledge models” that extend the knowledge store with new types. For example, if a developer wanted to create a solution that allowed an investigation to be linked to a health rule violation, the developer is empowered to totally define the concept of an investigation through Knowledge modeling. The global, multi-region nature of the knowledge store means that developers don’t have to worry about, or even know that customers reside in multiple cells across multiple regions globally. Just push a simple knowledge model to the platform and you are good to go, regardless of how many customers around the globe subscribe to your app.
  5. Serverless Workflow – Observability pipelines can be notoriously hard to wrangle. By implementing the CNCF Serverless Workflows and Cloud Events standards, Cisco FSO Platform allows third-party developers to inject both simple and intricate behaviors into the observability pipeline. This allows domain specific transformations, and even the derivation of new data off the arriving stream.
  6. Entity Modeling – With roots in AppDynamics’ Application Performance Monitoring, our enhanced entity modeling organizes complex signals into intelligible insights. Developers can model domains with the Flexible MELT Modeling language, correlating signals across domains. Customers get a layered view, enabling precise problem pinpointing and resolution. The key to entity modeling is that it provides a domain specific, organizational scheme for the vast quantities of data that customers ingest. Without entity modeling, most tasks begin with just figuring out where and what a particular error came from. With deep support for entity modeling, domains can provide full stack correlation of data immediately. For example, supposing you are a metropolitan European transit agency tasked with providing on-time performance reporting in compliance with EU regulations. Entity modeling allows you to create entities representing both real physical assets such as vehicles reporting live telemetry, as well as roll-up entities such as cities and regions that monitor large-scale aggregate performance. Errors affecting turnstiles and card readers can immediately be correlated up the stack to the station and regions effected, as well as down the stack to clusters, nodes, and processes. This is full stack observability.
  7. Health Rules – Health rules are a critical part of providing a full stack experience for customers. Developers can provide health rules that are integrally aware of the entity models and domains provided in the developer’s solution. Returning to the example of stations and vehicles, the definition of a station’s health depends on factors that are likely understood in great detail by the developer of the full stack transit monitoring solution. By including custom health rules, in the solution, behaviors such as linking health to on-time-performance of arriving trains and rider wait times becomes possible. By providing these out-of-the-box, the solution developer is able to provide the customer with a wealth of domain experience that wouldn’t practically be feasible to ask the customer to ‘figure out themselves’.


Thursday 17 August 2023

Cisco Drives Full-Stack Observability with Telemetry

Cisco Career, Cisco skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Guides, Cisco Learning

Telemetry data holds the key to flawless, secure, and performant digital experiences

Organizations need to build complete customer-centric environments that deliver superb, secure, personalized digital experiences every time, or risk losing out in the race for competitive advantage. Prioritizing both internal- and external-facing applications and ensuring they are running optimally is the engine behind every successful modern business.

The complexity of cloud native and distributed systems has risen in lockstep with the expectations of customers and end users. This rachets up the pressure on the teams responsible for applications. They need to aggregate petabytes of incoming data from applications, services, infrastructure, and the internet and connect it to business outcomes.

This telemetry data — called MELT or metrics, events, logs, and traces — contains the information needed to keep digital experiences running at peak performance. Understanding, remediating, and fixing any current or potential breakdown of the digital experience depends on this collective data to isolate the root cause.

Given our dependence on performant, real-time applications, even a minor disruption can be costly. A recent global survey by IDC reveals the cost of a single hour’s downtime averages a quarter of a million dollars — so it’s vital that teams can find, triage, and resolve issues proactively or as quickly as possible.

The answers lie in telemetry, but there are two hurdles to clear

The first is sorting through vast volumes of siloed telemetry in a workable timeframe. While solutions on the market can identify anomalies, or issues out of baseline, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a meaningful tool for cross-domain resolution. In fact, only 17% of IDC’s survey respondents said current monitoring and visibility options are meeting their needs, though they are running multiple solutions.

The second is that some data may not even be captured by some monitoring solutions because they see only parts of the technology stack. Today’s applications and workloads are so distributed that solutions lacking visibility into the full stack — application to infrastructure and security, up to the cloud and out to the internet where the user is connected — are missing some vital telemetry altogether.

Effective observability requires a clear line of sight to every possible touchpoint that could impact the business and affect the way its applications and associated dependencies perform, and how they are used. Getting it right involves receiving and interpreting a massive stream of incoming telemetry from networks, applications and cloud services, security devices, and more, used to gain insights as a basis for action.

Cisco occupies a commanding position with access to billions upon billions of data points

Surfacing 630 billion observability metrics daily and absorbing 400 billion security events every 24 hours, Cisco has long been sourcing telemetry data from elements that are deeply embedded in networks, such as routers, switches, access points and firewalls, all of which hold a wealth of intelligence. Further performance insights, uptime records and even logs are sourced from hyperscalers, application security solutions, the internet, and business applications.

This wide range of telemetry sources is even more critical because the distributed reality of today’s workforce means that end-to-end connectivity, application performance and end-user experience are closely correlated. In fact, rapid problem resolution is only possible if available MELT signals represent connectivity, performance, and security, as well as dependencies, quality of code, end-user journey, and more.

To assess this telemetry, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are essential for predictive data models that can reliably point the way to performance-impacting issues, using multiple integration points to collect different pieces of data, analyze behavior and root causes, and match patterns to predict incidents and outcomes.

Cisco plays a leading role in the OpenTelemetry movement, and in making systems observable

As one of the leading contributors to the OpenTelemetry project, Cisco is committed to ensuring that different types of data can be captured and collected from traditional and cloud native applications and services as well as from the associated infrastructure, without dependence on any tool or vendor.

While OpenTelemetry involves metrics, events/logs and traces, all four types of telemetry data are essential. Uniquely, Cisco Full-Stack Observability has leveraged the power of traces to surface issues and insights throughout the full stack rather than within a single domain. Critically, these insights are connected to business context to provide actionable recommendations.

For instance, the c-suite can visualize the business impact of a poor mobile application end-user experience while their site reliability engineers (SREs) see the automated action required to address the cause.

By tapping into billions of points of telemetry data across multiple sources, Cisco is leading the way in making systems observable so teams can deliver quality digital experiences that help them achieve their business objectives.


Saturday 12 August 2023

Inside the Cisco Modeling Labs 2.6 Workbench Revamp

Cisco Modeling Labs (CML) 2.6, the latest version of our premier network virtualization platform, is finally here. CML 2.6 offers quite a list of useful tools, with additions like Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud deployment and a new Maintenance mode for system admins.

However, I’m here to discuss the feature I’m most excited about:

CML 2.6 includes a revamped Workbench that allows users to see multiple devices, tools, and configs in the same view.

New features within revamped Workbench include:

  • a menu to add nodes to your workplace.
  • a sidebar hub to modify lab elements.
  • multi-select and right-click action menus.
  • keyboard shortcuts.
  • lab actions.
  • a panes panel for a more flexible workspace.

Continue reading for an in-depth look inside the Workbench revamp available in Cisco Modeling Labs’ latest feature release.

Inside the CML 2.6 Workbench revamp

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
CML 2.6’s revamped Workbench includes UI enhancements that allow its users to contain multiple devices, tools, and configs in a single, integrated view. (Pictured: [1] Toolbar [2] Sidebar [3] Panes panel showing two open panes.)

Adding nodes with—or without—a mouse 

Incorporating new nodes into your workspace is still a straightforward process, whereby you can drag and drop your chosen type of node onto the canvas. But prior to CML 2.6, the interactive drag menu was on the right-side menu. Now, it’s activated by selecting the Add Nodes icon in the Workbench toolbar. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
Select the “Add Nodes” icon (1) in the Workbench toolbar to activate the interactive drag menu.

In addition to this traditional method of adding nodes, we’ve introduced a brand-new feature called Bulk Add. It is designed with accessibility in mind, so you can add as many nodes as you need—using only your keyboard, eliminating the need for a mouse.  

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
Now you can add nodes in bulk, mouse-free. Available in CML 2.6’s revamped Workbench.

Editing elements in the Sidebar 

We have redesigned the user interface to provide a more streamlined and unified experience for users as they edit elements within a lab. Now, in CML 2.6, the Sidebar serves as the single, consolidated hub for changing all your lab elements. Whether you want to edit a node, link, or annotation, simply select it, and the Sidebar will display the relevant editing options. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
Select an element within your lab to instantly activate the Sidebar, a single, consolidated hub that offers a convenient menu of relevant editing options. (Pictured: [1] Node has been selected; [2] Sidebar appears with tabs categorized by property: SETTINGS, CONNECTIVITY, CONFIG, INTERFACES.) 

This streamlined way to manage your lab elements eliminates the need for the bottom panel to shift in response to the Workbench state. In turn, you benefit from a more focused experience. With this setup, you can keep your attention on the bottom pane while simultaneously editing the properties of a lab element using the Sidebar. 

Using the Multi-select Action menu 

You can activate the Multi-Select action menu by selecting multiple elements and right-clicking anywhere on the canvas. This action opens a Context-sensitive menu with a distinct section for each element type. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
Select multiple elements and right-click anywhere on the canvas to activate the multi-action menu in the CML Workbench.

Within each section, you can perform actions on the corresponding element type. Please note: the system currently does not verify the validity of an action. Also, when you select multiple nodes, an Alignment section becomes available in the menu, providing options to align the selected nodes. 

Using the Right-click Context menu 

The Right-Click Context menu displays when you right-click a type of element: annotation, node, or link. This menu presents a list of actions specifically tailored to the selected element type. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
Pictured above is an example of the Right-click Context menu for a link.

Note: the Right-click Context menu typically provides more actions for each element type compared to the Multi-select Action menu.

Keyboard shortcuts 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco

Lab Actions menu 

You can find the Lab Actions menu in the toolbar under the “LAB” section. You can also activate this menu by right-clicking the canvas while no elements are selected. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco

Panes panel 

The Panes panel is a versatile tool designed to give you a flexible workspace. For one, the Panes panel allows you to open multiple tabs, each hosting a Console, VNC, or PCAP session. You can also choose how you want to host tabs: in only one pane or across multiple. For instance, you can have one pane containing an open console session while another runs a packet capture.

What to keep in mind when using the Panes panel:

  • One single pane is set by default, but you can add others by selecting the “+” icon.
  • If you have more than one pane, you will see one pane highlighted with a blue square, which indicates it will be the target for any new sessions you open. (You can change this by clicking in a different pane, which sets it as the new target.) 

To open a tab, simply right-click a running link or node, and open the corresponding session for VNC, Console, or PCAP. As an added convenience, you also have the option to select multiple nodes and simultaneously launch multiple sessions, streamlining your workflow. 

Once you have a tab open, you can easily reposition it by dragging it from one pane to another. This drag-and-drop functionality provides a straightforward way to organize your workspace according to your preference or need. 

The panes and their respective tabs are designed to retain their state on a per-browser and per-lab basis. This means your arrangement of panes and tabs, as well as the content within them, will remain as you set them (even if you navigate away or close your browser), providing a persistent working environment. 

Each pane tab is equipped with a context menu, which you can access by right-clicking the tab. This context menu contains options and actions that pertain specifically to the type of tab, giving you a set of relevant controls right at your fingertips. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
If you have more than one pane, you will see one pane highlighted with a blue square (pictured above). This blue square indicates the target for any new sessions you open. You can change this by clicking in a different pane, which sets it as the new target.

To make your workspace even more customizable, you can rename tabs to reflect their content or purpose. You can either double-click on the tab, which will allow you to edit the name directly, or right-click on the tab and choose the Rename option from the context menu. 

The Carrot Down icon associated with each pane (see below) serves as a gateway to a menu. This menu displays a searchable list of all currently open sessions, making it easy for you to navigate directly to the session you need. 

Cisco Modeling, Cisco Certification, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Prep, Cisco Preparation, Cisco
Using the Carrot Down menu option (1), you can quickly view all open sessions at a glance.

To help you track the relationship between your tabs and their associated elements, you can select a tab to view its corresponding node (or link) on the canvas. This means you can instantly see which parts of your lab you are currently interacting with via your session. 

If you need more canvas space temporarily, you can hide and show the Panes panel by clicking the “PANES” toolbar option.


Thursday 10 August 2023

Enhance operational performance and agility through your network

Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Job, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Certification

The network has never been more important to running mission-critical IT applications and solving business needs. To drive business advantage, an organization’s network must support hybrid work and cloud-centric models, stay ahead of cybersecurity threats, while providing automation capabilities and network insights from real-time analytics.

This is further complicated by managing across multiple sites, meeting compliance standards, and monitoring a range of technologies from multiple vendors. Rearchitecting the campus network to accommodate these challenges can increase the burden on IT teams already struggling with skill shortages and staffing constraints.

The criticality of the network to the business underscores the importance of working with leading networking and IT services companies to overcome these challenges and provide the managed solutions and expertise enterprises require. That’s where NTT’s Managed Network Service for Cisco Catalyst Center, underpinned by NTT’s Spektra platform, comes in. NTT’s Managed Catalyst Center offer helps customers enhance network performance to meet the demands of the digital organization.

Improve network performance with NTT and Cisco

NTT’s Managed Network Services with Cisco Catalyst Center provides a cloud-based network automation, advanced monitoring and management solution. Cisco Catalyst Center becomes the brain of the network – monitoring and automating network management and providing event correlation, real-time analytics and insights. Catalyst Center is underpinned by AI-enabled network management that can streamline configuration, troubleshooting and operational functions by making recommendations based on Machine Reasoning Analytics.  NTT’s network transformation platform, SPEKTRA, delivers an additional layer of AI-enabled automation, predictive analytics and event correlation techniques.

This integrated solution uses advanced AIOps to deliver innovation and intelligent workplace features by using Cisco Catalyst Center DevOps API services layer. Monitoring, event correlation, automation and real-time analytics provide the insights that network administrators need to manage the IT ecosystem more efficiently. End-to-end managed services encompass design, support, delivery, and lifecycle services with a single, unified services portal.

Benefits of true integration and managed solutions

NTT’s technical expertise brings the full range of Catalyst Center features into its Managed Networks solution to provide numerous advantages, including:

  • Real-time analytics helps administrators quickly identify and resolve network and security issues before they become major problems.
  • Automation of up to 90 percent of network management tasks reduces the workload and lowers downtimecaused by manual configuration errors and troubleshooting.
  • Simplified network management with a single dashboard view covers the entire network.
  • Proactive management and operations by using advanced monitoring and event management keep the network running smoothly, 24x7x365.
  • Access to technical expertise for managing and supporting the solution reduces the pressure on in-house IT staff.

This solution can be adapted to meet infrastructure needs across a range of situations: large, complex networks that require automation, segmentation, and real-time analytics; network management for multisite organizations; and migrations to the cloud with automation and real-time analytics that support cloud-based services.  Additionally, NTT helps customers meet compliance requirements with policy-based access control and network segmentation.

Unlock the potential of advanced functionality

“Our Managed Cisco Catalyst Center offering is another example of how we combine innovation in AI with our network management expertise to help our clients improve their network performance and find operational efficiencies while simplifying management requirements,” said Amit Dhingra,Executive Vice President: Managed Network Services at NTT in his blog, Introducing NTT’s Managed Cisco Catalyst Center. 

NTT’s Managed Catalyst Center offering uses a framework of platform, people, and process to redesign the network and deliver operational excellence.


Tuesday 8 August 2023

Mining innovation: Underground mining visibility, locating assets and protecting people

Cisco Central, Cisco Certification, Cisco Guides, Cisco Prep, Cisco Prepartion, Cisco Guides

Enabling autonomous operations and understanding the location of people and assets in real time are necessary for realizing fully operational smart mines. Smart mines require the ability to make good decisions based on large volumes of data, specifically within tunnels. This capability requires enhanced network availability and corresponding visualization tools to provide an intuitive understanding of the large amount of information generated.

The drive to digitize and automate underground operations requires the gathering of real-time data. Underground smart mines deal with complexities such as operations occurring in three dimensions over hundreds to thousands of kilometres; power, ventilation, and airflow considerations; potential for personal safety concerns with ambient temperatures sometimes over 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit); and airborne pollutants that can impact worker health. It is imperative for both safety and efficiency that an underground mine be able to locate people and assets as close to real time as possible.

Improving workforce productivity while increasing safety and optimizing fleet productivity and payload are key objectives in underground mining. Visualizing worker and asset locations and producing useful metrics from the increasingly digitized operational technology (OT) edge has been shown to be helpful in achieving these goals. These metrics provide inputs into both environmental management and cultural heritage protection systems, which show proximity to protected areas and prevent operations on impinging via alerts or geofencing.

Cisco Central, Cisco Certification, Cisco Guides, Cisco Prep, Cisco Prepartion, Cisco Guides

Cisco’s forward thinking and commitment to the future of mining aims at digitization, automation, and net-zero emissions outcomes in mines. These objectives require network and communication reliability in order for customers to achieve high levels of visibility over their operations. To deliver on this goal, Cisco collaborates with ecosystem partners that deliver complementary solutions like GeoMoby. GeoMoby provide blueprints for reliable operational environment network infrastructure combined with a sensor-driven visualization layer that brings real-time insight into mining operations.

Solutions and benefits

  • Underground mining benefits from ecosystem-based, end-to-end solutions to fulfill specific requirements for sensor-driven connectivity and augmentation such as last-mile connectivity, temporary coverage, and low-bandwidth coverage for areas without Wi-Fi.
  • Cisco Spaces provides location and telemetry data for indoor and outdoor use cases. This data produces connectivity, environmental, and location-based insights for ecosystem-based solutions.

Opportunity with GeoMoby

  • Reduction or elimination of gaps in network connectivity and communication
  • All-in-one 3D map and real-time location, including existing Cisco tags and infrastructure
  • Convergence between OT/IT: traffic management, ventilation automation, IoT sensors, data collection, etc.
  • New solution blueprint that extends value for customers using Cisco solutions and specialist ecosystem partners such as GeoMoby

The common goal of GeoMoby and Cisco is to accelerate the digitalization of the mining industry. GeoMoby uses, extends, and enhances Cisco technology within mining operations. The result is a readily implementable mining platform that enables continual optimization of operations and safety in underground mining.

Use cases

Objective Description  Use Cases 
Improve workforce productivity
  • Monitor employee and contractor movements and record any delays in order to provide insightful data that can help identify areas for improvement.
  • Enhance visibility into operations in order to optimize decision-making and increase productivity.
  • Contractor management
  • Workforce management
  • Automatic check-in and check-out
  • Idle time detection
  • Ventilation on demand
Increase operational efficiency of assets
  • Monitor vehicle movements and record any speed excess in order to identify where and when vehicles are being underutilized or overutilized.
  • Increase efficiency by reducing fuel consumption and overall costs.
  • Promote compliance with safety regulations. 
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Driver management
  • Maintenance management
  • Speed management
  • Ventilation on demand 
Increase worker health and safety 
  • Monitor critical health metrics, such as temperature and blood oxygen (Spo2) levels, in real time.
  • Enable proactive intervention by sending instant notifications in case of emergency, enabling prompt action to mitigate potential health issues and risks.
  • Provide insightful data that can be used to evaluate the overall health of operations and make informed decisions for improved safety and productivity. 
  • Health and safety management
  • Collection of health metrics
  • Enhanced compliance with regulation 
Increase fleet productivity and payload 
  • Track and analyze the payload of every asset with time stamps, distance travelled, and in-use time, enabling informed decisions on resource allocation and waste reduction.
  • Help to increase productivity and efficiency by reducing cycle times and optimizing truck utilization. 
  • Payload management
  • Fleet management
  • Payload budgeting
  • Performance tracking 
Visualize people and assets with an electronic tag board 
  • Display real-time location data for both people and vehicles on a map and a table.
  • Enable optimization of operations by improving safety, productivity, and efficiency.
  • In emergency situations, help to locate personnel and assets and facilitate a prompt response by visualizing people inside the refuge room and the closest refuge room for people in danger. 
  • Electronic tag board
  • Emergency response management
  • Historic location data of people and assets
  • Offline navigation to refuge chambers or fresh air bases 
Environmental management system 
  • Provide real-time environmental data and quickly identify potential environmental risks and hazards.
  • Send alerts for anomalies and safety risks.
  • Provide historical data on environmental performance, enabling tracking performance over time and making data-driven decisions about operations. 
  • Air quality management
  • Temperature management
  • Gas monitoring system
  • Historical data management 
Cultural heritage protection system 
  • Track people and assets and sends alerts when they are nearing or inside protected areas.
  • Improve compliance with regulations in order to prevent potential abuses and disruptions.
  • Help to ensure that only authorized individuals are granted access to protected areas. 
  • Environmental, social and governance framework (ESG) reporting
  • Compliance with regulations 

Saturday 5 August 2023

Expanding data security around the globe

Cisco Certificaion, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Tutorial and Materials

In an ongoing effort to prioritize data security and privacy for Secure Email Threat Defense customers, we’re excited to announce the opening of two data centers in the Asia Pacific region: one in Australia and one in India.

There are now 4 Secure Email Threat Defense locations, with existing regions in the US and Europe. These new sites will have all the security features present in our existing locations and will receive feature enhancements at the same cadence as the existing locations.

Acknowledging the escalating demand for our product and the imperative to accommodate customers in varied geographical locations, we have meticulously designated Australia and India as our upcoming deployment regions. Our expansion into Australia and India not only broadens our global footprint but also reinforces our dedication to meeting the unique needs of customers in these regions. By localizing our product, users in the new region can expect faster response times and reduced latency, resulting in a more seamless and efficient user experience.

This expansion not only showcases our dedication to meeting the unique requirements of customers in different regions but also highlights our ability to swiftly deliver deployments. We are excited to bring the benefits of our product to Australia and India, enabling businesses in these regions to thrive in a secure and compliant manner.

These environments are built to the same high-level security, service resiliency, and data management practice standards we exhibit across all our global regions. They, too, will meet SOC2 and ISO 27001 standards and will be supported by our Data Privacy policy.

Cisco Certificaion, Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Tutorial and Materials

As we look to further expand our data security footprint, our next location is expected to be in the United Arab Emirates. Coverage in these new geographies is a clear indicator of our commitment to, and investment in, the data security of our customers around the globe.


Thursday 3 August 2023

Introducing Black Belt Academy’s New Flexible Validation Criteria

Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Tutorial and Materials

The goal of Cisco’s Black Belt Academy is to provide our partners with an efficient and effective role-based learning journey, which is presented in two or three sequential Stages. There is a strong correlation between partners’ revenue growth and the number of their employees who earn Stage 2 and 3 certifications, which require a deeper understanding of the subject matter, so progress requires validation.

However, we received feedback from partners that our validation criteria aren’t always appropriate for some roles. We listened. The result: more flexible validation criteria.

What’s changed – New flexible validation criteria for Presales and Deployment Roles

In the Black Belt Academy, as learners progress on their journeys from Stage 2 to Stage 3, new options are available depending on the role and the technology. We have provided alternatives other than the Deal ID submission for Stage 2 Learning Plan completion.

Alternative criteria include:

  • Completing a “Capture the Flag” mission
  • Creating a Perfect Pitch video of how you would present to a customer
  • Proof of concept document of a test environment setup for a customer
  • High-level design document of a customer solution

These details, which are built into the Learning Plans, will be available as the learner’s progress on their journeys.

Cisco Career, Cisco Skills, Cisco Jobs, Cisco Tutorial and Materials, Cisco Tutorial and Materials

Solution specialization tracks like SASE, FSO, Hybrid Cloud and Hybrid WFH will still require a Sales Order number from learners who are planning to apply for solution specialization at the partner (company) level. Partner admins should refer to program guidelines here.

Overall Impact

  • More learners are progressing to Stage 2, which increases the number of those eligible for Stage 3 and certification.
  • More options will make this validation process less complicated.
  • A more streamlined learning journey, including automated ‘Capture the Flag’ missions.
  • An overall improvement in user experience.
These changes represent our direction towards making the learning experience better for our partners. We are working on future improvements for you. Stay tuned!


Tuesday 1 August 2023

820-605 CSM: How Top Customer Success Managers Stand Out!

820-605 CSM

In the fast-paced world of technology, companies constantly strive to deliver excellent products and services to their customers. The role of a Cisco Customer Success Manager Specialist has become increasingly crucial in ensuring customer satisfaction and retention. Cisco, a global technology leader, offers the 820-605 CSM certification, which equips professionals with the knowledge and skills to excel in this dynamic field. In this article, we will explore the winning strategies that top Cisco 820-605 Customer Success Managers use to stand out from the crowd and drive success for their clients.

In today's competitive business landscape, customer success has become critical to any organization's growth and sustainability. A Cisco 820-605 Customer Success Manager (CSM) ensures customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty. This article explores the winning strategies of top Cisco 820-605 CSM to stand out in their field and deliver exceptional results.

Essential Skills and Qualities of Top Cisco 820-605 Customer Success Manager

A Customer Success Manager ensures customers achieve their desired outcomes using a company's products or services. To excel in this role, top CSM understands the importance of building strong customer relationships.

Building Strong Customer Relationships

The foundation of successful customer management lies in building strong relationships. Top CSM prioritizes active listening and empathy, ensuring they understand their customers' needs and concerns. Proactive communication is another essential aspect of relationship-building, as it keeps the customers engaged and informed.

Adopting a Data-Driven Approach

Data is a powerful tool that can guide CSM to drive customer success. By utilizing customer analytics and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs), top CSM gain valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences. This data-driven approach allows them to identify growth opportunities and take proactive measures to prevent potential issues.

Providing Exceptional Onboarding and Training

The onboarding process is critical in setting the tone for a successful customer relationship. Top CSM tailor the onboarding experience to the customer's needs and requirements. Continuous training and skill enhancement further contribute to customer success, ensuring that customers are well-equipped to make the most of the product or service.

Nurturing Customer Advocacy and Loyalty

Customer advocates are valuable assets for any organization. Top CSM focuses on cultivating customer advocates by consistently delivering exceptional service and promptly addressing any concerns that may arise. They understand that nurturing customer loyalty is essential for long-term success.

Implementing Customer Success Technology

Technology plays a pivotal role in modern customer success efforts. Top CSM leverages customer success platforms and automation tools to streamline workflows and enhance customer experience. By adopting technology, they can effectively manage a more extensive customer base without compromising quality.

Leveraging Cross-Functional Collaboration

Customer success is a team effort that involves multiple departments within an organization. Top CSM collaborates closely with sales and marketing teams to ensure a smooth handoff from pre-sales to onboarding. They also work with product development teams to relay customer feedback and contribute to product enhancements.

Managing Churn and Customer Dissatisfaction

Churn and customer dissatisfaction are inevitable challenges for any business. Top CSM proactively identify red flags and take necessary actions to prevent churn. Moreover, they view customer dissatisfaction as an opportunity to turn the situation around and strengthen the relationship.

Embracing a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is vital for continuous improvement and success. Top CSM embraces learning opportunities from setbacks and actively seeks innovative solutions to enhance customer success. Fostering their professional development also allows them to stay ahead in their field.

Measuring and Demonstrating Customer Success

To showcase the value of their efforts, top CSM define clear success metrics and create impactful reports for stakeholders. By effectively demonstrating their contributions, they solidify their position as indispensable assets to the organization.

Handling Difficult Conversations

Sometimes, CSM encounters challenging situations where customers express dissatisfaction or complaints. Top CSM is skilled at addressing these conversations with empathy and professionalism, turning negative experiences into positive outcomes.

Customer Success in Complex Environments

Enterprise-level challenges and diverse industries require CSM to adapt their strategies accordingly. Top CSM tailor their approaches to suit various sectors' unique demands, ensuring customer success is achieved across the board.

Cisco 820-605 CSM Exam: Overview and Preparation Tips in One Guide

Benefits of the Cisco 820-605 CSM Certification

Career Advancement:

Earning the Cisco 820-605 CSM certification demonstrates your commitment to customer success management, making you a valuable asset to any organization. It opens doors to various opportunities, including customer success manager, customer relationship manager, and client services roles.

Enhanced Skillset:

The certification process covers a wide range of topics, including customer engagement strategies, customer lifecycle management, and problem-solving techniques. These skills enhance your ability to provide exemplary customer support and ensure long-lasting client relationships.

Credibility and Recognition:

Cisco is a renowned networking and technology solutions leader. Holding a Cisco 820-605 CSM certification validates your expertise in customer success management and earns you recognition within the industry.

Competitive Edge:

A Cisco 820-605 CSM certification sets you apart from other candidates in a competitive job market. Employers seek certified professionals who can bring tangible value to customer success initiatives.

Cisco 820-605 CSM Certification Process

Candidates must pass the certification exam to obtain the Cisco 820-605 CSM certification. The exam tests candidates' understanding of customer success principles, customer engagement strategies, and how to drive business outcomes through customer relationships.

Cisco provides learning resources, including official study guides and training courses, to help candidates prepare effectively for the exam. Engaging in hands-on labs and real-world scenarios further strengthens practical knowledge and skills.

Proven Strategies for Customer Retention and Growth

Creating Tailored Success Plans

Successful CSM works closely with customers to create customized success plans aligning with their goals and objectives. These plans act as roadmaps for achieving success and promoting long-term loyalty.

Delivering Continuous Value

Top CSM consistently delivers customer value by providing ongoing support, conducting training sessions, and sharing industry best practices. By demonstrating the value of their products, CSM increases customer retention.

The Future of Customer Success

As technology continues to evolve, so does the role of a CSM. Top professionals in this field embrace technological advancements and adapt their strategies to meet evolving customer expectations. The growing importance of CSM in businesses ensures a promising future for this profession.

Career Path and Growth Opportunities

Achieving the Cisco 820-605 CSM certification opens up exciting career opportunities. Graduates can pursue Customer Success Managers, Account Managers, or Sales Professionals roles. With experience and continuous professional development, individuals can progress to senior management positions or specialize in specific industry domains.

Recertification and Continuous Learning

The technology landscape is ever-evolving, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends is crucial. Cisco certifications typically have a validity period, and professionals must recertify to maintain their status. Recertification ensures that certified individuals remain competent and relevant in their respective domains.


Customer Success Managers are the driving force behind successful customer relationships. The strategies employed by top Cisco 820-605 CSM allow them to stand out and create lasting value for their customers. By prioritizing strong relationships, data-driven decisions, and continuous improvement, these professionals continue to elevate the standards of customer success in the technology industry.