March 20, 2024

Beyond routers and switches: Cisco’s rise as a world leader in cyber security

Richard Dornhart
National Practice Manager - Security at Data#3

The Rationale Behind Cisco’s Evolution

While Cisco’s roots remain firmly planted in networking hardware (which is how most organisations still think of them) – there’s been a shift towards software and cyber security that has been slowly taking shape over several years that deserves a closer look.

At the heart of this shift is a recalibration in the brand’s strategy, stated as “to securely connect everything to make anything possible”. This approach is born largely out of the need to address the escalating demands for secure, seamless connectivity given our increasingly interconnected world. With countless devices exchanging data, vast numbers of home-based/remote networks and organisations rapidly transitioning to the cloud, the mandate for end-to-end secure, connected infrastructure is strong.

This has resulted in a security portfolio that rivals the best in the industry, so perhaps it’s time for IT practitioners to start considering Cisco as a first choice for their own cyber security needs.

As a long-term Gold Partner of Cisco (and a Cisco global award-winner for the last six years in a row, including Cisco Global Security Partner of the Year in 2022 and Cisco Global Software Partner of the Year for 2023), Data#3 has been, and continues to be, closely aligned with this software and security transformation. With Cisco’s recent acquisition of Splunk, it’s time to shine a light on the security giant that Cisco has become.  

Cisco’s Incisive Acquisitions: Shaping the Future

The Splunk acquisition is making noise for obvious reasons, given Splunk’s size and success. What isn’t immediately obvious to casual observers, though, is the sheer scale of strategic acquisitions Cisco has made, especially over the last 12 months. They serve as a testament to Cisco’s commitment to actualising its strategy, bringing in complementary capabilities in AI, security and observability to build out an integrated security ecosystem.

However, it goes further than that. Every acquisition must make the user experience better and be cost-effective while also making it easier for IT teams to do more with less to keep everyone safe.

Just a few of the recent acquisitions made under this umbrella include:

These acquisitions aren’t just simple add-ons to Cisco’s portfolio; they’re contiguous pieces in a larger integrated puzzle. Tight integration between these products has become Cisco’s key to solving the challenges created by patchworks of security products that force teams to set and maintain extremely complex security policies. They underline Cisco’s vision to integrate networking, security, analytics, and management across a comprehensive digital infrastructure.

Architecting AI-Powered Cyber Security

Perhaps, Cisco’s most ambitious move lies in its utilisation and leverage of AI and machine learning to simplify cyber security operations and increase efficiency.  

One example is Cisco Secure Access, a security service edge (SSE) solution that dramatically simplifies access across any location, device, and application. Paving an intelligent and secure path to private and public destinations, it strips off the complex navigating experiences for users and allows administrators all-in-one access to traffic flow, policy settings, and security risk analysis. A particularly notable feature is its Faster Detection and Response mechanism, which provides analysis to speed up investigations and is backed by Cisco Talos’ AI-driven threat intelligence to pre-emptively identify and shut down threats.

Beyond these updates, Cisco is previewing the first generative AI capabilities to alleviate the complexities of security policy management and improve threat response. Cisco’s Security Cloud will host a generative AI-powered Policy Assistant that enables administrators to set explicit security policies and evaluate the best implementation methods across the security infrastructure.

Then there is the Security Operations Center (SOC) Assistant, designed to help analyse exactly what transpired during a security incident, its impact and guide the best remediation route.

Cisco’s vision is also spilling over to network security. The new Cisco Secure Firewall 4200 Series comes bundled with AI, and ML-vested features, supporting an evolution of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) with complete threat inspection and an individualised policy for each application.

In addition, Cisco is advancing features in its cloud-native application security solution, Panoptica. Integrated with Cisco’s Full Stack Observability portfolio, Panoptica will provide real-time visibility to prioritise business risks. It’s designed to provide Cloud Workload Protection (CWPP) and will include Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), empowering organisations to better identify and remediate potential risks across cloud infrastructures.

Cisco’s Future: Defining Cyber Security in a Digital Era

All these intricate pieces of the puzzle assemble to depict Cisco’s transformation from a hardware-centric business model to one that hinges on software and cybersecurity leadership. This seismic shift mirrors Cisco’s strategy to stay agile amid the rapid digital transformations of the age. As AI integration in cyber security expands, its portfolio of acquisitions, alliances, and innovations places Cisco favourably to spearhead this transition – it’s a story that deserves to be told.

Its challenge now is to help organisations make sense of what has become a comprehensive portfolio of solutions – it can be confusing to understand what solution fits what use case, but that’s a communications challenge we’re taking on to help our customers.

Emerging successfully from this stage would not just secure Cisco’s position as an eminent cyber security leader, but also reinstate its legacy as an innovator in an era defined by digital transformation.

Data#3’s expert team has a wealth of experience and is ready to guide you through the most effective strategies and solutions to keep your organisation secure. Reach out to us today.