Live is what you make it.

By Graham Robinson, National Cisco Practice Manager, Data#3

For those that haven’t had the pleasure, you could be forgiven for thinking that Cisco Live was just another technical training event run for engineers, by engineers. However, while that used to be the case, today’s reality couldn’t be farther from the truth.

As a twelve year veteran of Cisco Australia’s Live event (previously Cisco Networkers event) I’ve been fortunate to witness the event’s transformation from just over 500 engineers sitting in dark rooms learning TCL scripting into what is today, an unparalleled confluence of Australian executive, managerial, and technical IT professionals.

Cisco LiveNow, while I’d originally intended to write a quick blog at the conclusion of each day, as anyone that has attended Live will tell you, that was never going to happen. Between early morning partner briefings, back to back meetings, business sessions and countless exhibitor, sponsor and customer conversations, I should have known better.

Partner briefings, business sessions, exhibitors, sponsors and customers conversations. That’s right, I didn’t mention technology, and nor did my customers during our meetings. As technology permeates every corner of the globe, the line that once existed between technology companies and traditional companies continues to erode, and those companies who fail to leverage technology quickly become irrelevant and ceasing to exist. Or in Cisco speak, “every company is a technology company”. Technology is what we use, not what we do.

Two years ago at Cisco Global Partner Summit in Boston, Cisco laid out its new course. A bold vision which, if executed correctly, would see the company and its global network of partners break away from product-centric competitors and take a leadership position in a market increasingly demanding better business outcomes, not just better technical products.

Cisco Live 2015 gave attendees an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tangible results of this organisation-wide transformation. From improved customer collaboration to delivering business insights though analytics and optimising service delivery through FAST IT, Cisco Live had messages for everyone… but just because you asked nicely, here are my top 5 takeaways from the largest week of the year.

#1 Disrupt or be disrupted.

Cisco is betting the company on what it calls “The Internet of Everything” (IoE) – unlocking the potential of technology to achieve wholesale improvement in almost every facet of our life by connecting the previously unconnected.

Whether it’s self-driving cars, self-optimising rural irrigation systems or intelligent street lights which adjust their luminosity based on the level of particulate in the air, Cisco Live showcased real-life examples of how Cisco is disrupting existing markets by bringing together partners to rethink traditional business services, slash costs and eliminate unnecessary waste.

To help make IoE a reality, Cisco committed to spending AU$20 million in new Innovation Centres in Sydney and Perth to fuel partner development, demonstration and the proof of concept deployment of previously unimagined services. Seriously though, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

#2 Software, the new Cisco religion.

A hardware company? Nope, check again. By Cisco’s account, it’s already the 5th largest software vendor in the world and only just getting started. While Cisco isn’t giving up on creating its own hardware any time soon, it only does so in order to provide a platform for its software to flourish and help deliver outcomes for its customers.

Cisco Live saw Cisco’s long-held commitment to “standards-based” interoperability explode in what I can only describe as an “API-first” mentality towards agile product development. Are you an engineer looking to use one of the brand new features in Cisco’s new software? There’s a good chance that it’s only available through the API, so go dust off those scripting skills!

Cisco Live

#3 Behold the Cisco Cloud Marketplace.

Like an Enterprise version of the Apple AppStore, Cisco’s Cloud Marketplace allows customers to consume partner supplied, cloud application services on-demand. Cisco’s keynote example contained numerous applications including the on-demand consumption of the latest Cisco’s cloud based collaboration portfolio, Cisco Spark.

Honestly, I’m a little confused as to how it will work in reality. In a world increasingly focused on high value engagements to deliver business outcomes, the Cloud Marketplace enables a consumer experience absent of the business conversations that help align technology to achieve business outcomes.

#4 Cisco, now protecting your business brand.

Cisco’s US$2.7 billion dollar acquisition of SourceFire in late 2013 exponentially amplified its ability to address their corporate risk, compliance and security related challenges. The amount of security focus at Cisco Live was off the chart!

Vice President and CTO of Cisco’s Security Business Group, Brett Hartman, regaled myself and representatives from other security specialisation partners with stories of his MIT days and the first ever presentation of the RSA public key cryptography session, before focusing in on the business challenges of today, cybercrime.

As security breaches associated with loss of customer trust, revenue, and profitability are increasing, Cisco Live saw Cisco urging attendees to focus away from point products and towards architectural approaches to security that provided defence in-depth. However, even that’s no guarantee. It’s pretty clear that although information security may have the attention of your executives today, tomorrow it’s likely to be the Board of Directors, so you’d better be prepared.

#5 Training 100,000 students is just the start.

It’s no secret that there’s a shortage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills in Australia, which is why Cisco’s VP ANZ, Ken Boal, was so pleased to announce its significantly increasing its efforts to change that with its new program, AUSTEM2020.

Through $21 million in targeted investment into schools and universities, along with 5,000 hours of student mentoring per year, industry work-placements, public-private partnerships and a special focus on increasing the number of women in IT, Cisco announced a comprehensive plan to enrich the next generation with the skills they need to contribute to Australia’s innovation economy.

Honestly, it can’t happen soon enough.

Tags: Cisco, Cisco Live