Cisco’s Multi-Domain Strategy for Enterprise Expansion to the Cloud

If someone were ever to ask me, as a person who runs a large engineering organization, where I invest the majority of my time — my answer would be listening to people. I’ve found over the years that listening can be inspiring or motivating; sometimes ruthlessly humbling and more often than not, results in a healthy reality-check on what I need to think about more.

As far as market trends go, over the past several years when discussions turned to cloud computing I listened carefully. Very carefully, in fact. Cloud computing is one of the seminal technology trends of our day, and it’s been clear it will have far reaching impacts for decades to come. By now, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to more CIOs than I can even count who shared with me their perspectives on the cloud, plans for their cloud strategies and the applications they had in flight using new cloud models. Regardless of the industries they were in or the size of their business, all of these conversations led me to an important observation…

Enterprises weren’t MOVING to the cloud — they were EXPANDING to the cloud. I view this expansion as the accelerant for next-generation application development and the key indicator for the reinvention that must happen across IT.

The strategies CIOs talked most about wanting to implement included deploying new applications built cloud natively and SaaS offerings, in addition to running many core workloads on-prem or in hybrid-cloud models. They realized that “moving to the cloud” wasn’t like moving to a new neighborhood — they couldn’t just load up all of their applications onto a moving truck and quickly unload them in a newly constructed house. The dynamics of commercial software development just aren’t that simple.

We’re now a decade in to the cloud evolution, and the proposed simplicity of the “every workload to the cloud” approach has pretty much met the reality of “it’s going to take some time” and we need a better path to get there. With the public cloud providers — Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others — each working on their respective hybrid-cloud solutions, the process of partnering with their teams to deliver cloud architectures that help our customers develop applications for a multicloud world has been a fun experience. And thanks to IBM and Red Hat, there are even more clouds for CIOs to build on.

Along the way, I’ve listened to quite a bit of speculation about how cloud transformation would impact Cisco — from my seat, the outside-in view often misses some very important dynamics of our networking and security business. With the release of our SD-WAN portfolio today — a solution that has been reinvented for the multicloud world meaning it integrates security into the architecture in a way only Cisco can, rather than layers it on top as an after-thought — it’s a good time to set the record straight on how we think about enterprise expansion to the cloud and how we are building an architecture that will help CIOs develop the applications they are imagining while managing the new realities of the cloud era.

First and foremost, much of the focus with regards to cloud computing has been through the lens of the data center. The reality is that the data center is only one of the many networking domains CIOs have to think about as part of their expansion strategies. There are several, actually — on the access side of the expanded enterprise where users and devices are “accessing” applications and information through wired or wireless connections, there are the campus (IT/OT) and branch domains. These networks are vast and critical to every enterprise. On the application delivery side, where infrastructure provides access to applications and information, there are the data center, public clouds, private clouds, SaaS, colocation data centers, and every form of distributed application models running in between.

ALL of these domains must be reinvented to deliver the next-generation of digital experiences. Not one…or even two…but ALL of them. Here’s why:

CIOs are faced with different expectations today and must have infrastructure in place that can solve for more complex environments. For example, their users expect always on and always accessible experiences from any network that’s available — airport, corporate work space, a favorite brew house…wherever. What’s more, there is a tidal wave of new devices accessing their IP networks that must be secured when most of these “things” really weren’t designed with persistent threats in mind. There are other expectations as well. Their executive staffs expect critical data to be secured, regulatory compliance to be met and business agility to be an automated capability.

In this environment, CIOs are managing dynamic variables — users, devices, applications and data — that are changing by the minute or even by the second. Think about it. Users accessing critical applications from networks where CIOs have no visibility. Application containers and microservices that are running across multiple clouds, colos and on-prem data centers automatically spinning up and down to optimize performance. Insights mined from all of these interconnections that can power predictive actions or highlight business opportunities in real-time. All of this, while adversaries are continuously launching attacks to hunt down any vulnerability or weakness in the system that can be exploited.

These are significant challenges that put a new face on complexity and directly impact every domain in today’s enterprises that expand from the user to the cloud.

In a multicloud environment, multi-domain architecture is the approach that powers the strategies CIOs want to implement. Solving this pace and breadth of complexity requires more than just reengineering the data center and the campus or the data center and the branch. Security is not something that can be added on. Multi-domain architecture spans all of the domains enterprises are expanding to and everywhere in between.

Cisco is the ONLY infrastructure provider building this multi-domain architecture. Within each domain, we have and will continue to develop best-of-breed technology including software-driven automation and analytics surfaced from every layer.

But…Cisco’s intent-based architecture has another superpower — cross-domain integration.

Our architecture has been reinvented to integrate all of the domains together in ways that no one else can. Our SD-WAN portfolio is integrated with our security portfolio. Our security portfolio is integrated with the Meraki Dashboard and DNA-Center (campus) — which, by the way, are also integrated together. We are now beginning to integrate DNA (campus) and ACI (data center) together through common policies that can map across these domains. Our cross-domain integration is real today and already delivering value to our customers.

It boils down to this — CIOs are going to continue innovating. They are going to continue pushing the limits on what applications make possible and pushing the boundaries on what their users grow to expect. Cloud computing is one of the key technologies enabling this digital explosion. The more it’s leveraged, the more CIOs are realizing it’s impacting their entire IT infrastructure. From the user to the application and everything in between.

Cisco is the company building the multi-domain architecture that will help CIOs deliver — now and in the future. Every step of the way, we are reinventing infrastructure for the expanded enterprise.

We knew that ANY wasn’t going to be enough. CIOs need EVERY. Every User. Every Device. Every Application. Every Packet of Data…Across Every Networking Domain.

Thanks for listening.