I just recently returned from Cisco Live 2019 held in Melbourne Australia in March and I’d like to share with you some insights and takeaways from the event. Cisco Live was such a big event with so much going on, it was hard to get to every session of interest. My experiences will certainly be somewhat different from the experiences of other attendees. My takeaways were a result of the seminars and tech talks I attended and also from the wealth of information I gain from the many people I had the pleasure to meet with.
These events are a great opportunity to see and learn about what is new in the world of networking and security and have a first-hand look at some of the new technologies being showcased. It’s also a great chance to pick some extra networking and technical knowledge by sitting in on some great talks on various subjects and engaging in some in-depth discussions with like-minded engineers in similar fields.
So in my best summary, the main takeaways and subjects that i found were focused in on at Cisco Live were-
- Devnet/ DevOps is the next chapter – Software-defined and intent-based networking
- Cybersecurity is foundational
- Cisco Webex and collaboration technologies
With the theme of this years Cisco Live event was “Imagine Intuitive,” it’s easy to see why these topics are all about imagining and reshaping the future.
Software defined networking and Intent based networking
There was a major focus on software-defined networking and Intent-based networking and rightly so. There is a lot of buzz in the industry on this topic and it is regarded as the future in networking technologies. I found that this was a hot topic and network engineers out there are realising that Software development skills are going to become a vital skill to obtain and Cisco catered for this with many workshops and seminars to give the attendees a push in the right direction.
Cisco DNA something I was interested to find out more about and I had the opportunity to delve deeper into this technology. Cisco DNA is a platform that handles communication to all of your network devices. DNA Center is the foundation controller and analytics platform at the heart of Cisco’s intent-based network for large and midsize organisations. Cisco DNA Center provides a single dashboard for every fundamental management task to simplify running your network. With this platform, IT can respond to changes and challenges faster and more intelligently. Not only will you be able to configure your networking devices but can allow you to start using Intent-based networking which is a whole new technology that will change the networking world.
Cisco DNA centre and their SDWAN Solution VManage give us a test of what Intent-based networking is all about. At a high level, the concept behind intent-based networking is to first capture the businesses intent or in simple terms the purpose in which the network will be used and then translate this into policies to focus on maximising the network as it is intended. For example, let’s say you want to host a video call but we all know that when we do anything voice or video related on a network, for it to run smoothly there is a heap of extra config such as QoS that will be needed on the switches. But if this is a one-off then this is a lot of work to do just for a rare occasion that this will happen. With intent-based networking, this can be configured with ease to allow this to happen with minimal work involved. The idea of intent-based networking will bring a whole new world of machine learning and instead of hard coding your network in a certain way your network will revolve around the business’s needs.
Push towards DevOps – Of course, you do not need to use Cisco DNA centre and there is a massive push to use in house developers to create these programs but most developers do not have the networking skills nor do they want to develop these skills. A lot of seminars revolved around APIs and programming skills and a push to have network engineers skilled up in programming skills such as Python, JSON, XML and the YANG model.
Bottom line – Devnote and Dev ops is the future for all Networking Engineers.
Hackers are becoming very tricky and the use of adversarial data can very easily change the way most AV companies can use their machine learning to proactively protect against threats. Simply put you take a stop sign and place some white reflective paint on the sign. Still a stop sign and to humans, they can recognise the shape and outline of the writing but to AI it will not read this as a stop sign. Thus can change what machine learning will see and can become ineffective. Most viruses or malware out there today is just rebranded to get through. The main takeaway on security is machine learning and AI has a long way to go but this technology is a push in the right direction and is needed to allow security vendors to catch up with cybercrime. Not quite there yet but it’s reassuring that this technology is coming fast
The problem with firewalls whether they be next-gen or not is that they are the most part just stateful firewalls that rely on patterns, signatures and databases to be updated to detect threats. Even if these are up to date you are only 50-70% covered. We can not just rely on our firewall to protect us. Another layer of protection can be to implement a SIG. Secure Internet gateway.
Why use a secure internet gateway – Cisco Umbrella
Most traffic now is HTTPS traffic and because it is encrypted it is often not inspected at the firewall. In most networks, services are in the cloud and with devices such as Surface pros and Mobiles/ iPads being used remotely then it is hard to keep these protected. Networks are becoming borderless and with cloud services, Office 365 and Saas a lot of organisations will eventually no longer need NGFW and even VPNs. These services will rely purely on the internet to function, so using a recursive DNS and Secure Internet Gateway will Capture attacks at the highest point in the Cyber Ops kill chain.
Cisco Umbrella is definitely worth looking at if you are looking to the cloud for complete coverage off-network. Umbrella goes beyond reputation scores and ingests billions of real-time internet requests and applies machine learning models and behavioural analysis to identify attacks before the first victim is hit. And, because it is cloud-delivered, it is not limited by the limited processing power of appliances. Traditional web gateways protect employees from threats over web ports 80 and 443. But, attackers try to infiltrate networks and exfiltrate data using different ports. At least 15% of command and control callbacks bypass web ports — leaving a gap in coverage. A secure internet gateway such as Cisco Umbrella provides comprehensive protection over all ports and protocols.
Pen Testing skills now a necessity– Penetration testing is becoming a necessary skill for all System or Network admins and qualifications such as the CCNA Cyber Ops and also the Certified ethical hacker course that is available can be great courses to take part in to gain valuable skills in this area.
Cisco Collaboration and Webex
A question most engineers have when it comes to collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams/ Skype for business and Cisco Webex teams/ jabber is which one to use. Cisco may have realised that when it boils down to the decision then most environments based on Windows may choose the Microsoft route.
I sat in a seminar-based around Cisco’s investment in Microsoft products and around its interoperability with all Microsoft products. Most of the talk was really around how Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams can play nicely together at the same organisation in a mixed environment. From what I have seen and can pitch is that with Cisco’s strength in the Voice and collaboration area makes them a very strong player when it comes to implementing a collaboration tool that integrates into a Microsoft environment.
Cisco room kit – When I first saw the Cisco room kit my initial thoughts were that it looks the part but how would a device like that perform, especially without the size speaker and the lack of desktop microphones. Surprisingly the quality of the device is astonishing and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to implement a similar solution.
Overall, I had a great experience at Cisco Live Melbourne 2019. Sometimes you can get locked away from the outside world focusing on your day to days tasks. These events are great to learn what the industry is doing and the key areas that professionals in the industry hold more importance.I am excited to walk away with so many engaging conversations and meet so many people. I really hope i get an opportunity to attend Cisco Live 2020 and do it all again next year. Thanks, Cisco