Mar 30 2021

Cisco Live 2021: How Cisco Plans to Support Hybrid Work

With offices reopening soon, Cisco’s CEO declares hybrid environments the “future of work.”

“The future of work is hybrid.”

So argued Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco Systems, who opened his company’s annual customer event by declaring that the organization would focus on helping to power an “inclusive recovery” from the global pandemic that forced so many organizations to ramp up remote work environments.

Robbins said that most organizations’ return-to-work practices will include allowing employees to continue working from home while also welcoming them back to common workspaces.

“It’s going to be hybrid and you’re going to have to deal with employees who are both in the office and at home,” Robbins said. “So, businesses are asking, ‘How do we create an experience that makes that home user feel as just as productive, just as effective and just as much of a contributor to meetings as their onsite colleagues?’”

Cisco Live 2021, which runs through March 31, is the company’s second digital-only customer event. A show that normally draws some 40,000 onsite attendees annually will this year reach about 100,000 people logging on for some part of the event from more than 200 countries, Robbins said. Still, a digital user conference isn’t the same as the in-person experience of Cisco Live, one of the most important technology events of the year, and several Cisco officials said they hope to return to an onsite event next year.

Cisco Webex Gets New Features

At Cisco Live, the company showcased several new features of its Webex collaboration application that it says will help companies support hybrid work environments while keeping people safe. For example, with artificial intelligence built in, Webex now recognizes human gestures such as a thumbs-up, and it can deliver real-time meeting transcription in dozens of languages. It also responds to voice commands, such as “OK, Webex, join my meeting.”

Beyond hybrid work, Robbins declared Cisco committed to focusing on six technology pillars that it believes will shape organizations’ strategies over the next several years.

Secure, agile networks. At Cisco Live, the company is continuing to roll out its “emerging platform strategy,” as Robbins called it, which it hopes will entice customers to acquire more of its products and services on a subscription basis. It introduced Cisco Plus, which it called in a press release “a complete flexible solution as-a-service” giving customers “more choice in the types of solutions and how they buy and consume them.”

“Cisco Plus will also include solutions for Networking-as-a-Service, which will unify networking, security and observability across access, WAN and cloud domains to deliver an unparalleled experience,” the company said in a press release.

Optimized application experiences. Robbins said that applications are “the lifeline of every business.” According to internal research, Robbins said, “almost 90 percent of customers said, ‘We have to optimize the application experience — it’s the most important thing. We have to be able deploy faster, decrease the networking costs and latency, and we have to be able to simplify the management.’” Cisco is working on ways to help companies deliver faster, more stable application experiences to customers and employees and to provide them with analytics to optimize their apps. “We know that our tech has insights that can help your apps run more smoothly,” Robbins said.

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Internet for the future. The company is moving forward with new networking architecture, including its routed optical networking infrastructure, to help organizations deal with the massive surge in internet traffic that’s set to be ushered in by 5G.

Capabilities at the edge. “We know networks are becoming more distributed,” Robbins said, and Cisco is working to deliver data center and switching technologies to the network edge.

End-to-end security. Robbins said everything Cisco delivers will be imbued with its security-first approach, and that the company will continue to develop new security solutions and services for customers. “Just when you think security can’t become more important, we have more breaches, our environments have become more distributed and complicated, and because of how the traffic patterns are changing, you’re transforming your architecture,” he said. “Your traffic used to go from the edge to your private data center, and now traffic patterns can be random from one day to the next.”

Despite the challenges of 2020, the future for the world and for Cisco looks bright, Robbins said. “I’m optimistic because I saw what all of you did last year. I saw the technology and the way we used it to help organizations and people work from home in a very stressful time. You helped your organizations remain resilient, and technology was and will be at the heart of business strategy. We definitely learned last year that the world is truly ours to shape. We’ve proved that tech can help us achieve virtually anything.”

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