Cisco to bake security into networking kit

Cisco has said it is moving to augment its security portfolio and build its threat detection and prevention products into its 'next generation' of silicon and networking products.
Written by Corinne Reichert on

Security is still the most important aspect of network digitisation, Cisco has said, with the networking giant now focused on embedding its security technology into its "next generation" of products.

"The best digital offence starts with the best security defence," Chris Dedicoat, executive VP for Worldwide Sales and Field Operations at Cisco, said during his keynote speech at Cisco Live Melbourne on Wednesday.

"We're focused on two things: How do we keep the threats out of everything and everywhere, and how do we minimise, really importantly, the time to detection?"

According to Dedicoat, Cisco blocks 20 billion threats per day, or 7.2 trillion a year, through its range of security products, including CloudLock, Umbrella, Meraki, Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), email encryption, Stealthwatch, firewalls, Next-Generation Intrusion Prevention System (NGIPS), and AnyConnect.

"It's a combination across all of those different product areas, and we bring that together to try and understand better what the threat landscape is," Dedicoat told ZDNet following his keynote.

"You should expect to see us continue to augment that portfolio, because we see in all the dialogue we have with our customers, literally within two to three minutes, you're talking about security, whether it's a small or medium business or enterprise or service provider.

"So we think it's what our customers are wanting from us, and we believe that we're in a good position to continually design better capabilities in our products."

Dedicoat added that Cisco is now looking more towards baking security into all of its networking technologies rather than selling them as separate, stand-alone products.

"The big thing that I think we also are going to benefit from long term is that we need to think about security not just as a sector; we need to think about security in everything that we do, so in the next generation of silicon, in all of the software that we develop, we need to build that security capability in," he told ZDNet.

"That's something that we're very, very focused on and you will see in the next iteration of networking technologies -- you will see more and more security embedded into our networking products."

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins last year similarly called cloud-based security at the network layer "critical".

"The two things that I think are going to be most important: Number one is security ... and then moving fast in innovating over and over," Robbins said.

"All of this is going to be driven by technology."

Speaking on the imperatives for network digitisation, Dedicoat said during his keynote that the Internet of Things (IoT) is finally becoming a reality, with connected "things" now outnumbering laptops and desktops connected to the internet.

"This, I believe, is coming real. It's been talked about for a long time ... this is the time," he said.

"[We're] truly beginning to see IoT happen pervasively around the world. Our prediction is that over the next 10 years, 500 billion devices will be connected to the internet."

However, the network isn't ready for the huge number of things that will be connected, according to Dedicoat. As such, Cisco has come up with six "imperatives" that will be important to the development of digital transformation.

Following security, Cisco's second imperative pushing industry towards digitisation is automation, with Dedicoat saying that companies must have machine learning in place for the next phase of the internet -- including with network function virtualisation and software-defined networking (SDN).

"By 2021, we'll be connecting over 1 million devices every single day to the internet. This is the scale of change, this next generation of the internet is something that we have to prepare for. So we need a holistic, dynamic, self-learning, intelligent, machine learning capability," he said.

"It's time to let the machines run the machines. We have to find a very different way for how networks are orchestrated, managed, and provisioned."

As such, Cisco is focused on the principle of automating the network in a way that has "never been done before", with its Digital Network Architecture (DNA) solution one such way of doing so.

"Two years ago, we announced DNA. This is the network of the future that's software programmable, software defined," Dedicoat said.

"It will allow us to provision and orchestrate to a scale and a speed that we haven't been able to do before ... what used to take many, many days to provision now takes minutes.

"It's real, it's happening now, software defined is here.

Also speaking on DNA, Cisco APJ CTO Dave West said it's the company's answer to SD-WAN and SDN; however, in developing the product, Cisco said it set its solution apart by being more focused on real-world scenarios rather than a generic solution.

"Unlike others in the market, we're very use case driven," West said.

"So for us, the SDN problem, the SD-WAN problem, was about solving customer business problems, delivering business outcomes, but not about delivering something that's not viable for our customers to deploy and use in the market."

In all, Cisco's six imperatives for digitisation are security; automation; cloud; analytics; collaboration; and "continued learning and self-development" through its corporate education program.

Cisco said it plans to lead the way in network digitisation by continuing to invest in new technologies; it has invested $6 billion in research and development, with half of that spent just on networking, and has registered 20,000 patents.

"We, as a company, we want to lead that," Dedicoat said.

"And we're doing that by making sure that we continue to invest in the development of the technologies which will provide the foundation for the next generation of the internet."

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco


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