Cisco Live 2019 Recap – Part 1

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Another Cisco Live is now history, but there is a lot to discuss. As usual tens of thousands of geeks descended on San Diego last week to learn new things, share things and meet new people. Cisco made several new announcements during the conference as well.

Opening Keynote

It’s traditional at Cisco Live! that the CEO of Cisco gives the Keynote on the first day. This year was no different with CEO Chuck Robbins taking us down memory lane for the 30th year of Cisco Live! (fka Networkers). The first Networkers conference was held in 1989 in a time where large network connections were measured in Megabits per second instead of Gigabits per second and most Americans were just starting to connect to the Internet via dial-up. Amazon didn’t exist and cellular phones were still rare.

Mr. Robbins brought us to today and talked about the world of 5G and WiFi6 (802.11ax). First, he talked about how the network is now ubiquitous and that consumers want to be able to use any application on any network in any place. Cisco customer Rakuten was the case study about a completely mobile network and the challenges that it brings. They also mentioned Domino’s Pizza and the City of New Orleans for similar digitalization efforts in less detail.

Catalyst 9000 Lineup

The Cisco Catalyst 9000 Series Family of Switches (Photo Courtesy of Cisco Systems)

The bulk of the rest of the keynote was “outsourced” to David Goeckeler and Carl Solder. They went through the entire Catalyst 9000 line from the 9200s to the 9600s along with the wireless 9800 and 9100 series. They emphasized the completely overhauled line up and the common software platform for all of the devices. Also announced was the new Catalyst 9300L platform which seems to fit about the same place as the old 3650 did to the 3850.

Users want to access whatever application, on whatever device they’re on, on whatever network they’re on.

David Goeckeler

On the wireless side, they discussed the advantages that 5G and WiFi6 would bring including more bandwidth, lower latency, and better battery life. Wireless technologies will become the foundation for meeting the demand of the world. According to David Goeckeler, “Users want to access whatever application, on whatever device they’re on, on whatever network they’re on.”

From there they pivoted to DNA Assurance and announced new Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) features. Those features allow DNA Assurance to provide dynamic thresholding. The thought is that this will limit false alarms and make the alerts more useful. Finally, they showed using ML to help with troubleshooting by guiding a user through common troubleshooting knowledge in a runbook.

Internet of Things

Next, another acquisition, Sentryo, was mentioned in the context of IoT and how it would be secured. From my brief research, I see Sentryo in the same vein as Zingbox using wireline data to help with the identification and tracking of IoT devices. Considering that only a year ago Cisco was touting Zingbox as a partner, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. My guess is that Sentryo will get merged into DNA-C.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing was the next topic. This was a strange segment. Cisco proposed that when a general-purpose quantum computer is built it will render all existing encryption algorithms breakable. They have a proposed solution that they walked through as well. In reality, most of this seems to be mostly FUD. Shor’s algorithm is the basis for breaking RSA and other encryption routines using quantum computers. Currently, the best general purpose quantum computers come nowhere near having enough qubits to accomplish the feat. I guess at this point Cisco is ready for a problem that might someday come.

Certification Changes

The final segment of the Opening Keynote was the very curt announcement of a major overhaul to the Cisco Certification program along with the announcement of new Devnet Certifications. Considering that the changes affected almost everyone in the room, it seemed very curious how limited the time allotted to the changes was. You can read about my reactions to the changes in my previous article.

Ben’s Take

As Cisco Live keynotes go, this one seemed rather lifeless. I miss the days where the demonstrations actually walked through how technology could be used in the real world. Jim Grubb, we need you back in charge of demonstrations. It’s really hard to get excited about a canned video demo of a DNA-C administration interface. Since my first Networkers in 2004, the keynotes have definitely changed and not necessarily for the better.