If you want to attend Cisco Live, you have three options: 1) Amsterdam in February; 2) Las Vegas in June; or 3) Melbourne in December. Of these, Melbourne in summer is obviously the best — but if you’re not based in Australasia, your travel budget probably won’t accommodate a trip to Melbourne, which leaves Amsterdam or Vegas. Unless you enjoy melting (the average daytime temperature in Vegas in early June is an ovenlike 36 C/96 F) and prefer fake canals to real ones, Amsterdam is clearly a better choice. Hence, we visited Amsterdam’s RAI convention center to see what’s new in Cisco Land.

And we were pleasantly surprised. One of the first indications that Cisco Live EMEA 2024 would be different (in a good way) was in Security and Collaboration Business General Manager Jeetu Patel’s keynote segment, where he said something like, “We realized that we hadn’t been innovating fast enough, so we set out to change that, and in 2023, we started delivering new capabilities at the right rate.” And he’s right — your analysts also attended Cisco Live a year ago, and this year, Cisco had many more new ideas and new products to offer.

When Laura asked Patel and Jonathan Davidson, Cisco’s GM of networking, what they’d changed to rejuvenate innovation, their answers were very revealing — because in a sprawling business such as Cisco’s, innovation isn’t just about what you do; it’s about what you decide to stop doing. And Davidson mentioned that his team had deprecated three networking cloud platforms, which means they can concentrate on improving the remaining platforms faster. Further, the security and networking teams are using a shared common design language for all their development projects, and the firm is moving to one single-sign-on mechanism.

If you weren’t in Amsterdam for Cisco Live EMEA 2024, here’s some detail on what we found noteworthy:

  • 1) 2023 was the year of innovation through acquisition, and 2024 will be marked by integration and expansion. In 2023, Cisco acquired 11 companies, with Splunk being the standout, valued at approximately $28 billion dollars. During Cisco Live Amsterdam, Cisco highlighted the benefits of these acquisitions for its clients, such as simplifying and securing networking with ThousandEyes.
  • 2) AI everywhere raises the bar (again!) for Cisco’s sustainability engineering. Over the past few years, Cisco has succeeded in redesigning a lot of its hardware to consume less power. Yet with artificial intelligence being the talk of the town, Cisco highlighted its focus on AI offerings and partnership with NVIDIA — but all those AI chips pose a big challenge. For example, the popular NVIDIA H100 AI processor consumes up to 700W of power. These chips run very hot indeed, so building enough compute capacity for large language models could potentially make it much harder for both Cisco and its customers to achieve their sustainability ambitions without further innovations in hardware design.
  • 3) Cisco has forged a simplified approach to security. Over the past year and a half, Cisco has retooled its security business to focus on three segments: 1) user protection; 2) cloud protection; and 3) breach protection. Here’s how:
    • Cisco is betting on identity intelligence. Cisco’s Identity Analytics/Identity Intelligence is a feature of the Cisco security platform. It’s a thin layer of analytics on top of all identity providers, designed to streamline identity management and offering AI Assistant for Security (leveraging natural language models to enable users to create security access policies) as well as Secure Access and Secure Email Threat Defense.
    • Cisco Security has some new math: Cisco + Splunk = SIEM + XDR + UBA + SOAR. Patel reviewed the most important developments (within limits, because the acquisition didn’t close until March 18, which was earlier than expected). Cisco acquired Splunk to increase its relevance in an AIOps, hybrid, multicloud world. The combination promises customers better security, observability, networking, and AI with a consolidated platform approach. And Cisco Endpoint Security Analytics will deliver Cisco AnyConnect endpoint data to prebuilt Splunk analytics and dashboards. Expect combined product announcements in the near future, particularly in the threat and remediation space.