Cisco Launches 'Next-Generation' Services Powered By AI

Cisco Systems is launching a slew of new "next-level" services aimed at giving its partners a leg up against the competition. The services are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning that Cisco says will anticipate IT failures, mitigate risk and reduced maintained costs for businesses.

"These are next-generation services," said Kent MacDonald, vice president of business development at Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based top Cisco partner. "There's a growing demand for simplicity and reduction of complexity. Cisco is addressing it with these Business Critical Services, where you're kind of hitting the easy button."

Cisco's new subscription-based Business Critical Services (BCS) will deliver professional services with more capabilities – including analytics, automation, compliance, and security – than a typical network optimization software package. BCS accelerates business agility by prioritizing infrastructure and application recommendations, according to Cisco's services leader Joe Cozzolino.

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The overall aim is to help partners provide recommended updates to applications and infrastructure upgrades more efficiently. Cozzolino said customers currently purchase an individual SKU for each optimization offer, whether it be in Cisco security, collaboration, data center or network optimization.

"The Business Critical Services is a single platform that allows a customer to now take any, or all, of those optimization capabilities and flex it," said Cozzolino, senior vice president for Cisco Services, adding that nearly 80 percent of all Cisco optimization services go through the channel.

Cisco is also launching a cloud-based dashboard, dubbed the Wake-Up Dashboard. "It's continuously running. It's continuously probing the network. It's an insight engine that connects all aspects of the Cisco products in the network – I don't care if that's security firewalls, threat protection, the physical network itself – we actually run the analysis diagnostic," said Cozzolino.

The services also provide automated compliance and remediation services, coupled with security including incident response for threat protection. All of those services running together keep Cisco-powered networks humming along, and partners benefit from the combination of monitoring, optimization, and proactive fixes. The company said the new services, on average, reduce downtime by 74 percent, resolve issues 41 percent faster and reduce operational costs by 21 percent.

"Having a tool that helps you consolidate that into one view that drives the monitoring and performance enhancements is something that customers are going to have an appetite to consume," said MacDonald. "Customers don't want to deal with outages."

Cisco piloted BCS with one of its large bank customers. Through predictive analytics, Cisco was able to predict 32 hours in advance that a major outage was going to happen because of the dissimilarities in software revisions in different products, according to Cozzolino.

"We're moving from what was reactive and proactive, to actually predictive. That's the key thing. It's moving to that domain where we can predict problems before they happen and resolve them before it happens," said Cozzolino. "That's a next-level service."

The network leader is also launching three "High Value" services: Software Support, Solution Support and Network Support.

Partners can resell the High Value services and BCS or put them on top of their own existing services.

The Software Support provides assistance for Cisco software with features including multi-level service options. The Solution Support provides centralized support for Cisco hardware, software and third-party solutions from the first call to resolution.

"Solution services starts with multi-vendor support," said Cozzolino. "For the customer, that means one phone call to make. We deal with the complexity across all of those third-party applications in an environment and get to a resolution."

Customers with an ecosystem of different technologies can become confused when a problem occurs around who to blame. MacDonald said Solution Support takes ownership of the issue which will take the stress away from customers.

"With so much technology, it's very tough for customers to always at first-glance be able to determine which software or hardware is creating the issue or impact. Having this takes that ownership, takes the stress away from the customer and will be appealing versus being caught in a tug-of-war between tech centers when you're dealing with a technical issue," said MacDonald.

The third high-value service is Network Support aimed to provide technical service support to the enterprise and service provider market.

Cozzolino said the network support is "very proactive in terms of, 'Here's everything you need to do to have a certain level of reliability in your network.' It's a bi-directional agreement, where we say you have made these upgrades – whether it's an end-of-life product or software upgrades – and if you follow all of our recommendations, we will guarantee resiliency in the network."

Cisco said the new services address the lack of digital skills in businesses as well the need for digital transformation.

According to a 2017 digital transformation survey conducted by the research firm IDC, a lack of skilled workers was cited as the single largest challenge to successfully implement a "digital transformation." IDC forecasts $6.3 trillion will be spent by companies for digital transformations from 2017 to 2020 and $2.6 trillion of that budgeted for third-party services firms with expertise in digital transformations.

"What we're trying to do is create those differentiated services, like Solution Support or Business Critical Services, that gives partners the next-level of capabilities that they can wrap more of their services around the support and optimization piece because it's differentiating," said Cozzolino.

Macdonald said innovation on the services side of the business must keep up the pace with the technology to be successful.

"From a partner lens, to see next-generation services that keep in step with the next generation of technology is a welcomed investment and evolution that the channel needs," he said.