Cisco Live 2021: 5 Bold Statements We Heard From Cisco Leaders

Cisco’s executive leadership team this week talked technology updates and integrations, but perhaps more importantly, shared their perspectives with CRN and more than 100,000 attendees on the major trend that shaped IT for businesses and channel partners over the past year: hybrid work.

Spotlight On Cisco

Cisco Systems’ executive leadership team came out in full-force this week to share updates on the tech giant’s portfolio, as well as their perspectives on the major trend that shaped the last year for nearly every company on the globe: the hybrid work model.

If the past 12 months taught the IT industry anything, it’s that technology can keep businesses up and running, no matter where their employees are located. But businesses need the right tools in place to accomplish their goals long term. This will include solutions for both remote workers, and those that are safely returning to the office. Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins took to Cisco Live 2021 to talk about the company’s vision for the digital future and pinpointed new areas of opportunity for Cisco partners.

Cisco’s top leaders also unveiled updates to its Webex collaboration platform, new security offerings, and integrations with recently-acquired technology into existing solutions, while sharing their perspectives with CRN and more than 100,000 attendees on the past year, the important of inclusivity, and bridging the digital divide.

Here’s what the executive leadership team had to say at Cisco Live 2021 Digital.

Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO

On How Partners Can Uplevel Their Businesses

Having been deeply involved in the partner programs over the years, it’s constant change we have to deliver. It was less complicated 20 years ago when we were trying to get partners to embrace new tech areas -- you have routing, switching, and security. The short answer is, we’ll continue to uplevel our programs to make sure our partners are included and part of our value chain. We just think that’s super important going forward. I think we’ll have a combination of existing partners, some partners ahead of us, some that will go with us, and some that will lag -- they tend to move at different paces.

The other thing I believe is as we moved our portfolio over the last few years to a more API-driven portfolio and given more capabilities … we think there’s is tremendous opportunity for our partners to create unique intellectual property that differentiates them on top of the platforms we deliver. So, what I’ve been telling them is in the past, you competed based on who can deliver the best services around deploying whatever technology infrastructure we’re talking about. Today, [partners] can build unique intellectual property that is differentiated to them, and I think that’s one of the big things we’re working with them on.

Fran Katsoudas, EVP and Chief People Officer

On Inclusivity And The Future Of Work

I think companies at this moment are prioritizing inclusion and wondering how they do it when their people are going to be de-centralized. What’s so fascinating from a Cisco perspective -- probably April of last year, so very early in the pandemic -- we already had employees that were worried about the subset of the workforce that comes back, and ‘if I don’t come back, am I out?’ So, the fact that we are solving for this and the fact that Jeetu [Patel] and team are designing around a hybrid world, I do think that’s going to be a differentiator. I do think it’s going to help companies and employees feel like they are counted regardless of where they are.

I think for channel partners, there’s a new buying center that is going to be critical, and that’s the human resources organization. So many of my peers right now are trying to solve issues around how we manage wellness in the workplace and give our people insights into the way in which they are showing up.

Jeetu Patel, SVP and GM, Security and Collaboration Business

On Open Ecosystems

We have our commitment to other technologies, like Zoom or Microsoft, or Google. We fundamentally believe in an open, vibrant ecosystem. This is why we invested so much in making sure that whatever application you want to use as a customer, you can use it with Webex. You should be able to use pother applications from within the Webex experience, and you should also be able to use Webex embedded into those other applications. This commitment for this bi-directional integration is pretty unique to Webex.

Todd Nightingale, SVP and GM, Enterprise Networking and Cloud

On Cisco’s ThousandEyes Acquisition

Which ThousandEyes acquisition? This has to be the fastest integrated acquisition I think we’ve ever had. I came in through acquisition and we had barely gotten our feet in the water by now.

The ThousandEyes portfolio -- they’ve done amazing, amazing work. We really focused this on the idea of providing true internet intelligence, true visibility, all the way to the user, to the application, and that’s what ThousandEyes delivers -- internet intelligence to the user and application. These two integrations -- these two extensions to our platform that we’re announcing -- are really about that. We are announcing … an integration on our [Catalyst 9000] switching infrastructure with direct ThousandEyes integration that allows us to visualize what users experience is from their apps, all the way down to, not just the site, but all the way through their enterprise network, directly to that laptop [or] user. It’s an incredible powerful integration. It’s actually part of strategy of putting ThousandEyes on every Cisco box we ship, and this is our largest portfolio at Cisco, so that’s really exciting.

Jonathan Davidson, SVP and GM, Mass-Scale Infrastructure

On Bridging The Digital Divide

One thing that’s become really clear is to all of us over the past year with the pandemic is the digital divide is very real. The reality is, there’s 3 billion people that are either unconnected or underserved, meaning they don’t have enough connectivity to truly join the digital universe.

Cisco, in our small way, we believe that one of the biggest reasons is around the amount of investment that’s really going into building networks that can enable more people to get access to knowledge and faraway family, and basically have a digital tide that lifts all boats. The way we’ve been focused over the past decade of Cisco’s existence is really to be on the cutting edge of innovation, and we’re going to stay on that cutting edge. We’re approaching the point where the edge of innovation isn’t enough to close digital divide. We really need to rethink the fundamentals of how networks themselves are built, because over the past three plus decades that the internet and most networks have all been built in the same exact way, with layers upon layers, and it’s time to dramatically simplify that.

We’ve worked with over 50 customers in the past year and a half to look at how they can dramatically simplify their networks. We know they could also see upwards of 50 percent savings by moving to this new internet architecture of the future.