Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Reflections on Cisco Live

March 30, 2023

Shoes, remind me to discuss shoes…

Cisco Live returned to Europe with the first in-person event in 3 years with the beautiful city of Amsterdam hosting over ten thousand Cisco customers and partners.

As I reflect on the event and the announcement and innovations from my Cisco colleagues, I find myself thinking about us all as Engineers and Architects and the stories we must tell to deliver the best outcomes for our stakeholders and customers. With that in mind, I decided to take a different approach and in between all the sessions, tech talks, meet the engineers and whisper sweets, I partnered with Distinguished Engineer Steve Orr to well, talk. Yes, talk architecturally with some of the UK’s largest enterprise customers, with no defined agenda other than folks bringing Enterprise Architect and Solution Architect viewpoints on the challenges that we face.

We have definitely missed this kind of interaction face to face. Whilst we are completely used to Hybrid work with collaboration tools there is no doubt that we miss the workshop environment of ‘Meeting 1’ where we sit and chat it all through.

In essence we need to do it more and what was surprising were the similar themes that were surfaced in these meetings. I summarise them here and I also welcome your comments.

1) Connect and Protect – Routing is still top of mind
YES, getting packets from a to b, from User to App is still absolutely top of mind…
Of course though I mean routing in the sense of how we do it over the top of the internet, inter cloud, intra-cloud, through exchanges and securely exploit cloud backbones whilst still retaining control of the global policy and segmentation.

I will leave the exact definition of what you would call this to others. It is a mixture of SDWAN, SASE, SSE and is perhaps best defined by the Gartner term Multi Cloud Network Software (MCNS).

I prefer to just call it secure routing. Why? Because what we, the engineers and architects are doing to have to build it, operate, and run it – we are more relevant than ever and this subject came up in every meeting. We need to ensure that there isn’t a human sized hole in our infrastructure plans.

2) Predictability and Telemetry
“Stu, application wins” was a quote from a Network Architect in Financial Services shared with me back in 2007. That statement is truer than ever in 2023. Difference being is that in 2007 we could almost touch the infrastructure that housed the apps. These days we cannot control the underlying networks such as the internet but we can monitor it. Same for cloud backbones.
The “fabric of fabrics” that we are now able to build to support today’s applications will have to include telemetry that looks beyond the bounds of our own networks.

3) Embrace sustainability
Be prepared to engage with your sustainability colleagues. Don’t hide away here, this is a great opportunity for us to step in and lead the conversation around how we can do more with our IP backbones. It opens a plethora of conversations not just about how much power the network consumes but how it can dynamically assign power to ‘things’ outside of the realm of traditional infrastructure. It also allows us to lead conversations around the often tricky conversation of segmentation and the security of separation of devices and things end to end.

4) Automate more
Are we as part of an AppDev culture as we need to be? No. Do Application developers know enough about networking and infrastructure provision? Probably not. Herein, lies the problem. We should be confident with our business partners and stakeholders about the ability to provision a network using automation methods and infrastructure as code. The capability to do so is there whilst we retain the ability to control the fundamental building blocks and guard rails of what makes a network function – I remember having to explain how BGP and DNS functioned to senior leaders after the FB and Instagram outage, the only time that Bridging Gap Protocol was mentioned on the UK News!

As an industry of network engineers, we carry huge experience in how to build and operate large complex networks, many of us have also programmed at some point in our careers and let’s be honest, it’s not that hard once we put our mind to it. We can tweak our Ops models, develop our skills, save money, and deliver better outcomes. Remember what I said above in “Routing is still top of mind.”

Oh, now back to shoes…when at Cisco Live, wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of walking to do!

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  1. Are Crocs allowed? Asking for a friend. Great article and reflections on an event with so much to talk about.