Cisco Middle East & Africa hosts ‘Future Cloud’ Summit to showcase new hybrid cloud innovations

Cisco led a MEA Cloud Summit showcasing new ways it is helping its customers and partners in the region accelerate digital transformations as they move more resources to the cloud.

The hyper-connected, distributed world we live in today relies more than ever on cloud, and IT teams are facing challenges to provide optimal digital experiences wherever and whenever people need access. As a result, businesses are migrating to a cloud-driven operational model based on speed, insight, and control to bridge the greater distribution of applications, users, and tech staff. 

Enabling customers realize better outcomes from the cloud

Cisco has made multi-billion-dollar investments over the past six years to build cloud into every aspect of its business, focusing on helping customers confidently develop complete cloud strategies across five key areas: Continuity, Insights, Security, Connectivity, and Operations.

During the virtual event, the company will showcase how it is advancing its cloud strategy across several of these areas to help businesses connect, secure, and automate to deliver seamless digital experiences in a hybrid cloud world.

“User experience is key to success in a digital world,” said Reem Asaad, Vice President Cisco Middle East & Africa, “We are focused on empowering and enabling technology groups to securely deliver the best possible application experiences. Only Cisco can power the hybrid cloud solutions, observability, insights, and automation necessary to be truly cloud smart.”

New hybrid cloud solutions discussed:

The agenda is designed to address key issues customers face when building their Cloud strategy. As Adele Trombetta, VP of CX EMEAR notes: ‘migrating to the cloud opens a whole new world of possibilities that promises cost optimization, security improvement and stelar user experience. It is, however – even for the boldest, most tech-savvy among us – incredibly complex.  The MEA Cloud Summit is a great opportunity to meet some of Cisco’s experts on Multicloud and hear from the people that help US design our strategy’.  

Supported by Cisco Customer Experience (CX) Services that offer:

  • Business Critical Services for Cloud provide advisory services plus expertise to architect, deploy, secure, and optimize digital transformations.
  • Intersight Workload Optimizer Services enhance the resource consumption of applications in the cloud.
  • Advanced Services for ThousandEyes and SD-WAN deliver the best application experience for cloud solutions, providing expert design and integration to reduce project complexity and speed transformation.
  • Custom Quick Start Solutions provide services for end-to-end automation and infrastructure-as-code (IaC).

Cisco believes that organizations want to see their Multicloud solution manage applications, workflows, and data better than ever before – providing better user experience, assurance of compliance, decreased security risk, programmable infrastructure and Reduced OpEx.

As stated by Osama Al Zoubi, Cisco CTO Middle East and Africa: “’We are experiencing a rate of change that we have never seen before; this acceleration created tremendous challenge and presented new opportunities. The ability to navigate the new world through multi-cloud architecture and all the innovation associated with it, is the path that many major organizations are embracing. We invite you all to come and join us through the MEA Cloud Summit forum to discuss and collaborate on ideas that will enable and accelerate digital business.

www.cisco.com

Shift to remote work is accelerating digital adoption, Cisco Duo Security Report

A new report published from Duo Security at Cisco, the multi-factor authentication (MFA) and secure access provider, reveals the unprecedented IT change organizations underwent this year amid a massive shift to remote work, accelerating adoption of cloud technology.

The security implications of this transition will reverberate for years to come, as the hybrid workplace demands the workforce to be secure, connected and productive from anywhere.

The 2020 Duo Trusted Access Report details how organizations, with a mandate to rapidly transition their entire workforce to remote, turned to remote access technologies such as virtual private networks (VPN) and remote desktop protocol (RDP), among numerous other efforts.

As a result, authentication activity to these technologies swelled 60%, helping propel Duo’s monthly authentications from 600 million to 900 million per month. A complementary Cisco survey recently found that 96% of organizations made cybersecurity policy changes during the pandemic, with more than half implementing MFA.

Cloud adoption also accelerated. Daily authentications to cloud applications surged 40% during the first few months of the pandemic, the bulk of which came from enterprise and mid-sized organizations looking to ensure secure access to various cloud services.

As organizations scrambled to acquire the requisite equipment to support remote work, employees relied on personal or unmanaged devices in the interim. Consequently, blocked access attempts due to out-of-date devices skyrocketed 90% in March. That figure fell precipitously in April, indicating healthier devices and decreased risk of breach due to malware.

“As the pandemic began, the priority for many organizations was keeping the lights on and accepting risk in order to accomplish this end,” said Dave Lewis, Global Advisory CISO, Duo Security at Cisco. “Attention has now turned towards lessening risk by implementing a more mature and modern security approach that accounts for a traditional corporate perimeter that has been completely upended.”

Report findings also include:

So Long, SMS – The prevalence of SIM-swapping attacks has driven organizations to strengthen their authentication schemes. Year-over-year, the percentage of organizations that enforce a policy to disallow SMS authentication nearly doubled from 8.7% to 16.1%.

Biometrics Booming – Biometrics are nearly ubiquitous across enterprise users, paving the way for a passwordless future. Eighty percent of mobile devices used for work have biometrics configured, up 12% the past five years.

Cloud Apps on Pace to Pass On-Premises Apps – Use of cloud apps are on pace to surpass use of on-premises apps by next year, accelerated by the shift to remote work. Cloud applications make up 13.2% of total Duo authentications, a 5.4% increase year-over-year, while on-premises applications encompass 18.5% of total authentications, down 1.5% since last year.

Apple Devices 3.5 times More Likely to Update Quickly vs. Android – Ecosystem differences have security consequences. On June 1, Apple iOS and Android both issued software updates to patch critical vulnerabilities in their respective operating systems. iOS devices were 3.5 times more likely to be updated within 30 days of a security update or patch, compared to Android.

Windows 7 Lingers in Healthcare Despite Security Risks – More than 30% of Windows devices in healthcare organizations still run Windows 7, despite end-of-life status, compared with 10% of organizations across Duo’s customer base. Healthcare providers are often unable to update deprecated operating systems due to compliance requirements and restrictive terms and conditions of third-party software vendors.

Windows Devices, Chrome Browser Dominate Business IT – Windows continues its dominance in the enterprise, accounting for 59% of devices used to access protected applications, followed by Mac OS X at 23%. Overall, mobile devices account for 15% of corporate access (iOS: 11.4%, Android: 3.7%). On the browser side, Chrome is king with 44% of total browser authentications, resulting in stronger security hygiene overall for organizations.

UK and EU Trail US in Securing Cloud – United Kingdom and European Union-based organizations trail US-based enterprises in user authentications to cloud applications, signalling less cloud use overall or a larger share of applications not protected by MFA.

The full report can be accessed here

www.duo.com

Cisco delivers new platform solutions to drive workload agility across public and private clouds

Cisco has announced new software-delivered solutions designed to simplify IT operations across on-premise data centers and multicloud environments.

With this milestone, Cisco is enabling greater business agility for its customers and empowering developers to deliver and scale innovative application experiences faster.

Today’s business environment is changing faster than ever. Applications have become more distributed, workforces are more mobile, and the demands on our systems are greater than ever. In order to face these challenges, IT teams need greater insights and automation to deliver true technology agility. Cisco is unveiling agile IT platforms to help technology groups respond to these market transitions.

“Complexity can paralyze our teams. Our systems can no longer be powerful, but brittle. For IT to be as agile as their businesses require, they need solutions obsessed with simplicity,” said Todd Nightingale, SVP and GM, Cisco Enterprise Networking and Cloud. “This year, technology groups around the globe were tested by unprecedented change. This fundamental shift in how businesses, schools and governments operate requires IT teams to transform how they function. Today, Cisco is announcing IT platforms for multicloud operations that provide advanced insights and automation to help organizations transform faster.”

Cisco is bringing a never-before-experienced level of efficiency to cloud, application, SecOps, NetOps and DevOps teams. As a cloud-neutral vendor, only Cisco allows customers to maintain choice and control across their full IT stack with simplified and consistent operations. Cisco provides unrivaled visibility from the application to the infrastructure, allowing customers to deliver the best application experiences. New solutions include:

Cisco Intersight: Building on its foundation as a leading systems management platform, Cisco Intersight’s mission is to become the world’s simplest hybrid cloud platform that connects private data centers to private clouds. With the new Intersight Kubernetes Service, infrastructure teams can now automate the lifecycle management of Kubernetes and containerized applications across any environment. This represents a major leap forward in the container ecosystem by driving rapid and consistent application innovation. Intersight Workload Optimizer significantly simplifies application resources management. With a single tool that provides real-time, full-stack visibility and insights, customers can balance application performance and cost. Intersight integration with AppDynamics provides IT teams with visibility to improve management across infrastructure and applications and stay ahead of problems that can impact user experience.

Cisco Nexus Dashboard: The Cisco Nexus Dashboard is a single insights and automation platform to operate multicloud data center networks spanning on-premise, virtual edge and cloud sites. Consolidating Cisco’s industry-leading portfolio of operational services and critical third-party services, Nexus Dashboard provides one simple interface to manage application lifecycles from set-up to maintenance and optimization. The Nexus Dashboard drives the adoption of cloud-native application practices leading to a faster path to return on infrastructure investment. 

Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE): Cisco ISE now simplifies secure network access across all domains, extending the zero-trust workplace to anywhere and on anything. With the latest innovations, customers can use ISE to intelligently identify a variety of IoT endpoints to enforce consistent policies from the cloud to give teams the agility and flexibility they need to secure their organizations.

“Cisco’s new solutions are part of an overall effort to transform how customers connect people, secure their organization, and automate their processes,” said analyst Will Townsend, Networking Practice Head, Moor Insights & Strategy. “It is designed to bring together platforms and portfolios to help customers respond and adapt to business disruptions, accelerate cloud adoption and transform IT operating models.”

The new Cisco Intersight innovations and the Cisco Nexus Dashboard will be available by the end of the calendar year. Cisco Intersight Kubernetes Service will be made available in the first half of 2021. 

www.cisco.com

[Column] Garsen Naidu: Scaling collaboration cloud service in the workplace

When it comes to scaling a cloud service (and more specifically) a collaboration cloud service – what must-haves comes to mind?

For me, it’s a vendor and service that has experience with millions of users, millions of calls and meetings, billions of messages, 99.999% reliability, and a whole lot of geek talk. These are crucial factors if you are choosing a collaboration cloud service for your business. But there are a few more facets you need to think about.

Enabling your teams and employees to make the best of any and every workspace in today’s ‘work-anywhere, work-anytime’ era is a big one and can be a competitive advantage. And this is why a collaboration experience that scales to different workspaces and devices is so important.

Collaboration is about of getting things done, together. It’s important to think about where the work gets done, what tools your teams use to get work done and how time, context, and continuity affect their work. The collaboration experience needs to transcend the physical workspaces we occupy, the gadgets and devices we use, and how work gets done over time. It’s enabling fluidity in form factors and workflows.

When your experience does not scale…
Here’s an all-too-common scenario: You’re sitting at your desk working on your laptop, getting ready to join a meeting. Three other people, sitting just a few feet away from you, also need to join the same meeting. So why not just go into a conference room? Easier said than done these days.

So now, you are all walking around the office, carrying your laptops, looking for an empty room or available space. While you all search the floor trying to decipher which rooms are reserved, you finally, settle on a huddle space, put your laptops next to each other and get the dreaded, “meeting join” echo.

And as with almost every meeting and collaboration situation, someone grabs a dry-erase pen and starts whiteboarding on a wall-board while another person provides audio commentary of what’s being written to the remote participants.

As you get closer to the end of the meeting, someone else gets the bright idea to point one of the laptop cameras at the board itself and then someone says, “Let’s take a picture of this board and email or post it in shared space.”

Why do we do this to ourselves?
Of course, you have ways to get around these; you can set up a “stitched together” video conferencing room – with iPads, USB-connected cams, and stuff from seven different vendors. You can have someone send help, spend an entire day stitching it together and then leave sticky notes and printouts on the wall with instructions. This is what you get when you don’t have a solution that can scale your workspaces and the way we meet today.

Now, imagine what it’s like when your collaboration cloud experience scales…
Actually, you don’t have to imagine what it’s like – it’s already possible with Webex. In fact, many of our customers have already started the workplace transformation journey with Webex and are seeing the benefits of cloud collaboration that actually scales. A poll conducted on Businesstech and Wystalk revealed that 14% of South African employees’ organisations use collaboration tools like a channel of communication.

Imagine a collaboration cloud service that scales

On a PC, iPad, or mobile device, simply click the green Webex “Join” button to start a live meeting. You realise four other colleagues sitting in the same area need to join, too, so you all simply move over to an adjacent huddle space.

In the room, the Webex video device, which supports video, audio and screen share, immediately recognises everyone in the meeting. The meeting is connected and displayed on the 55-inch screen with a single swipe of a finger. No dongles, no cables, no echo, and (even better) no one else needs to click anything. Everyone is automatically in the meeting, with laptops connected, ready to collaborate.

What if one of your colleagues needs to take the rest of the meeting in her car? Easy. She just swipes the meeting back to her mobile phone (with no disruption to anyone else) and walks to her car. Once inside and the engine has started, her Webex meeting automatically shifts into “driving mode” like any phone call.

And what’s a brainstorming meeting without some whiteboarding?

Simply walk to the Webex Board in the room and start ideating with everyone in the meeting – including remote participants. At the end of the meeting, you now have a digital copy of the whiteboarding session saved to the cloud, which you can later access on your phone or PC to resume where you left off – from any meeting space or even a different city altogether.

And, yes, the person who took the meeting from her car also has the whiteboard available by the time she logs back on as well. Webex provides a truly connected experience for everyone in the room and gives remote people easy instant access to the same material.

Scaling the experience means making the most of the workspace – including the screens and phones – to effectively participate, collaborate, and contribute with zero disruption, wherever you are and wherever you are going; being able to pick where you left off and always in the most natural way.

Garsen Naidu is the General Manager of Cisco South Africa