Customers are failing to keep their digital strategies in line with their wider business strategies and moving too slowly when it comes to adapting their network to account for the fast evolving world of IT. Many otherwise innovative cloud and "internet of everything" (IoE) projects are doomed to failure, network supplier Cisco has warned.
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Speaking at the Cisco Live! 2015 conference in Milan, Italy, Cisco vice-president of southern region EMEAR, David Bevilacqua, said customers were challenged in moving to the world of what Cisco calls "Fast IT", where agility is king and the internet of things (IoT) becomes a viable proposition.
“Most digitisation projects customers are doing will fail because they are failing to re-imagine,” he said. “The digital strategy should be fully in-line with the business strategy. You can’t do this without first looking at how you drive, as a vision, the digitisation of your journey.”
Bevilacqua outlined three main challenges Cisco customers face in undertaking digital or "Fast IT" projects, namely security, investment and lack of vision.
Around security, Bevilacqua said the growing complexity of IT environments was challenging customers and making them vulnerable. “Security is not a matter of inserting a new product, but looking at it as a full, end-to-end, systemic approach. Security is not a one-time thing but a process in place every day.”
Need for digital strategy
On investment, he pointed to statistics that suggest 75% of the average IT budget is currently spent just keeping the lights on. “We need to free up resources to get investment to drive the digitisation journey of the customer,” he said.
Finally, on strategy, Bevilacqua said customers were failing to think about the sort of business they wanted to be, and not just how they wanted to evolve. “We need a new kind of strategy where business and digital strategy are as one,” he said.
“Competitive advantage today is based on an organisation’s ability to act quickly, there's no question of that,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research.
“The digitisation of business combined with social trends makes it mandatory for companies to become more agile. This is why they’ve spent billions on virtualisation and cloud. The problem has been that the network has been as agile as a piece of steel, and I think it’s been the limiting factor for organisations that want to change direction quickly.”
Help along the way
Cisco announced a number of enhancements to its Meraki SME cloud networking business, launching a full, complete IT stack for the enterprise.
Gordon Thomson, Cisco MD of enterprise networks, said Meraki was now evolving into a comprehensive cloud networking portfolio that will go beyond wireless to incorporate switching, wired, WANs, branch connections and so on, with security built in from the ground up, configured and monitored remotely.
Some of the features now available include 802.11ac indoor and outdoor access points with Bluetooth beacons to enable location-aware applications; comprehensive UTM systems for threat ID and mitigation via integrated Sourcefire; mission-critical switch features to address needs around redundancy, reliability and campus connectivity; and an intelligent WAN system on the MX security appliances to deliver the same user experience over any connection – including mobile – to applications hosted in public or hybrid clouds.
For customers, Thomson claimed, this will reduce management costs and time spent managing the network, freeing up IT resources to be invested in digital strategies.
Thomas Gessler, CIO at German dental supplies firm Heraeus Kulzer, said: “In 10 years all dental activities will be digital. You will have scanners in your mouth, pushing data to a producer of prosthetics, for example. That’s only possible with digital.
“Meraki is a great opportunity for us because we have to face the extraordinary speed of IT, the expectations of the customer and the business,” he said. “I don’t have a specialist for each and every application in my team, so I need ease of use across my applications – we are very keen on the Meraki solution.”
Simplified software licensing
Cisco launched a purchasing and consumption model for its software portfolio, dubbed Cisco ONE Software. Cisco ONE will be a portfolio of networking and infrastructure software, spanning three so-called suites: Datacentre, covering networking and compute; Access, covering switching and wireless; and WAN, covering intelligent WANs to connect branches and campuses.
Cisco said the ONE model meant customers would no longer have to buy and consume hundreds of à la carte, differently priced software features – but instead could buy and consume simple suites tailored to their budget and strategy, with perpetual licences, subscription licences or through an Enterprise Licence Agreement to provide business-wide access to the suites.
Cisco will make licences portable under the ONE model, meaning customers don’t have to repurchase new software if they upgrade hardware in the same family. It believes this will offer customers substantial cost savings, and make them better able to innovate as new hardware features come to market.
Cisco launched a cloud suite, ONE Enterprise Cloud, which sits in the datacentre suite to give businesses the security and control of a private cloud and self-service and automation of a public cloud.
ONE Enterprise Cloud will offer users access to key services through self-service, on-demand portals; enable CIOs to automate infrastructure and provision and manage applications, with visibility and management of cloud services and the ability to move workloads to different clouds, while keeping the same policies and security; and application development tools for developers.
Both the enhanced Meraki portfolio and ONE Software are available now.