Cisco’s annual conference, Cisco Live, came and went in San Diego, and Compudyne was in attendance. The conference itself contains more information than one could possibly take in through four days, but many common themes were seen throughout this year’s conference. We’d like to share a few of them with you.
Security hasn’t gotten any easier. New threats emerge daily, and organizations are challenged more than ever to protect sensitive information. Across product lines, Cisco’s vision includes the infrastructure’s ability to recognize and eliminate threats: “Network as a sensor. Network as an enforcer.” A good example of Cisco’s ability to evolve with the changing landscape is the acquisition and integration of Sourcefire into the ASA (Adaptive Security Appliance) firewall product line. ASAs can now utilize enhanced IPS, Application Visibility and Control, and Advanced Malware Protection, resulting in a more robust edge security solution. The proven ASA product line now has robust next-generation firewall services built for present and future threats.
SDN – Software Defined Networking
A lot of recent talk in the networking world revolves around SDN. So, what is it, and why is it important? Fundamentally, SDN is the separation of control plane (configuration and decision making) into a centralized software controller and data plane (actual transmission and receipt of information) into hardware and virtual appliances. Centralized and standardized configuration creates networks that are more compliant and are easier to manage. As an example, a benefit may be networks that can dynamically respond to external influences such as localized customer demand or even weather events. By utilizing APIs and programming, many additional metrics can be used to influence traffic flow.
Are we there yet? Well, yes and no. Depending on your point of view, Meraki could be seen as an SDN solution that is available today. Cisco acquired Meraki in late 2012. Initially seen as a wireless networking solution, Meraki devices today include firewalls, switches, and wireless access points that are managed via a secure and centralized cloud controller. Rather than configuring individual devices via local CLI or GUI, these tasks are performed via the Meraki dashboard. With this centralized dashboard, for example, it becomes easy to push the same wireless LAN configuration across access points in different locations. Availability, utilization, and statistics can all be seen from the same dashboard. Cisco has made a significant investment in SDN and also offers a commercial product that can utilize existing Cisco hardware deployments, however these are the early stages of that product lifecycle. Time and again throughout the conference, programming skills were listed as beneficial for the next-generation of the network engineers.
Ultimately, SDN aims to address many of the networking challenges we have today. Through centralization, standardization, compliancy, and security become easier to realize throughout an organization. Becoming aware of the solutions available and how they fit in your network are great first steps in preparation for the future.
The Internet of Things – Disrupt or be disrupted
Another exciting topic that couldn’t be missed at the conference revolves around the coming wave of connected devices. If you aren’t familiar with the “Internet of things” or “Internet of Everything” concept, spend some time perusing the many videos found on YouTube. Most of us are familiar with smartphones, tablets, connected homes (Nest; Dropcam), and activity trackers such as Fitbit or Microsoft Band.
Imagine sensors gathering vast amounts of data across all aspects of our lives. Then consider the opportunities for innovation: perhaps you are not at home, but you find a new recipe you’d like to try. Your kitchen tells you which ingredients you already have, and you then receive a list of all the remainder items. Next, you are given a list of the closest grocery stores with all of the items in stock. When you arrive to the store, your phone leads you to each ingredient. Not entirely sure which box of pasta to choose? Point your phone’s camera at the available options, and your phone will render and display an indicator on the correct box (augmented reality). Going further, your trip to the store and then home may have been courtesy of your self-driving car.
Some of this technology exists today, and some is on the horizon. The takeaway for business remains that innovation will be the key to the future. This flood of information will require secure and well connected networks. Businesses willing to adapt will succeed with the next generation of customers.
Compudyne has the knowledge and experience to help your business address the connectivity challenges you may be facing today or are planning for in the future. We provide Internet service, LAN, WAN, and wireless networking solutions to businesses of all sizes. To discuss any of these solutions, contact us for a free business consultation.