Last month I had the pleasure of attending the annual Cisco Live conference in Melbourne. This was the fourth year I’ve been to the conference and with over 7,000 participants; it’s one of the biggest and best events on the Australian IT calendar. This was the 25th anniversary of the conference in Australia and Cisco had chosen to focus on the people of IT that make the future. This was the central theme and therefore the conference tag line was “You’re IT”.

This year was a little different for me, as I’ve joined the Cisco partner events for the last few years. However, this year there was a completely new program for ‘IT Management’ that I attended. This was in combination with the Data Centre Innovation day that I also went to on the Tuesday.

From CustomTec, Victor Guerrero and Reza Nashvi also attended the conference with me. I have to say that Reza was treated like a rock star due to Cisco’s impressive acknowledgement of his highly sort after Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) status. This is the highest level of certification with Cisco, and it’s great to see them celebrate this – it was fantastic!

One of the dominant themes of the conference and the technology keynote was the role of network in a multi-cloud landscape. Cisco are widely recognised for their networking capability, and they see themselves as playing a key role in combining Private Cloud, Public Cloud, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Internet. The multi-cloud landscape offers many challenges in the areas of security, performance and flexibility, and Cisco are focused on providing solutions to address these issues.

I really appreciated the content of the IT Management stream. It dealt with a higher level of discussion than I’ve become accustomed to from previous years with the conference’s partner stream. The IT Management program expanded on the theme of digitalisation that has been around for several years now. The message that every company is a tech company was driven home, along with the need for businesses to drive digital transformation through leveraging data and analytics. The urgency of change was reinforced though some very interesting examples beyond the usual suspects that we all know now.

Digitalisation relies on hyper-connectivity, mobility and multi-clouds, but Cisco see the underpinning network as the key to making the complexities come together, enabling actionable insights that can drive faster business outcomes. The pace of this change is breathtaking and this was a fundamental theme in the keynote presentations.

Extending this concept to the data centre, Cisco recognise that their future direction lies with Software Defined (software replaces hardware), Automation and Orchestration, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, and obviously Security. In this new environment for business, Cisco have been working hard at facilitating DevOps and the “Future Workplace” where building infrastructure and operating infrastructure merge and  become increasingly more software driven.

Changes in mindset, operations, and delivery are necessary for businesses to become more agile and compete in the future. This will require smaller teams distributed across the business. It was referenced that IDC believe that 20-30% of new applications will come from “Low code/No Code” developers by 2021. In Australia, developers who are not computer programmers (non-tech developers) will contribute to nearly a third of all software development.

Underpinning this change is the explosion of open software interfaces (Application Programming Interface (API) Ecosystems) that will allow 45% of digital services to move beyond customer interactions by the year 2020 – this is currently only 10%. This message was further reinforced by more discussion around the explosion of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning that’s central in the mainstream media now.

In a world where change is happening at unprecedented rates, I found it very refreshing that Cisco included some content on Managing Change in their organisation. I see this as a significant challenge for some of our customers who operate in industries that are changing the most rapidly. Cisco is a good example of an organisation that’s’ having to reinvent itself and self-disrupt, resulting in a rapid pace of change. At the centre of this change is the need for people and culture to change, and this is often one of the toughest transitions. This was a very motivating inclusion and valuable insight for IT Managers and their organisations.

Overall, the conference has grown to include a more targeted array of content with more program streams and partner options. I think this was a good move by Cisco as the content is more focused and valuable as a result. There were no great surprises with messaging for the conference, but I think this is a strong reflection on the state of the IT industry right now. Some industries and players are further ahead while others are not so far down the road, and Cisco sees itself as a strategic enabler for organisations at all stages of the journey.

Anthony Higgins,  CTO

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