The Cisco Meraki ecosystem tech partner stars were aligned at this year’s Cisco Live 2023 in Las Vegas. I promised it would be the biggest and best show yet, and they made good on that promise. How?
Standing-room only for the Meraki theater session in the DevNet Zone, showcasing 20+ Cisco ecosystem tech partners
Ecosystem partners presenting at every turn, from the Cisco Co-Sell booths to the expo floor and demos in the Cloud Networking booth
Speakers from our very own Cisco team presenting inside our partner tech booths, along with Red Hat, Tufin, and more
Even the cameras that caught attendees lined up to get a photo with the Vince Lombardi trophy were powered by WaitTime
So, if you still missed the ecosystem partner activity at Cisco Live 2023, don’t fret. Here is a look at what our partners showcased on-site and, more importantly, how you can get engaged with them today.
Partners took the (show) floor by storm
In total, we had more than 20 partners live at the event—15 of them with sponsored booths. Each partner also had an opportunity to demo their solution and app in the Cisco Networking Cloud Ecosystem booth. Here, audiences learned how to create innovative new experiences powered by Cisco Networking Cloud when integrated with our comprehensive partner ecosystem.
“The overall feeling I had from this event is that (we) really felt part of the Meraki family.”
Attendees were given an opportunity to see firsthand how ecosystem partner solutions can accelerate IT and business outcomes. Each tech partner showcased how their app—built with Meraki APIs and available on the Meraki Marketplace—can be used to create exceptional experiences for everyone.
Wi-Fi and RTLS solutions launches
The fun didn’t stop there. Our ecosystem tech partners had great customer-focused announcements at the event.
Highlight launched a new Meraki solution for its Service Assurance Platform. The team debuted new functionality for Meraki Wi-Fi and Meraki switches that complement existing support for Meraki SD-WAN. Attendees learned how—through Meraki dashboard APIs—Highlight’s platform now brings Meraki Wi-Fi, switches, and SD-WAN into a single dashboard.
Another key announcement was made by AiRISTA Flow, a leader in real-time location services (RTLS) solutions. Attendees were introduced to support application hosting on Cisco Catalyst Series access points. This update by AiRISTA streamlines the deployment of customer devices, enabling their teams to quickly scale up RTLS across locations.
Packing bags for Melbourne + Amsterdam
Cisco Live U.S. has quickly become a center for ecosystem partners to showcase their solutions and get attendees engaged with a vast portfolio of solutions that span products, industries, and experiences. Hundreds of attendees had an opportunity to meet in-person with ecosystem partners and learned how to scale their products and services.
“Our on-site team had great conversations with customers who love our products, prospects who are ready to buy, and partners who want to engage more deeply with us in generating sales.”
Bringing together these two realms under a holistic approach highlights the growing significance of security for retailers. Let’s explore five areas where cybersecurity and physical security are top-of-mind for retailers.
Integrating physical and cyber systems
In the retail industry, physical and cyber systems are no longer isolated entities but interconnected networks. For instance, point-of-sale (POS) systems integrate physical payment terminals with digital transaction processing, making them susceptible to cyber breaches. A successful cyber attack could compromise customer data, financial transactions, and even disrupt in-store operations. Thus, securing the cyber infrastructure surrounding these physical systems is paramount.
Protecting customer data
Retailers handle a vast amount of customer data, including personal and financial information. Cybersecurity breaches, such as data breaches or ransomware attacks, can result in the theft or exposure of sensitive data. In 2022, the average cost of a data breach reached a record high of US$4.35 million. However, many experts estimate that average costs could reach $5 million in 2023, leading to severe consequences for both customers and businesses. Retailers must act now to implement robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard customer data and maintain their trust.
Offering free Wi-Fi in stores has gained popularity among customers, but it also brings cybersecurity and physical security concerns. Without proper safeguards, the store’s network is vulnerable to cyber threats and data breaches. To safeguard customer data and internal systems, it’s crucial to implement strong cybersecurity measures like network encryption and authentication protocols. Additionally, physical security measures are necessary to prevent unauthorized access to network equipment. Enhancing visibility through appropriate lighting and the presence of video cameras can also act as a deterrent to potential intruders. In addition, the use of door sensors can detect the opening and closing of entryways to restricted areas or after business hours, notifying security personnel of any unauthorized access attempts.
Physical asset protection
In addition to cyber threats, retailers must also address physical security concerns. For instance, organized retail crime, theft, and inventory shrinkage pose significant challenges. Implementing advanced surveillance technologies such as video analytics and object detection can help deter criminal activities. These solutions can also be used to identify and track potential threats within the retail environment. Advanced surveillance technologies such as video analytics can be used to identify and track potential threats not only to prevent criminal activity, but also to enhance employee/associate and customer safety.
By implementing these technologies as part of a comprehensive physical security strategy, retailers can deter hostile or violent behavior, prevent incidents before they occur, and improve emergency response times.
Supply chain security
The retail industry relies on complex supply chains involving multiple stakeholders. A cyber breach in any part of the supply chain could have far-reaching consequences. By converging physical security and cybersecurity, retailers can implement measures like real-time product tracking, secure data sharing, and vendor risk assessments. Such practices enhance supply chain security, reducing the likelihood of cyber attacks or physical disruptions.
To thrive in the evolving digital landscape, retailers must invest in robust cybersecurity measures while fortifying their physical security infrastructure. Furthermore, maintaining regulatory compliance, staying updated on emerging threats, and fostering a culture of security awareness are essential components of a comprehensive security strategy.
By prioritizing the convergence of physical security and cybersecurity, retailers can safeguard their operations, protect customer trust, and establish a competitive edge in an increasingly interconnected retail ecosystem.
Take the first step toward enhancing your retail security strategy and read our retail solution guide today! You can also visit our safe environments page to learn more about making your workspace safer—digitally and physically.
Cisco Meraki is committed to continuous improvement, in particular when it comes to our cloud-monitoring capabilities. We know that for our customers, the ability to intuitively manage complex network environments is of paramount importance. That’s why we view the build of our management platform as a journey rather than a destination, and it’s why we are constantly assessing and improving the power of our dashboard.
Recent customer feedback has directed us to focus on three key areas: the use of applied artificial intelligence in network management, improved access to network data visibility, and improved functionality for managing energy usage to help accelerate organization-wide sustainability initiatives.
Applied AI for cloud management
The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) technology in our management capabilities is not new, but we are always finding ways to use the tech for even more exciting and innovative networking solutions. Two of these new solutions are the applied AI busy hour and channel-planning features. By harnessing the power of intelligent machine learning, our dashboard now optimizes network efficiency, automates management, and minimizes potential bottlenecks during peak usage.
These features analyze historical data, learn network congestion patterns, and automatically adjust channel allocation to ensure seamless connectivity. With AI as a guiding force, network administrators can now optimize performance effortlessly and automatically, enabling them to focus on strategic initiatives.
Improved network visibility and access to critical data
Powerful AI-automation and data-aggregation technology is exciting, but without intuitive visibility it can lose some of its luster. With the introduction of new features like Roaming Analytics and Network Service Health, Meraki remains focused on empowering network administrators with unparalleled insights to inform intelligent decision-making.
These new solutions serve as one-stop network data overview tools—enabling administrators to identify areas of potential improvement and optimize coverage. Specifically, Roaming Analytics provides an improved user interface (UI) and comprehensive visibility into client roaming behavior.
The Network Service Health tool consolidates real-time data from various sources, offering a holistic view of network performance while proactively identifying potential issues. By leveraging these features, administrators can ensure optimal uptime and connection metrics for an exceptional user experience.
Empowering sustainability goals
Our dashboard solutions are always evolving, but you may be asking how these new capabilities can help your organization achieve actual, concrete goals. One function of our dashboard that has recently seen immense improvement is that it helps our customers accelerate their organization-wide sustainability initiatives.
With port scheduling, for example, administrators can monitor and remotely power down switching ports that are not in use and set time parameters on port activity. This can lead to positive outcomes—we’ve seen customers attain 50% greater energy savings through effective port management.
Recently, this feature has been improved upon with added port notification suppression features, limiting noise and allowing for a more focused management experience. Your network can now work quietly in the background to propel your sustainability initiatives—automatically powering down dozens of PoE devices and saving your org thousands of dollars and kilowatt hours.
The journey is not over
The ever-evolving Meraki cloud-management platform has been on a remarkable journey of transformation, elevating network management to new heights. Through the integration of applied AI, enhanced visibility functionality, and sustainability-focused tools, our dashboard automates, streamlines, and optimizes network operations.
As we continue to push the boundaries of innovation, we invite our customers to join us on this exciting, constantly evolving journey. Embrace the power of Meraki and unlock the potential of your network.
Learn more about these new features and many more with an instant demo of the Meraki dashboard.
Strong cybersecurity, privacy, and trust practices are imperative to protecting your business and people from online threats and risks, wherever they work. According to our 2023 Global Networking Trends Report, 41% of respondents said that securing user access to cloud-based applications is a top priority for 2023. All of this cloud focus means that most organizations will be tasked with managing and securing a hybrid cloud environment.
What is a hybrid cloud?
Today, many businesses are somewhere along the path of cloud migration as they seek the benefits of cloud services, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), along with some level of on-premises networking, storage, and software. Some of the most well-known public cloud services include Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). They offer remote storage and SaaS applications, either for free or through purchase. Public cloud providers typically secure the infrastructure while customers must secure the data and workloads themselves.
Meanwhile, private clouds are maintained on premises for restricted access, with the data available only to authorized users. You can rely on a technology partner to provide your private cloud or build and manage it with your own IT team and data center. This offers organizations more control than with public clouds, but they tend to cost more, both to deploy and manage.
Over the past few years, organizations have been shifting workloads and apps from their data centers to multicloud environments. Most of their critical traffic is now internet-based, but they have not been able to move everything to the cloud and instead continue to rely on data centers, which are the heart of traditional architectures. For various reasons—complexity, regulations, staffing issues—many organizations find themselves in a hybrid cloud situation. In fact, our 2023 Global Networking Trends Report found that 92% of IT leaders report using more than one public cloud and over a third reported using four to more than ten. That’s a lot of added complexity!
What is hybrid cloud security?
Typical network security entails the protection of a computer network and the data it contains. Network security’s primary job is to keep sensitive data safe from cyber attacks and to maintain the usefulness and stability of the network. Before internet and cloud services came into being, most security efforts involved siloed protection for on-premises systems and data centers. Hybrid cloud security encompasses safeguarding on-premises systems, cloud services, and everything in between.
The hybrid cloud, as a transition state for organizations that have not been able to move fully to the cloud, benefits companies by letting them manage workloads between on-site data centers and the public cloud. But with these advances come complex security issues and challenges.
What are the challenges of hybrid cloud security?
Why worry about hybrid cloud security? Let’s take a step back for a moment. Gartner suggests that most enterprise data centers are expected to move to the cloud by 2025, and the pandemic-fueled remote and hybrid working trend has intensified this push. The overall shift in network traffic from physical data centers to virtual public cloud infrastructure means more traffic is navigating public environments, with security becoming critical. The use of public clouds as IaaS and SaaS will continue to grow, yet traditional security approaches will not keep pace and will have a difficult time scaling.
We found that 41% of respondents of the Cisco 2023 Global Networking Trends Report said that securing access to cloud-based applications, mobile devices, or cloud-based solutions is the biggest obstacle IT leaders need to overcome when delivering on digital initiatives.
A very real challenge to maintaining security in a hybrid cloud situation is a skill shortage of professionals who understand the technology. Consider how long it takes your team to neutralize a new and unknown threat. Responding swiftly and effectively can be undermined by many factors, including:
Mediocre threat intelligence
Multi-step critical firmware updates
Complex network security
What are the top security risks for a hybrid cloud?
Complex networking configurations aren’t the only risks involved in securing hybrid cloud operations. Traffic to the cloud, into the cloud, and across clouds must be secured and encrypted, especially when networking models differ across clouds (for example, using AWS for one and Google for another) it can be difficult to create secure connections among multiple cloud infrastructures.
As the environment becomes more complicated, monitoring and alerting systems must be configured specifically to catch real security breaches. However, when different cloud infrastructures are connected, real-time threat detection systems can sometimes erroneously identify the traffic between clouds as malicious. Such false alarms can be frustrating, and teams risk missing valid alerts in the clutter of erroneous warnings.
In addition to network-related vulnerabilities, SaaS apps can bring security exposure. For instance, users can fall prey to email phishing scams and/or experience frustration with authentication. This hindrance can lead users to employ workarounds that foil your attempt to keep systems safe and secure.
Hybrid cloud security architecture elements
Keep in mind that hybrid or multicloud environments increase operational complexity and can put security resilience at risk. Network complexity is often at odds with business agility and IT teams need dynamic solutions that feature centralized control over policy, access, and identity to deliver trusted, secure experiences at scale.
Many organizations look to evolve to a unified Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution to provide rich visibility, proactive insight, and comprehensive control for seamless IT management. Or they might choose cloud-managed access, like Cisco Meraki offers, with enforcement still happening via a virtual firewall appliance deployed in the cloud.
The essentials of a hybrid cloud security architecture include cloud-based security services such as a secure web gateway, cloud-delivered and virtual firewalls, DNS-layer security, robust traffic visibility and analytics through cloud access security broker (CASB), and data loss prevention. The security solution must also be able to receive real-time proactive threat updates from a credible source, such as Cisco Talos Intelligence. This will help keep your network, data, and users secure while freeing your IT team from tracking issues manually.
Best practices for ensuring hybrid cloud security
Despite the challenges we’ve discussed, organizations can employ certain best-practice tactics in a hybrid cloud architecture to reduce potential exposure. As you work to secure your hybrid cloud, be sure to choose a platform that can easily adapt to market changes, either natively or through trusted third parties. You may also want to consider choosing a platform that allows a choice between on-premises and cloud security functions—whichever is right for your specific use case within your environment.
You’ll also want to streamline your environment to avoid complexity. For instance, look for solutions that allow you to manage everything through one dashboard rather than dealing with multiple interfaces. You’ll want the ability to monitor WAN, access, and IoT technologies in one place with end-to-end visibility. And you want to see the overall health of each network and proactively solve issues before they become critical.
In addition, consider the skill sets necessary to implement, configure, and manage the security solution. You’ll reduce costs and the chance of human error when you choose technology that is easy to use and does not require specialized training.
How Meraki can help secure your hybrid cloud infrastructure
Meraki operates the industry’s largest-scale cloud networking service. Our cloud platform powers millions of networks worldwide and connects hundreds of millions of devices every day. The Meraki platform is robust yet simple to use. It can scale to fit the needs of businesses of every size, supporting networks with hundreds of thousands of devices at the enterprise level, as well as small businesses with only a handful of users.
In cybersecurity, we know that every minute matters. With Meraki, you can move at “the speed of cloud,” automatically responding to new threats in just minutes. In fact, security is a strategic priority for Meraki. We design and build all products with security in mind, and we’ll help you build greater network resiliency and strengthen your security posture while safely connecting users across any point of service for secure access. You’ll be able to deliver exceptional experiences that are seamless and secure yet easy to deploy and manage.
Our security technologies are delivered and updated through the cloud automatically. As new threat signatures or updates become available, we deploy them across all our customers, so they don’t have to think about firmware upgrades or schedule network downtime. In fact, Meraki can respond to new threats in less than ten minutes!
Benefit from hybrid cloud security today
The hybrid cloud reflects the transition between 100% on-premises and 100% cloud systems. While most companies fall somewhere in the middle, no matter where you are in your cloud journey, the Meraki platform can manage and secure your network from campus or branch to data center and multicloud.
Automating manufacturing processes is a crucial goal of many digital transformation projects. The transition to digital initiatives helps manufacturers achieve operational efficiency, resiliency, and sustainability.
For many factories, automation relies on Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology to enable everything from system controls and asset tracking to predictive maintenance and autonomous robots. The foundation supporting IIoT technologies is resilient networks—on-premises or cloud-based—that facilitate robust data collection, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and apply predictive analytics to keep the entire infrastructure adaptable and sustainable.
IT plays a critical role in helping manufacturing organizations scale by using data-driven manufacturing to enhance productivity, thereby accelerating Industry 4.0 projects using automation to enhance the workforce and automating operational technology to increase safety and security.
Data-driven manufacturing increases productivity
To keep up with the rapid pace of change in manufacturing, IT leaders need deeper visibility into the network and thousands of connected endpoints. By continuously collecting data from manufacturing floor sensors and IIoT devices, IT can help track what is happening NOW and provide dashboards for plant managers and engineers so they can identify trends, predict outcomes, and detect potential problems before they affect production.
IT must also address how a manufacturing organization can efficiently scale to encompass new products, services, and customers. Automating network management is essential to enabling IT to rapidly change network configurations, add security policies, and extend connectivity to new locations. For example, when demand for certain goods increases dramatically—as was the case for medical equipment and supplies during the pandemic—the processes already in place must quickly scale to produce new products or modify existing ones. That can mean adding new warehouses, expanding factory floor lines, and reconfiguring supply chains. To support these changes, IT needs the ability to scale by expanding wireless connectivity to new locations, onboarding thousands of different device types, and integrating new partners into the supply chain.
Industry 4.0 poses ongoing challenges for IT
Manufacturing IT teams face ongoing challenges as organizations embark on Industry 4.0 initiatives to digitalize the existing infrastructure to adapt to new products and markets dynamically. To embark on the Industry 4.0 journey, IT needs to connect distributed computing resources at scale so the workforce can access applications from wherever they are to monitor and control operations in real time. In addition, IT needs to support the ability to collect data from sensors added to existing equipment on the plant floor and to remote edge locations.
But managing these distributed computing resources and providing secure connectivity adds a layer of complexity to IT operations. To simplify the complex, IT can apply AI and ML tools to monitor computing resource usage and balance network traffic loads by dynamically choosing the most efficient routes. AI/ML systems can automate troubleshooting with predictive alerts that warn of abnormal behaviors before they can affect production.
Augmenting the workforce for productivity and retention
With all the technology woven throughout manufacturing processes, it’s critical to keep human-centric consideration at the forefront of planning for automation and scale. Recent economic challenges coupled with a steadily retiring workforce have led to staffing shortages and the loss of skill sets. Automating processes to minimize manual repetitive tasks enables people to concentrate on mentoring the incoming workforce and focus on more creative work tasks to keep them engaged and learning.
Another way to combat repetitive labor processes in some manufacturing roles is to employ robotics to perform tasks such as delivering materials from the warehouse, safely manipulating massive loads, and working in hazardous environments. Cobots, or collaborative robots, are increasingly used to supplement human labor, taking on the repetitive strain of assembly processes and freeing human ingenuity on production lines to improve quality outcomes. These semi-autonomous robots require ultra-low latency networks to function safely and adapt to the environment around them. IT must ensure reliable connectivity so robotic systems can perform 24×7 as production schedules require. Robotics in either form elevate efficiency while making the workforce safer and more productive.
Automate operational technology for safety and security
Building on the safety that automated robotics can bring into the factory, networked smart cameras and motion sensors enable operational technology (OT) managers to monitor security, environmental changes, and personnel safety throughout warehouses, plant floors, and data centers from a central location. By adding a layer of ML to analyze the data streaming from these devices, humans don’t need to continuously monitor every location because they are alerted only when predefined anomalies occur. Combined with sensors for temperature, water leaks, and humidity levels, vast areas of a manufacturing facility can be monitored 24×7 to minimize interruptions to operations by accidents, security breaches, or environmental impacts.
Network automation: a recipe for success
As manufacturing organizations scale processes to adapt to market changes, new products, and customer requirements, so must the networks that tie every device, application, and person together over distributed organizations and hybrid workforces to match the needs of the enterprise. Automating technology and processes enables IT to adapt to and manage complex industrial networks. Working toward automating everything prepares the manufacturing enterprise for growth and success. Learn how a cloud-managed platform that converges IT, IoT, and physical manufacturing environments can unlock countless possibilities.
Allbirds shoes are renowned for their ultra-lightweight comfort and sustainable materials. Designed with natural materials like Merino wool and proprietary low-density sugarcane-derived midsole foams, the New Zealand-American footwear feels like walking on a cloud, according to fans, and the company strives to leave a similarly light footprint on the environment.
Allbirds’ approach to IT is no different—ultra-lightweight and low impact. “We are cloud-first,” says Joshua Quick, IT Director. “I don’t have a physical server anywhere.”
In fact, for this entire San Francisco-based company with around 1,000 employees, Quick’s IT team consists of just two other people: a manager of IT infrastructure and a help desk associate.
But Allbirds’ light-touch IT has certainly not held it back. The company has rapidly expanded since 2018 to now span 59 retail locations across the U.S., UK, Europe, New Zealand, China, Japan, and South Korea. One key to handling this growth: the Cisco Meraki cloud-based platform.
“We’ve never not been Meraki,” says Quick, who joined in 2018. “Our CTO was smart enough to think forward and figure out how we were going to scale this business in a fast way.”
Founded by former Kiwi footballer Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger, an American biochemical engineer, Allbirds began with a NZ$700 Kickstarter video. Combining their Kickstarter campaign funds with a grant from the New Zealand government, the company released its first shoe as a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business in 2015. Allbirds quickly became a trendy and eco-friendly active footwear brand among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and celebrities. As word spread, sales boomed.
But many consumers still like to try on new shoes, so to power its growth, Allbirds began launching retail locations. Its first store opened in 2017 near its San Francisco headquarters, but stores soon popped up across the U.S., London, Europe, China, and more. After its successful initial public offering in November 2021, the expansion accelerated: 22 stores opened in 2022.
All the networking for this burgeoning retail empire is run remotely by Eric Storm, Allbirds’ manager of IT infrastructure. “We don’t really need to ever go on-site to launch these stores,” says Storm, who created a step-by-step guide for contracted local installers. “Meraki makes it really easy. I can get a new store configured in probably under five minutes just by cloning the last store and replicating its settings.”
Storm oversees day-to-day network, endpoint, and app security within Meraki Systems Manager for Allbirds’ corporate offices and retail locations—right down to point-of-sale tablets that customers use to order. By separating the retail devices from other store networks, all settings and only specific apps are pushed to the tablets and controlled to prevent misuse. “Nobody at the store even has the password, which is great for security and PII [personal identifiable information] compliance,” says Storm. “We’ve got full control of them no matter where they are in the world.”
Mobile device management (MDM) also plays a key role in the customer experience. “The marketing team loves it. For customer-facing devices, we can push down information about new products or a wallpaper to both the lock screen and home screen,” says Storm. “It seems like a small thing, but we weren’t able to find that capability in any other MDM solution.”
Small team, big savings
It’s no small thing for an IT team to manage everything remotely at a company devoted to minimizing its environmental impact. “We can’t be flying in and out of different states and countries; that’s a big time-suck,” says Storm. “And, as a sustainable company, being able to open almost all of our stores without any travel reduces our carbon footprint.”
As a footwear and fashion brand, Allbirds has set its sights high, and Meraki cloud-managed IT will continue to help it soar.