Physical security is no longer analog in a modern security infrastructure. Companies are working to merge the network and digital with the physical to improve the safety of people, places, and things in a cohesive, harmonious way.
A recent survey outlines the current state of this security convergence in the U.S. and how the cloud can bring a variety of benefits to both network and physical security teams. Not surprisingly, nearly everyone surveyed (81%) wants a more unified security environment, and they have a clear idea of what they are looking for: greater control of physical security technology (60%), an improved ability to perform security analytics (47%), and better visibility into security threats (47%).
But just how effectively teams are converging is up for debate. Leaders in the C-suite are optimistic about progress while IT security and physical security personnel are facing challenges.
In the survey, we found that more than half of respondents noted that it’s challenging for physical and network security teams to collaborate effectively. Organizations that continue to maintain these functions as separate teams are more likely to report communication challenges.
One way to approach unifying physical and network security operations is to bring teams together. More than half (51%) of the organizations surveyed maintain separate departments. Combining these teams under one management structure can help improve communication and ensure efficiency.
Professionals tasked with completing this type of transformation are often worried about the challenges. In fact, 42% of surveyed respondents wondered if they or their team will need more training or specialized skills. Will it require even more complex technology to implement this convergence, and will there be unexpected issues because of it?
For their part, Niebo’s colleagues at the College of New Jersey embraced the new capabilities and reliability provided by a cloud-based platform. They were delighted by how it simplifies the convergence of physical and network security systems.
“During the process, we saw how easy and intuitive Meraki was for people without a technical background,” Niebo notes. “We also improved our collaboration between campus departments, especially IT, Residence Life, and our campus police.”
Experiencing the benefits of unified security
Ninety-six percent of those surveyed report one or more benefits from greater unification of security functions: better visibility into security threats, better control of physical security technology, improved cost control, and an improved user experience. All of which translates into a more efficient, secure organization thanks to a tightly knit network and physical security team.
Meraki brings physical and advanced network security together on a single platform to secure IoT, physical security, and user devices. This gives customers the ability to easily deploy and provision physical security and IoT devices from a single dashboard.
Spanish company ESBO Logistics experienced this firsthand. The company deployed a Meraki SD-WAN and Wi-Fi 6 solution to support various network use cases and integrated Meraki MV smart cameras for physical security. Both physical and network security are managed through the Meraki dashboard, providing a unified view across devices and simplifying technology management.
All together now
Cisco Meraki brings physical and network security together on an easy-to-use cloud platform to secure IoT, physical security, and user devices. Our comprehensive cloud-based platform natively consolidates physical and network security to ease management, enhance security, and facilitate information sharing. Read our study with CIO to learn more about unifying physical and network security.
This article was originally published on CIO Dive.
What keeps IT leaders awake at night? Security—and resilience.
Security is hands-down one of the biggest challenges and necessities organizations face today. But business resilience follows closely behind.
The good news: by investing in the critical components of their network, organizations can dramatically increase security resilience.
Building more security resilience into an organization—making it easier to identify, mitigate and adapt to ever-changing risks—ultimately creates better business resilience, but they have to be done together, not separately.
“Resilience is a business differentiator,” wrote Gartner. “If your competitors suffer through delays and downtimes while your business carries on, then your IT services have created an opportunity to showcase the superiority of your product.”
This is becoming so critical, in fact, that by the end of 2025, almost one-third of enterprises will have new roles that focus on IT resilience—and they will improve end-to-end reliability and recoverability by at least 45%, the research firm added.
To achieve these goals, leaders must address a comprehensive approach to security across the business.
Fortunately, whether they have dedicated resources or not, there are a number of opportunities to accelerate security resilience today. By focusing investments on these four aspects of infrastructure, organizations can enhance their security resilience:
Resilience through visibility. In the hybrid workplace, there’s no better spot to control security and build resilience than the network. Acting as the natural connector between people, devices, data, locations and platforms, the network is the logical place to identify and inspect traffic and behavior. And when IT and security teams can collaborate in a single, cloud-based dashboard, they gain a common view of the company’s overall infrastructure and policies. This visibility—managed in a simple, cohesive experience independent of user devices—empowers teams to rapidly find anomalies, rate risk and mitigate threats. It also improves the team’s productivity by slashing error-prone manual processes.
Resilience through scale. As security threats escalate and the source of attacks rapidly shifts due to economic and geopolitical changes, threat intelligence and response becomes a critical component of security resilience. True resilience means the ability to adapt to these new threat vectors quickly, even if they don’t occur immediately on your network. Cloud-based network management and global threat intelligence platforms can observe more security activity than any individual network monitor—across more locations—and rapidly roll out responses. Scale equals speed when it comes to mitigation.
Resilience through intelligence. By choosing appliances that are part of a platform that natively integrates commercial threat intelligence, organizations are assured they have access to world-class researchers, analysts and engineers, as well as telemetry and systems. This equips them with rapid, accurate and actionable threat intelligence that automatically updates their technologies whenever information becomes available from data around the globe. Additionally, computer vision observes and learns, while automation keeps networks and applications current—all without human intervention.
Resilience through simplicity. Security has become a Gordian knot—complex and rife with multiple systems that can (and often do) compete with each other for attention or and priority and frequently cause update and maintenance conundrums and can generate poor user experiences and seemingly endless help desk calls. These may be due to user “workarounds,” an inability to use the security tools or breaches. The elegance of simplicity is a powerful asset.
Organizations that invest in these four key elements of their network will increase their security resilience and technology leaders will (hopefully) get a good night’s sleep. Sweet dreams.
Local governments across the country are facing challenges in hiring and maintaining their IT workforces. A recent NASCIO survey shows that workforce is the number three issue on this year’s top ten priorities for state CIOs. Competition from the private sector, aging workers, and new technologies all create difficulties for government IT departments. Leaders are challenged to not only deliver increasing digital services to their constituents, but are forced to do so with less talent.
Fortunately, cloud-based solutions can help mitigate these challenges by combining innovations such as hybrid work and simplified network management with on-the-job training.
By applying cloud-first strategies to workforce challenges, technology and agency tech partners can be at the forefront of helping IT leaders achieve a modern and efficient workforce.
Meeting workers where they are
The pandemic may have eased, but its lasting impact means agencies must ensure that workers can provide services wherever they are located. The relationship between government agencies and tech professionals has permanently changed, and the ability for technology to provide a hybrid working experience is shifting government approaches to hiring and maintaining talent.
Governments were forced to adopt new technology quickly during the pandemic to support their constituents’ needs, and while there were challenges, this modernization proved to be effective, if not overdue. This same technology is now changing the needs of agency workforces, but can also prove invaluable for assisting in hiring, employee retention, and career advancement.
By providing a flexible working environment, agencies can expand their hiring outside of central locations while allowing employees to choose where they work—and still ensure they have the tools and technology to provide services securely.
Simplifying IT management
As with hiring, the incorporation of new technology can also help simplify and automate tasks that remove the burden on the workforce. Hiring new talent isn’t always going to be possible, but in certain cases, leveraging technology can supplement the current employee output. By utilizing AI/ML to centralize network management, IT teams can ensure security, simplify IT operations, maximize efficiency, and troubleshoot issues remotely. This can free current employees to focus on other important responsibilities and drive agency IT innovation in service of constituents.
Empower and upskill IT teams
Giving employees flexibility in how they work and utilizing technology to help automate and simplify tasks can help reduce the workforce burden for governments. Empowering these same employees to learn new skills and roll out new technologies is the flip side of the coin in helping to ensure agencies are ready for the future. By working with tech partners to provide on-the-job-training, governments can maximize the talent of the current workforce without the need to create and hire for new roles.
Today’s technology is ever changing and keeping up with constant innovation can feel challenging. To remain agile, resilient, and innovative, state and local governments can benefit from a network-backed, cloud-first workforce strategy. Since each organization has unique needs, it’s important to identify your most urgent workforce challenges and opportunities first, then work backwards to choose the appropriate solution and vendor partner that best fits your organization’s needs. With the Cisco Meraki platform, you can grow and empower your IT teams to deliver positive constituent experiences with ease. Read this whitepaper to learn how a cloud platform enables IT and business teams to work from anywhere, simplifies work for IT staff, and provides a path for IT skill development.
Jonathan Davidson is Executive Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Networking This article was originally published on.
It’s a warm summer night. The stadium glows from the phones poised to capture the coin toss. The fans are ready. The players are in position. Game time!
It’s a picture-perfect image of convenience, safety, and punctuality, all working together as one. But peek behind the picture, and it’s a chaotic orchestration of not just players but a dizzying array of IT platforms, networks, and technologies conducted by dispersed people, teams, and organizations. The fans in the bleachers might not be worried about weather conditions affecting the field or game-time communications, but IT staff and operators are tackling a lot.
The IT Reality Today
Complexity constricts IT across so many industries, like sports. Silos and inefficiencies separate dashboards, teams, and technologies, leaving them vulnerable. Progress in one area, like connectivity, increases the threat surface in another. While IT teams are enabling the audacious—hybrid work, modernizing industries, and building greener economies—they often do it blindfolded and handcuffed.
Is it working? Not very well. It’s been costly and risky. Is it scalable? Not very … it’s been frustrating and time-consuming. For those who have succeeded, it’s like winning a championship game—heroic, but lots of sweat, stamina, and swearing.
What if we could collapse everything into a simple press of a button? No more navigating dozens of systems and platforms to enable one outcome. No need to switch from one tool to provision, another to manage policy, and yet another to monitor alerts. If technologies, apps, and networks acted as one, it would simplify IT and help you create more unified customer experiences.
The Power of Unified Experiences
Today, we’re making the easy button better with Cisco Networking Cloud. It was born from the feedback we heard from you alongside countless other customers. You shared about your unique journeys. Some of you manage networks from the cloud, while others stay on premises. Some of you are first movers and fully digitalized, and others are catching up quickly. You all expressed a need for simple-to-use and predictable platforms with fewer interfaces and simplified licensing. You also echoed each other with the need to prioritize solutions, not products.
We are grateful for your openness and partnership. And we are delivering.
Cisco Networking Cloud is our vision—commitment—to simplify IT, everywhere, at every scale. Until now, there has never been a consistent way to automate operations, analyze and diagnose issues, or assure the user experience across networking domains. Cisco Networking Cloud will change that.
With Cisco Networking Cloud, you will have a unified management experience platform for on-premises and cloud operating models. We are still dedicated to building the best on-premises solutions. However, we believe most of you could benefit from a cloud-first automation strategy in at least some parts of your business. The Cisco Networking Cloud allows you to explore management with both models.
We are bringing together campus and branch, data center, compute, IoT, SD-WAN, and more. Cisco Networking Cloud binds the applications under Cisco Networking, including Meraki, ThousandEyes, and Cisco Catalyst to act as one. We are fighting rising complexity with radical simplification.
The Cisco Networking Cloud converges and connects fragmented platforms that exchange data through automation. It replaces isolated pockets of data with telemetry, assurance, and proactive analytics across the network. Together, we will make everyday life more connected, protected, and convenient.
From Vision to Value
Let’s go back to our game. Imagine cameras and sensors speaking across the network, guided by AI analytics. Instead of scouring dashboards, you’re alerted to the wayward fan inside the game field, the temperature fluctuations inside the locker room, and the Wi-Fi strength in the stadium. You’ll even receive notifications if the soda machines overheat. Cisco Networking Cloud just took you from troubleshooting in hours—to seconds. It gives you time to easily avoid potential hazards and the space to ensure the game is on time with fans enjoying their favorite drink. Unified experiences delight customers and fuel business.
Every facet of our world today is being reimagined, whether it is winning championships, transforming transportation, eradicating disease, or fighting climate change. IT will be at the heart of this reinvention for years to come—so will unified experiences.
Matt Landry is Vice President of Product Management, Meraki Networking and Cisco Wireless This article was originally published on Cisco.com.
From campus headquarters to remote offices, the enterprise network is an essential technology nearly invisible to the hybrid workforce. When people need access to an application or service, they expect the network to provide an excellent experience. The best networks just work, delivering applications with assurance. IT managers and network operations staff know that managing a tiered network with multiple outbound connection paths while optimizing application performance across the data center and public internet can be an incredibly complex challenge.
To ensure optimal application experience, IT teams need network visibility and insights into massive amounts of telemetry from Wi-Fi onboarding times to multicloud connectivity statistics to global WAN/internet performance. Data across multiple internal and external domains need to be continuously monitored and analyzed to understand normal and abnormal behaviors. This analysis forms the foundation of predictive assurance; reassuring IT that the network is operating according to plan or alerting that corrective actions must be taken before the application experience degrades.
Predictability and Insights Simplify Network Management
Predictive assurance is just one of the innovations for IT on the journey to the Cisco Networking Cloud, our vision for a cloud-driven networking platform to securely connect the world. Cisco Networking Cloud will empower IT to deliver simple, secure, and predictable experiences that build bridges between technologies, workforces, and devices to drive business outcomes. At Cisco Live 2023, we are advancing our vision with new capabilities in predictive automations and cloud network management to simplify IT operations.
The Power of Predictive Automations
The power of the network is about to take a significant leap forward with predictive automations like Predictive Path Recommendations (PPR). Predictive automations are key to making the network more intelligent and IT more proactive by constantly analyzing telemetry data lakes for trends and outliers and automatically adapting the network to avoid disruptions. By integrating PPR, powered by Cisco ThousandEyes WAN Insights, with new closed-loop automations in Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN, Cisco helps IT proactively resolve network issues before they impact the application experience.
Incorporating advanced algorithms and predictive models into the SD-WAN fabric, Predictive Path Recommendations provide optimization suggestions—if performance falls below historical benchmarks or service-level agreements, corrective action is automatically taken. This minimizes potential network degradation before impacting workers and optimizes overall network operations. PPR replaces the traditional labor-intensive “hunt and seek” fire drills with predictive feedback and automation, freeing up valuable time for IT teams to focus on strategic projects for the business.
This helps organizations achieve a perpetual optimization cycle of desired CapEx and OpEx outcomes. Predictive analytics enhance resource planning and network engineering, enabling organizations to maintain optimal capacity and thus driving CapEx efficiency. Proactive identification and resolution of issues maintain the workforce application experience with minimal IT intervention, delivering improved OpEx efficiency.
Increasing Visibility Beyond the Enterprise Network
Given the growing importance of direct internet access and public cloud networks as the middle mile for distributed organizations, IT needs deeper insights into those connections to proactively make disruption-avoiding changes.
Cisco ThousandEyes delivers internet and cloud intelligence, empowering IT teams with collective visibility into every segment of the enterprise network, including the internet. This enables enterprises to see, understand, and improve digital experiences from every cloud to every employee and customer.
The deep integration of Cisco ThousandEyes and Cisco’s SD-WAN portfolio empowers IT to preemptively identify network issues outside of the enterprise before application performance degrades and the workforce notices connectivity disruptions.
Continuing to Simplify Access Visibility with Cloud Management
Last year, we announced the first phase of cloud management for Cisco Catalyst access devices. Almost 1,500 organizations have already turned to the Meraki cloud management platform to view, troubleshoot, and monitor their Cisco Catalyst networks.
This year, we’re expanding the control of cloud-connected Cisco Catalyst switches with visibility into command-line interfaces and device configurations through the Cisco Meraki dashboard. New capabilities include agile software image management and, coming soon, visibility into Catalyst access points managed by Catalyst wireless LAN controllers. These innovations ultimately give IT a more complete view across their access networks from anywhere via the Meraki dashboard.
Proactive Enterprises Run on Predictive Networks
The network has never been more essential to enterprise operations at scale, connecting the hybrid workforce and helping digitization projects to deliver the desired innovations. Our vision for the Cisco Networking Cloud will improve the application experience and redefine end-to-end assurance through advanced algorithms and predictive models with deep network visibility and proactive insights.
Mary Piontkowski is Head of Product Design at Cisco Meraki Srinivas Kotamraju is Vice President of Product Management, Data Center Networking, at Cisco This article was originally published on Cisco.com.
Simplifying How Customers Unleash the Power of Our Platforms
Organizations seeking to transform their IT operations are looking to new technological advancements to help improve connectivity, efficiency, and speed. While new technologies may solve existing challenges or provide a foundation for meeting growth goals, they often also introduce new levels of complexity to what is already a complex IT infrastructure.
To overcome complexity, and for transformation to have the greatest chance for success, an environment of simplicity is needed. And simplicity is what IT stakeholders want: 85% of 18,400 CIOs, IT decision makers, and developers surveyed in a new global study commissioned by Cisco, state that simplicity is one of the most important values of technology management.1
Simplify the Platform Experience
Simplifying the platform experience is a core tenet of our Cisco Networking Cloud vision. One of the ways it seeks to reduce technology and network complexity is by creating a simple-to-use, unified platform experience. The result is a cohesive, consistent, and secure way to log in to all Cisco products via single sign-on (SSO) and quickly navigate between different Cisco cloud networking platforms through shared menus and more seamless integrations.
For example, linking an API key exchange/repository with SSO, on top of this cross-platform connectivity, makes it easier to monitor across Cisco networking platforms at scale and exchange data through automation—which can help reduce friction and errors. Silos are eliminated and everyone can access the resources they need, wherever and whenever they need them.
A unified platform experience gives everything the same familiar look and feel, terminologies, APIs, and workflows. This brings greater consistency and ease of use for IT staff to learn, operate, and leverage multiple networking platforms. A unified platform experience can also help streamline and scale complex processes, while increasing operational simplicity, efficiency, and reliability. This gives organizations even greater power and flexibility to transform the business.
Simplify Visibility into Sustainability
Another key aspect of the Cisco Networking Cloud vision is that it aims to simplify visibility into data center power consumption and energy distribution. With data centers consuming an estimated 1% of electricity worldwide, gaining visibility into energy consumption and being able to act on this information is a critical need.2
Visibility into real-time energy usage—all the way down to individual power distribution units, circuits, and switches—can be used to gain insight into real-time and historical power consumption of single- or multi-site data center implementations.
Imagine easily accessing statistics and trends to estimate the full energy footprint of data center operations, while being able to turn off infrastructure components, reconfigure switches, and move or visualize workloads depending on power usage patterns across racks, switches, and ports. You could even align peak workloads with the times of the day when managed rates for power consumption are at the lowest. Such insights can help inform the designs of more sustainable data centers.
This isn’t just wishful thinking. Integrations with leading power management vendors and environmental APIs enable Cisco Nexus Dashboard to provide sustainability insights into the energy usage of a data center’s IT infrastructure, helping organizations optimize power consumption. In fact, 87% of respondents of our State of Global Innovation survey state that their organizations are already benefitting from innovative ways to make business operations more sustainable and energy efficient.3
Having access to actionable, real-time, and historical energy usage on data centers can help organizations transform enterprise-wide business processes, allowing them to refocus budgets and resources on strategic innovation. It can even help organizations shift their sustainability focus from risk and compliance to delivering new business outcomes—leveraging sustainability as a driver for differentiated, long-term value creation.
Simplify AI/ML Networking
Some of the most complex technologies that are in active development today center on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Most recently, some organizations have been looking to leverage generative-AI capabilities to help accelerate their digital transformations. This has put tremendous pressure on data centers to meet the high-bandwidth and complex, petascale-level computational requirements of AI/ML.
This need to simplify the transport of AI/ML network data is what prompted us to create a new AI data center blueprint for networking.
This blueprint enables automated, scalable, low latency networks with support for lossless transport, intelligent buffering, data/pipeline parallelism, and highly efficient network protocols. It provides a validated design that meets the requirements and traffic patterns of AI/ML workloads, with capabilities such as deterministic load-balancing, line-rate transmission, and congestion management. Our expertise with high-performance computing deployments and InfiniBand-to-Ethernet network migrations significantly influenced the blueprint.
The blueprint also seeks to simplify visibility and telemetry into network behavior to help drive troubleshooting and improve transport performance. For example, Cisco Nexus Dashboard automation templates give organizations added visibility to more easily build and manage their data centers for AI/ML applications.
In addition, Cisco Nexus 9000 Series switches have intelligent buffer management built in, making it easier to build lossless fabrics and craft new automated AI/ML network configurations with Ansible modules. The Cisco Nexus 9000 platform also includes telemetry capabilities, such as flow table events and streaming statistics to help analyze network traffic and provide insight into problematic infrastructure with predictive analytics.
Achieve Measurable Business Value
With Cisco Networking solutions delivering a simplified platform experience, data-driven sustainability insights, and improved AI/ML network performance, organizations have an opportunity to drive IT transformation and achieve measurable business value. A network as an innovation platform facilitates the next generation of work, business models, and transformation.
This can empower organizations to move beyond technology silos and time-consuming integrations, with solutions that are simpler, converged, and outcome driven. This is why we believe our Cisco Networking Cloud vision enables our customers to connect everything, everywhere, without compromising on simplicity, even as new technologies continue to converge into the network space.
If you’re anything like me, you love Cisco Live. My first was Cisco Live Barcelona in 2020 for Cisco DevNet—and alongside an excellent meal at a cab stand and a literal pilgrimage to the incomparable La Sagrada Familia, it was a life-changer!
This year’s Cisco Live 2023 in Las Vegas promises to be the biggest and best yet for our Cisco ecosystem tech partners and Cisco Meraki developer APIs, and I couldn’t be more proud to share with you a quick snapshot of all our activity at the show coming up starting Monday, June 5, and going through Thursday, June 8!
The ecosystem partners
This year, we have more than 20 partners attending, sponsoring, hosting, and participating at the Cisco Live global event. I know you only have four days at the show, so be sure to prioritize meeting with as many as you can!
Here are different ways you can find them:
Visit the Cisco networking booth (#3303) and find our tech partners in the Power New Experiences kiosk. There, we will be hosting demo areas that illustrate the power of Cisco Networking Cloud when integrated with our comprehensive partner ecosystem. Find a full list in the PDF below.
Visit the individual World of Solutions booths that are spread across the space and throughout the Cisco showcase areas. Find a PDF of all the partners with booths, locations, and a brief description of each solution below.
Hear all about our partners during our theater session in the DevNet Zone on Wednesday, June 7, @ 11:00 am. Sign up for the Innovate with Meraki APIs and its Partner Marketplace (DEVNET-1338) session, which will feature Alicia Lorenzetti, Global Ecosystem and Marketplace Leader, and Jacky Lo, Ecosystem Business Development Manager.
If you’re not able to join us in Las Vegas, we have you covered. Starting June 4, you can access Jacky’s on-demand session Future Proof Your Solutions with the Meraki Ecosystem, which will be available through the Cisco Live on-demand catalog.
The DevNet Zone takeover!
Speaking of the DevNet Zone: Cisco Meraki Wednesday is upon us! For the fourth straight Cisco Live, we are taking over the Developer Zone with content, sessions, workshops, lightning talks, and more on Wednesday, June 7. Be sure to stop by, catch sessions, and take part in our #MerakiMagicHours with our tech partners demoing their solutions for one hour sessions all day! Learn more in our Community post here.
You’ll find the Cisco ecosystem + APIs all around the Cisco universe, so be sure to check out these areas:
Cisco Security Village (Booth #423) – Featuring AlgoSec, Firemon, and Ordr
Cisco Collaboration Village (Booth #4019) – Featuring Singlewire
Cisco Investments Village (Booth #7722) – Featuring Cogniac
As if your dance card wasn’t full enough, you can also check out these great activations:
Cisco Live Store (Mandalay Bay: Level 1, Bayside B) – Watch meldCX, SES-imagotag, and EVERYANGLE solutions come to life in our store.
Meraki Ecosystem 101 at Tufin (Booth #827) – Catch Jacky Lo as she gives a quick primer on Monday, June 5, @ 3:30 pm.
Meraki APIs at RedHat Theatre (Booth #5319) – Take Meraki APIs for a spin with Oren Brigg on Tuesday, June 6, @ 2:30 pm.
Extending Experiences with APIs at DevNet (Booth #214) – Sign up for Austin Lin’s session with Ray Stephenson and Saransh Lamba of Starbucks on Thursday, June 8, @ 11:00 am.
Take it from this Cisco Live veteran, all of these interactions with our ecosystem partners and APIs are sure to be game-changers—and life-changers for your business—so don’t miss out, and be sure to share your experiences here in the comments below via LinkedIn, on your social channels, and more!
The future of retail is here, and no, that doesn’t mean holographic sales associates or virtual garments. The modern retail space is one that leverages smart data and technology to create the most efficient, enjoyable customer experiences.
The Cisco Store has become a how-to example for modernizing retail and creating smarter shopping experiences. The store has gone through a true evolution—going from a space for employees to purchase Cisco merchandise to a true hub for innovation thanks to its Tech Lab that brings together technologies from Cisco, Meraki, and our ecosystem partners.
We sat down with Brian and Kaleigh from the Cisco Store to learn more about how they have leveraged the Tech Lab to transform the store into customer zero for Meraki products and a real-world example of future-ready retail.
We’d love to hear more about the two of you. Could you speak to your roles at the Cisco Store?
Brian: I’m Brian Domine—I run all of the technology deployments in the Cisco Store with the Cisco Store Tech Lab, both at the physical locations and at our travel stores.
Kaleigh: I’m Kaleigh Bisconti—I’m the program strategist for the store, so I oversee the strategy for all of our channels including travel stores, our physical stores, and our online stores.
What is the purpose of the Cisco Store Tech Lab? How has it grown over the past few years?
Kaleigh: It’s really a retail ecosystem where we incorporate Cisco technology and ecosystem partners. We’re deploying the tech in a real environment—in this case the Cisco Store—so we can show customers how we power a retail space and partner with our product teams to beta test new innovations in a real-world setting.
Brian: The store has grown so much since the remodel opened in May of 2018. Meraki was definitely a part of that from the beginning. The Tech Lab started with just Meraki cameras and some routing and switching, but as the Meraki products have evolved, so has the lab. Recently, we’ve incorporated Meraki sensors throughout the space and access points to enable reliable, secure wireless connections.
What are some innovations that the Tech Lab has deployed at the Cisco Store that other retailers could deploy at their own locations?
Kaleigh: We often get the question “can I buy this out of the box?” because there’s just so much cool stuff in the space that speaks to retail customers.
We have electronic shelf labels (ESLs), or digital signage, we have footfall analytics using EVERYANGLE in partnership with Meraki, and we like to show customers how they can access virtual styling through My Stylist that we leverage through Webex boards.
Pretty much everything that we have in the store is possible for retailers to roll out, and we’re trying to show that this kind of technology doesn’t need to be intimidating. The Cisco Store team takes the store on the road for shows and only needs about five days to set it up.
How are you using Meraki IoT in the store space?
Brian: We currently use Meraki sensors and smart cameras in the store to leverage IoT for analytics.
For example, we have door sensors on the fitting room so we know exactly how many times throughout the day it’s being used. That helps us at the travel stores because we set up one room as a smart fitting room and another as a traditional fitting room to see the difference between the two—live! We can actually look at the analytics around both of those and see if having a smart fitting room is getting more people to engage.
Kaleigh: Another great use of the analytics from the Meraki IoT is for merchandising. By collecting customer behavioral data via smart cameras, we can see what the “hot spots” are in the space versus areas that get less traffic—this allows us to improve how we merchandise the store and what kind of product assortment we’re providing.
What about ecosystem partners? You’ve mentioned a few already.
Brian: There are so many that we leverage. Specifically speaking to Meraki ecosystem partners, we love partnering with SES-imagotag for our electronic shelf labels.
With most other shelf labels, you’re required to put a dongle into the access points to be able to pick up the communication between the devices. But with SES-imagotag being so tightly embedded with Meraki, you can configure it directly within the Meraki dashboard, making everything so much more simple.
We also use meldCX for our journey mapping using Meraki cameras to analyze how customers are interacting with the store and inventory. This helps predict behaviors and build a better in-store customer experience.
Kaleigh: EVERYANGLE is another important partner for us like we mentioned earlier. We’ve been using them for about a year and a half now to help us get more demographic and customer sentiment data.
Wow, I’m sure the tagging specifically can help with the pains of manual price changes and paper waste. Can you speak more to that?
Brian: Yes, I have a great example of that in the real world actually! We were setting up the store for Cisco Live EMEA, and as I was putting out the inventory, I realized the currency was wrong—it was still in U.S. dollars. I made a quick change to the template, hit one button, and the tags started flashing and updated to Euros in a matter of minutes.
Kaleigh: Our team had merchandised the store, and if they were not electronic labels, making physical changes would have been a big error on our end, so it’s nice to have reassurance that we can make those changes through our dashboard.
Speaking of Cisco Live, it’s coming up here in Vegas this June. Anything you can share with us about the Cisco Store and the Tech Lab’s presence there?
Kaleigh: Well for starters, we’ll have our biggest store yet at Cisco Live this year—it’s about 8,000 square feet.
We’ve dedicated about a quarter of that space to the Tech Lab. Visitors will be able to touch, see, and engage with the technology close-up while also being able to see it deployed in the store. They’ll see both sides, which is really great.
We’ll also have live sessions where we showcase the technology—it’s going to be really fun and interactive.
Very cool. Can’t wait to check it out in person! Before I let you two go, we need to hear about Robin, the Cisco Store’s very own robot.
Brian: Can’t forget about Robin! “Robin” stands for robot inventory—she helps with tracking our inventory in real time. She’s essentially a sensor developed by our partner Keonn RFID.
Kaleigh: Robin is just another example of how we’re innovating in the store space and how there are so many levels of modernization that stores can emulate and curate to their own needs.
Curious to learn more?
Check out this virtual tour from the Cisco Store Tech Lab, and if you’re attending Cisco Live in Vegas, be sure to stop by the store to see the retail innovations in action. Want to sign up for a tour? Join the waitlist. We also encourage you to explore the Cisco Meraki Marketplace to learn more about our amazing partners.
Juan Vela is Global Head of Market Strategy at Cisco Meraki.
Every modern business has become digital-first, prioritizing technologies and channels as the primary ways of engaging with customers, conducting operations, and delivering products and services. By 2025, 85% of businesses globally will also become cloud-first, according to Gartner. That means a majority of their network resources will be based in the cloud.
But there’s more to being a cloud-first business than simply migrating workloads to cloud environments. Doing cloud-first right requires a unified approach among an IT organization’s networking, security, and cloud teams. It requires removing the complexity of connecting and securing people, devices, and things wherever they are.
With a holistic, cloud-managed platform, cloud-first businesses can scale easily, automate operations, connect multiple domains securely, and tap into an open ecosystem of beneficial technology partners.
According to Gartner, resilience is now a business differentiator. Resilience in a cloud-first business means being able to quickly respond to natural or man-made disruptions by making apps and data accessible from anywhere to maintain business continuity. End-to-end visibility, with shared telemetry and coordinated alerts across security and networking components, empowers predictive analytics solutions to identify potential bottlenecks and disruptions that can be remediated before they occur.
Supply chains built on cloud-managed platforms are a good example of cloud-first resilience. Suppliers, manufacturers, logistics companies, retailers, and end customers can access cloud-based systems from anywhere (Figure 1). Increased visibility and control of supply chain operations allow for fast and efficient changes to production schedules, alternative sourcing, and different shipping routes.
A resilient cloud-first supply chain ensures that all of the links in the supply chain are on the same page, working toward the same goals, and are able to maintain continuity of operations.
Along with network resilience, security is also simpler and more comprehensive in a cloud-first business with a cloud-managed platform compared to traditional security models. Siloed networking and security teams with separate, complex tools, techniques, and products can no longer meet the dynamic security needs of distributed applications, people, places, and things.
Standardized policies, shared telemetry, and streamlined workflows across security, networking, and cloud operations deliver better and faster IT and business outcomes than environments that operate in technology silos. This allows everyone to work from a common set of tools, fostering consistently secure connectivity end-to-end while increasing efficiencies and reducing risk.
In contrast to traditional security solutions, a unified, cloud-first architecture managed on a cloud platform pushes centrally managed security policies and enforcement closer to end users and applications, providing connectivity that is flexible, seamless, automated, and zero trust (Figure 2). Known as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), this model provides the operational simplification and consistent security and performance that cloud-first businesses require.
An effective, unified foundation
The cloud-first business with a cloud-managed platform operates from a highly efficient, effective, and unified foundation that provides resilience, security, and a quality end-to-end experience. Applying cloud-first principles also contributes to streamlining IT operations with automation, artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps), and predictive analytics.
More and more organizations recognize that in today’s environment, siloed technology and operations models are too limiting. The challenges of network resilience and end-to-end security with hybrid workforces require a more holistic approach that can deliver a simpler, more secure, more flexible cloud-first network infrastructure and operations model.
Business works when the network works, and the importance of having a reliable and efficient network is critical.
For example, imagine a smart office where digital signage shows available conference rooms, smart whiteboards power collaboration, and smart cameras ensure security—all connected to a network switch that is the backbone of everything.
If a port is configured incorrectly, these services could be interrupted, causing disruptions in productivity and potentially compromising the safety and security of the office. IT teams would then spend hours troubleshooting, delaying resolution and causing frustration for everyone.
Modern networks are increasingly complex. The Meraki cloud-managed switching platform provides an efficient way to manage networks across locations remotely, empowering IT teams to achieve scale effectively and intuitively.
From (day) zero to hero with zero-touch provisioning
A proactive approach to port management involves identifying and labeling all ports when deploying new switches. This prevents unauthorized access or accidental connection. Meraki zero-touch provisioning eliminates the need for dedicated on-site network staff and potential errors from manual configurations, optimizing both network management and security.
Get the best of both worlds of security and sustainability
Being able to safely monitor usage and quickly detect anomalies requires keeping ports and devices on 24/7. But network switches can consume a significant amount of energy, even when not all ports are in use.
With the Meraki switching port schedule feature, network teams can remotely and safely disable ports (on a set schedule, like after business hours). This limits access to authorized devices for enhanced security posture and also helps reduce energy consumption.
Be adaptive to changing needs
As an organization continues to connect more devices to its network, managing port settings and configurations becomes increasingly complex.
Port Profiles aims to solve the problem of highly repetitive and error-prone port configurations by allowing network teams to create a set of standardized attributes. These can then be applied to one or thousands of ports across the network, making initial and ongoing configuration a breeze.
Let’s consider a hypothetical fast-food franchise that wants to add additional drive-through order monitors to multiple locations to improve the customer experience. Network teams can create a static profile that includes all the required settings and configurations for the monitors. They can then assign the profile to all targeted ports from the Meraki dashboard or API.
With the upcoming release of dynamic port profiles automation, if the monitors need to be moved to another port in the future, the port configuration is automatically applied. Port Profiles reduces the need for manual configuration or reconfiguration, saving time while minimizing errors and downtime.
As more comprehensive capabilities are added, Port Profiles will become more intelligent, with an increasing ability to dynamically and concisely assign to appropriate devices across a variety of networks.
Curious to learn more?
Listen to our episode on the Cisco Champion podcast. Our panel of experts discuss how Meraki switching tackles complex network operations with a user-first approach to deliver features like port profiles, templates, and APIs. They also share best practices for streamlining network operations and enhancing security without headaches. Tune in now!