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Cisco unveils network of the future

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Cisco has unveiled a range of intent-based networking solutions which are designed to anticipate actions, stop security threats and evolve and learn over time.

Cisco has unveiled a series of “intent-based” networking solutions that, it says, represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in enterprise networking. According to Cisco, the introduction is the culmination of the company’s vision to create an intuitive system that anticipates actions, stops security threats in their tracks, and continues to evolve and learn. It will help businesses to unlock new opportunities and solve previously unsolvable challenges in an era of increasing connectivity and distributed technology.

This new network is the result of years of research and development by Cisco to reinvent networking for an age where network engineers managing hundreds of devices today will be expected to manage 1 million by 2020.

“The network has never been more critical to business success, but it’s also never been under more pressure,” said Chuck Robbins, chief executive officer for Cisco. “By building a more intuitive network, we are creating an intelligent platform with unmatched security for today and for the future that propels businesses forward and creates new opportunities for people and organizations everywhere.”

Today companies are managing their networks through traditional IT processes that are not sustainable in this new age. Cisco’s approach creates an intuitive system that constantly learns, adapts, automates and protects, to optimize network operations and defend against today’s evolving threat landscape.

“Cisco’s Encrypted Traffic Analytics solves a network security challenge previously thought to be unsolvable,” said David Goeckeler, senior vice president and general manager of networking and security. “ETA uses Cisco’s Talos cyber intelligence to detect known attack signatures even in encrypted traffic, helping to ensure security while maintaining privacy.”

With the vast majority of the world’s internet traffic running on Cisco networks, the company has used its unique position to capture and analyze this immensely valuable data by providing IT with insights to spot anomalies and anticipate issues in real time, without compromising privacy. By automating the edge of the network and embedding machine learning and analytics at a foundational level, Cisco is making the unmanageable manageable and allowing IT to focus on strategic business needs.

Already, 75 leading global enterprises and organizations are conducting early field trials with these next-generation networking solutions, including DB Systel, Jade University of Applied Sciences, NASA, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Scentsy, UZ Leuven and Wipro.

Cisco provided the following information:

With this new approach, Cisco is changing the fundamental blueprint for networking with reimagined hardware and the most advanced software. This shift from hardware-centric to software-driven networking will enable customers to experience a quantum leap in agility, productivity and performance. The intuitive network is an intelligent, highly secure platform — powered by intent and informed by context:

  • Intent: Intent-based networking allows IT to move from tedious traditional processes to automating intent, making it possible to manage millions of devices in minutes — a crucial development to help organizations navigate today’s ever expanding technology landscape.
  • Context: Interpreting data in context is what enables the network to provide new insights. It’s not just the data that’s important, it’s the context that surrounds it — the who, what, when, where and how. The intuitive network interprets all of this, resulting in better security, more customized experiences and faster operations.
  • Intuition: The new network provides machine-learning at scale. Cisco is using the vast data that flows through its networks around the world, with machine learning built in, and unleashing that data to provide actionable, predictive insights.

 The technologies that power the intuitive network

Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) provides customers with a portfolio of innovative hardware and software to bring the new era of networking to life. Today Cisco is introducing a suite of Cisco DNA technologies and services designed to work together as a single system and empower customers to move at digital speed:

  • DNA Center. An intuitive, centralized management dashboard providing IT teams with an intent-based approach spanning design, provisioning, policy and assurance. With full visibility and context across the entire network, DNA Center allows IT to centralize management of all network functions.
  • Software-Defined Access (SD-Access). SD-Access uses automated policy enforcement and network segmentation over a single network fabric to dramatically simplify network access for users, devices and things. By automating day-to-day tasks such as configuration, provisioning and troubleshooting, SD-Access slashes the time it takes to adapt the network, improves issue resolution from weeks and months to hours, and dramatically reduces security breach impact. Initial analysis with field trial customers and internal testing have shown a reduction in network provisioning time by 67%, improved issue resolution by 80%, reduced security breach impact by 48%, and opex savings of 61%.
  • Network Data Platform and Assurance. This powerful new analytics platform efficiently categorizes and correlates the vast amount of data running on the network and uses machine learning to turn it into predictive analytics, business intelligence and actionable insights delivered through the DNA Center Assurance service.
  • Encrypted Traffic Analytics. Today, almost half of cyber-attacks are hidden in encrypted traffic and this number keeps growing. By utilizing Cisco’s Talos cyber intelligence and machine learning to analyze metadata traffic patterns, the network can identify the fingerprints of known threats even in encrypted traffic, without decrypting it and impacting data privacy. Only Cisco can enable IT to detect threats in encrypted traffic with up to 99% accuracy, with less than 0.01% false positives. As a result, the new network provides security while maintaining privacy.
  • Catalyst 9000 Switching Portfolio. Cisco is introducing a new family of switches built from the ground up for the new realities of the digital era, centered on the demands of mobility, cloud, IoT and security. The Cisco Catalyst 9000 delivers unmatched security, programmability and performance by innovating at the hardware (ASIC) and software (IOS XE) layers.
  • Software Subscription. Cisco is now making software subscription an essential element of its flagship campus switching portfolio. When purchasing the new Catalyst 9000 family of switches, customers will access the DNA software capabilities by subscription, either via pre-bundled Cisco ONE software suites or a-la-carte components. Available across the entire enterprise networking portfolio, Cisco ONE software provides businesses with access to ongoing innovation, budget predictability, and a more agile way to consume the technology.
  • DNA Services. To help customers embrace intuitive networking with speed and confidence, Cisco has created a new portfolio of services that leverage our proven experience, best practices and innovative tools. Whether customers are looking to transform their entire network or integrate new security and automation capabilities into their existing network, Cisco has a comprehensive lifecycle of advisory, implementation, optimization and technical services to help them on their journey. Cisco channel partners can also resell these services and build networking practices that incorporate software, security, automation and analytics for their customers.
  • Developer Center. Cisco is releasing a new DevNet DNA Developer Center with resources to help developers and IT professionals create network-powered applications and integrate them within their IT systems and workflows. This includes new learning tracks, sandboxes, and developer support resources for using APIs and building skills.

Arts and Entertainment

VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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