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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.

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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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