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June 14, 2022 |

Cisco Adding Meraki Cloud Management to On-Prem Network Gear

On the opening day of its 2022 Cisco Live event, networking and cloud exec Todd Nightingale (pictured) outlined measures aimed at layering remote online administration atop switches, routers, and access points that predate the era of cloud-first everything.

Cisco is adding cloud management to its Catalyst and Nexus networking lines.

The tech industry giant announced those changes, along with a hybrid cloud version of its AppDynamics application performance management solution, new Webex videoconferencing hardware, and updates to the Webex Calling solution, on the opening day of its 2022 Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas.

Users of select Catalyst switches and new Catalyst wireless devices can now manage those systems through the popular Cisco Meraki cloud management system. The integration offers a shortcut for layering remote online administration atop a family of switches, routers, and access points that predate the cloud networking era, according to Todd Nightingale, executive vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking & Cloud group.

“It works with the hardware you already have and the license you’ve already purchased, and without having to change the architecture or change the config of that network, you can onboard it into Meraki in a monitoring mode and get unprecedented visibility,” he said during a keynote this morning.

A forthcoming as-a-service management system, called Cisco Nexus Cloud and due to reach market this fall, will provide similar capabilities for the on-premises Nexus product family. Both announcements are part of larger ambitions by Cisco to deliver comprehensive, cloud-focused solutions that are easy to deploy and manage by breaking down siloes across its product lines.

“This is how we’re going to deliver,” Nightingale said. “Bringing our technologies into the cloud, integrating them closely to build unified IT experiences, and then viewing those platforms with deep intelligence with powerful sophisticated agents, so that we can truly deliver power and simplicity without compromise.”

The new version of AppDynamics unveiled today, called AppDynamics Cloud, is an “observability platform” designed to provide centralized oversight of distributed applications that blend on-premises IT gear with SaaS services and cloud infrastructure from multiple providers.

“[It] gives you 360-degree visibility and insights for your cloud-native applications,” said Liz Centoni, executive vice president, chief strategy officer, and general manager of applications at Cisco.

Introduced as well today were two new Webex conferencing devices. The Webex Room Bar packs a 12MP camera with 5x digital zoom and a 120-degree field of view plus stereo speakers and dual-screen support into an integrated case that connects with a single USB-C cable. Available now, it sells for a starting price of $3,795.

The Cisco Video Phone 8875, which will be available for ordering in August at prices yet to be disclosed, combines calling and videoconferencing functionality in a single unit with a 7-inch touchscreen and both click-to-call and one-button meeting entry features. The device comes with AI-powered audio intelligence to reduce background noise, a 1080p display to enhance video quality, and a camera cover to protect privacy. Users in shared offices with temporary workspaces can login into their Webex Suite profile through the phone from any desk by scanning a QR code.

Enhancements to Webex Calling include new “site survivability” capabilities that enable businesses to continue making and receiving PSTN calls during network outages and audio intelligence refinements that extend AI-powered background noise removal technology to PSTN calls with external participants. 

Adding cloud management for Catalyst and Nexus products is an early step in longer-term efforts by Cisco to unify its sprawling portfolio of connectivity, collaboration, and security solutions and transition them into the era of cloud-first computing. That initiative in turn feeds into a larger ongoing campaign to simplify the company’s product catalog.

“Too often, we pass a burden of complexity onto you,” said Nightingale this morning. “When the IT experience is too complex and too error prone, we know that eventually the end user experience will suffer as well.”

That’s especially true in what Cisco has repeatedly referred to at the conference as “predictably unpredictable” times marked by a global pandemic, war in Europe, supply chain snarls, inflation, rising interest rates, and more.

“The past three years have been like a case study in the pace of change,” Nightingale said. “Our focus has to be on agility, and we deliver that with simplicity.”
In a keynote of his own this morning, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins indicated that the company’s focus on simplicity encompasses but extends beyond its products.

“We’ve made progress, but we still have more to do,” he said. “You can just know that we’re focused on simplifying our licensing strategies, simplifying your experience, simplifying how you think about common platforms.”

In a subsequent press briefing, Robbins indicated that neither continued economic uncertainty nor the prospect of a possible recession have dampened Cisco’s market expectations. In times past, he noted, businesses worried about slowing income often cut technology spending along with other expenses because they viewed IT as a cost center. 

“Now it’s viewed as a strategic core of the business,” Robbing noted.

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