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Cisco integrates networking, security, IT management for the enterprise

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At its an online Cisco Live! event, Cisco today advanced an ambitious effort to further unify the management of networking, security, and IT infrastructure across the extended enterprise using hardware and software that can now be acquired under a single subscription license dubbed Cisco Plus.

In addition, Cisco is making it possible to acquire all the elements of its Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) portfolio via a single offering that will also soon be made available via a subscription.

And Cisco announced that the Duo authentication platform it acquired in 2018 can now be configured to enable users to log into cloud applications using biometrics or security keys that eliminate the need to employ passwords, in addition to updating a Cisco Secure X platform through which it unifies the management of its security portfolio.

Finally, Cisco has — as expected — integrated the ThousandEyes monitoring service it acquired last year with the Cisco Catalyst 9000 switches and the Cisco AppDynamics Dash Studio that provides visibility into an observability platform the company acquired in 2017.

As the management of networking and security becomes flatter across an extended enterprise, it’s clear Cisco is making a case for integrating the management of networking and security to reduce total cost at a time when more highly distributed applications that tend to be latency-sensitive are being deployed. In some cases, networking platforms based on proprietary processors will be required to maximize throughput, while platforms based on commodity processors will suffice in others, said Todd Nightingale, senior vice president and general manager for the Enterprise Networking and Cloud business at Cisco.

Cisco makes available a series of management overlays and control planes that — in addition to AppDynamics and SecureX — includes Cisco Intersight to manage IT operations, regardless of the underlying class of processors or platforms employed. The company, for example, has extended Cisco Intersight to also manage cloud infrastructure resources across a hybrid cloud computing environment that now includes a growing number of edge computing platforms.

In effect, Cisco is making a case for lowering the total cost of IT by relying on a single vendor to unify as much of the underlying IT and security infrastructure as possible. ThousandEyes is a critical element of that strategy because the platform enables IT teams to gain insights into network bottlenecks that are impacting application performance even when that network infrastructure is managed by a third-party telecommunications carrier. “It provides full visibility from the user to the application,” Nightingale said.

It’s not clear to what degree IT organizations are employing the entire Cisco portfolio. Organizations may, for example, employ Cisco networking hardware while relying on a platform other than AppDynamics to monitor applications. The decision to acquire those platforms is often made by completely different teams within an enterprise. Via various subscription services, Cisco is trying to entice organizations to standardize on a wider range of offerings.

Those subscription offerings can over time reduce the total cost of IT. At the same time, it reduces any economic incentive an organization might have to swap in a rival platform because future Cisco upgrades are now included as part of the subscription service.

It remains to be seen how many enterprise IT organizations are willing to subscribe to offerings from a single vendor. But there is no doubt more organizations are acquiring IT technologies via subscription services that make it possible to treat the acquisition of IT as an operating rather than capital equipment expense. In effect, the same consumption-based pricing models that are commonly found in the cloud are now being applied to all IT infrastructure and security offerings. The tradeoff is that while those underlying platforms and systems have arguably never been more open, the mechanism that locks an IT organization into one vendor versus another is now embedded within the subscription.

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