Cisco Live 2020: wireless, computing, 5G and the automated campus

July 16 2020
by Mike Fratto, Brian Partridge, Christian Renaud, Raymond Huo


Recently, Cisco hosted its annual customer and partner conference, Cisco Live 2020, for the first time via virtual summit, which attracted a record 100,000+ attendees. This was after the event was postponed for two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. The theme for this year's event was 'powering an inclusive future for all' – appropriate to the current times. While there was a plethora of announcements, for our purposes, we will focus on those announcements related to 5G, wireless, compute and the enterprise campus.

The 451 Take

While Cisco Live has sometimes been the scene of big announcements, this year it took on a more subdued tone. That's not to say that there weren't important product and technology debuts, but much of the impact at the virtual venue came from incremental advances. Tighter integration in security and networking offers the potential for operational simplicity and increases in security effectiveness. An expanding presence in 5G infrastructure is aligned with increasing political emphasis in a set of solid, intentional steps that could move the company forward.


As part of its wireless product portfolio, Cisco provided details on a cloud-based platform (DNA Spaces) it has developed to provide visibility into physical spaces using location-based services. The need for location-based services has increased due to COVID-19 because healthcare providers urgently require the ability to track the location and use of PPE and ventilators while businesses begin to implement safety measures to support employees once they return to the office.

In order to help enforce social distancing measures, Cisco's Right Now app helps monitor population density within a given space, triggering an alert once occupancy rates reach or exceed the maximum level allowed. The Impact Analysis app helps monitor the duration that employees spend in an office environment and how frequently they visit. Last, the Engagement app sends text message notifications to alert individuals when a social distancing guideline has been breached or when a safety incident has been identified. In addition, Cisco partnered with healthcare provider STANLEY Healthcare to enable asset tracking of medical equipment and location-based monitoring of hospital staff to ensure appropriate social distancing.


In support of infrastructure management, Cisco expanded on its 'management as a service platform' called Cisco Intersight, which allows enterprises to deploy and manage infrastructure regardless of execution venue. The goal of Intersight is to provide a holistic view of the infrastructure lifecycle, allowing organizations to configure their systems, deploy infrastructure, monitor the components, manage lifecycle, enforce standards and policies, and receive the necessary troubleshooting and technical support whenever they need it. Some of the main features of the Cisco Intersight platform include cloud-delivered, SaaS-based management, insights and recommendations on daily operations, enhanced security measures and operational support. Cisco revealed plans to integrate the application resource management capabilities of Cisco Workload Optimization manager into Cisco Intersight, converting it to a SaaS offering. Integration with AppDynamics now provides dependency graphs that correlate the relationships and health of infrastructure and applications. Workload placement and cost optimization recommendations are provided dynamically for infrastructure on-premises and in the public cloud.


As an early supporter of open Radio Access Network (RAN) ecosystems, Cisco is continuing to experiment with open, virtualized RAN (vRAN) technology in areas such as specification testing and integration, solutions validation, running proofs of concept and publishing performance metrics. As an O-RAN Alliance contributor, Cisco believes vRAN brings a virtualized cloud-native architecture that allows operators to decouple software and hardware components, which gives them the flexibility to choose specific hardware and software for their 5G architecture, scale each component independently and bring new features to market faster. It's riding a wave of politically driven interest that has built on a reservoir of network operator desire to expand the RAN vendor population from its current three or four vendors. Recently, Cisco announced that it is collaborating with World Wide Technology (WWT) and Altiostar to develop an open vRAN blueprint for 5G deployments. As part of the joint effort, Cisco will provide its suite of virtualized and cloud-native packet core offerings while Altiostar will supply its 5G open vRAN software. The blueprint will be tested in WWT's Advanced Technology Center (ATC), a multi-vendor validation facility for designing, educating and deploying technology and architecture for WWT customers, partners and employees.

Enterprise campus

Cisco announced enhancements to its enterprise campus starting with security enhancements to its SD-WAN powered by Viptela and User Defined Networks, which gives more control to end users. Both of these capabilities take advantage of products in adjacent product lines to enhance the overall capabilities available to enterprises, which will be attractive to those customers that want an all-Cisco environment.

Cisco has integrated its Umbrella cloud security with SD-WAN, extending its set of security services to remote offices, which can protect traffic over the SD-WAN or destined for SaaS-based cloud services via a one-touch installation. The Umbrella integration maintains a consistent theme of feature-rich IT functions that are not difficult to manage. The company has begun to address the nascent Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) hype and sees Umbrella cloud security as part of its 'Roadmap to SASE.' Cisco has also integrated support for its Unified Communications platform on SD-WAN ensuring that time-sensitive traffic is properly identified and prioritized. Finally, Cisco added its OnRamp capability to its IOS-XE router platforms providing optimized SaaS experiences for those instances where customers have not made the leap to SD-WAN.

Cisco also announced its User Defined Networks capability, which allocates network resources to end users, defined by policy, and allows end users to add devices to their slice of the network. The goal is to ease the use of bring your own devices and productivity tools such as projectors, tablets, printers, scanners and other items in a multi-user network. Consumer-grade productivity tools tend to work well only when in the same network as the rest of the devices and often don't support authentication protocols. The User Defined Network should remove those problems while still allowing IT to maintain its network policies and controls and probably has the most value in settings like education campuses and healthcare, where students and patients are bringing in their own devices.