At Cisco Live 2017, CEO Chuck Robbins discussed network security, Cisco’s new intent-based networking system, and the company’s partnership with Apple in an exclusive interview with TechRepublic Senior Writer Teena Maddox.

TechRepublic: How is Cisco reinventing networking with its new intuitive system?

Chuck Robbins: Well, when we launched the network intuitive last week, it was all about really defining a new era of networking. As our customers connect billions and billions of new devices, and they move to this world where everything is massively distributed, connecting mining operations, oil rigs, everything at the edge of the network and their desire to go faster with greater agility, how do we get to the business outcome faster? How can we automate a lot of the tasks that we have in our infrastructure? How can we gain more insights out of the infrastructure? And how can we just, how can we build security deep into the network?

TechRepublic: How does Cisco’s newly announced intuitive network work?

Robbins: The network intuitive … actually is informed, or is powered by intent which is through a massive scale automation platform. It’s powered by context, which is where we drive analytics out of the technology infrastructure to provide greater insights for our customers, and we’ve pushed security deeply into the network. And what that allows our customers to do is really take advantage of all of these billions of connections and really gain the insights to get to the real business value of what they’re trying to achieve. So the network intuitive, in its simplest form, allows them to automate their intent, to gain context through analytics out of the technology, to drive security throughout the entire infrastructure, and then for that to become an adaptive, intuitive life cycle where the network actually learns and actually implements your intent based on what it knows you want to do with your business.

TechRepublic: Why did you release the news on the intuitive network a week before Cisco Live?

Robbins: So we launched the network intuitive about a week ago, a week prior to Cisco Live. We launched it to some press and industry analysts. And the real reason we wanted to launch it ahead was to give our customers and our partners and all the attendees here the opportunity to digest it a bit, to understand at a high level what we were launching. And then when they got to Cisco Live, we wanted them to be prepared to go through. We’re educating, we’re taking them, there’s breakouts, so that they would really be prepared to go to the next level here as opposed to trying to just get to the high-level concept. So that was the real reason we announced it a week ahead.

TechRepublic: Why did Cisco create new training and developer programs and what do they do?

Robbins: When we think about developers going forward, there are several things that we’ve done. Number one, we’ve opened up the core operating systems of the networking platforms, our iOS, that we’ve been investing in from an innovation perspective for over 25 years. We’ve opened that up to a modern data model structure with APIs. We’ve rewritten the entire operating system, and what that allows is for developers now to actually write applications that can actually program the network at the same time. So that’s one big element of how developers are gonna fit in to this in the future.

TechRepublic: Are there any additional benefits to the new program?

Robbins: The second piece is we’re now beginning to put general purpose compute capabilities into these platforms at the edge so that you can run centralized cloud services, you can run remote instances of your applications to actually analyze all this information. So the developers can write directly to the operating system. They can also write applications that run inside the box, as you’ll have general purpose compute everywhere. From a training perspective, we announced just a continued evolution of our Cisco certifications, just like we’ve done over the last 20 years, where we have really identified these future skills that are going to be needed around building the automation architecture, programming networks, and we’ve correlated that to our curriculum to just help people move to the next level and really understand what the skills that are needed and how they operate in this new world.

TechRepublic: Security is always a hot issue. Are there new ways to include security in the new era of networking?

Robbins: So we all know security is one of the biggest issues that our customers face. And in fact, as we look at this next wave of IoT and these connections, security has to be dealt with at the network layer. It is the common denominator across, all the way from the edge to the private cloud to the public cloud to the SasS applications, the network is the underlying platform. And so we believe that you cannot have a robust security architecture if you don’t start with a network. One of the big announcements we made last week that we talked about again today is our ability to identify malware inside encrypted traffic. And this is something that, based on our experience over the years with networking traffic, with our threat intelligence information that we have through our Talos architecture, we’re able to actually identify when there’s malware inside encrypted traffic without decrypting it. And this really threads the needle between privacy and security, and we think that more and more security services will be running at the network layer in the future.

TechRepublic: How important is artificial intelligence and machine learning to the future of enterprise?

Robbins: Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be tremendously important. As we look at the encrypted traffic analytics that we just launched this week, what that is is it is all of those things. It’s artificial intelligence leveraging the context of the network, leveraging machine learning in the cloud at scale. And you’re going to see us continue to build out offerings on top of this new architecture that leverage AI, leverage machine learning to take in massive amounts of data and help our customers understand how they can actually run these environments more effectively. So it’s going to be a big play for us, particularly in the security space, but over time on just overall network assurance as well.

TechRepublic: Cisco has been in partnership with Apple for two years, but how are you working with Apple to improve security within the Apple iOS?

Robbins: Our partnership with Apple is incredibly important, and it’s actually accelerating. We started the partnership around really creating a simple way to do fast lanes in the network for iOS-based applications as well as deep integration with our collaboration portfolio. We’re also now helping integrate security into the Apple devices, so we’ve launched AMP and we’ve launched Umbrella and actually being able to integrate those into the Apple devices just continues to provide a higher level of security for the enterprise customer out there as they’re deploying iOS devices from Apple. So we love the partnership. We think it’s been successful to date. We think it’s going to accelerate, and we have a significant number of innovations that we’ve already identified that we think we can work on together in the future.

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