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A New Era in Enterprise: Opportunities and Challenges | Cisco Investments

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A New Era in Enterprise: Opportunities and Challenges

Cisco Investments Team

It started the day after we went into COVID lockdown. Fueled by the economic and geopolitical upheaval of recent years, it continues gathering momentum today. Call it the New Era in Enterprise.

It’s a time of dynamic change. Enterprises are learning that the network architectures of the past don’t cut it when it comes to handling soaring demand for digital solutions that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. They’re learning they need to invest in new technologies and architectures if they are to survive and thrive in this unpredictable environment.

Against this backdrop, the Cisco Investments team recently hosted EXPLORE 2023, a virtual summit focused on this new era. Over a series of three presentations, the summit spotlights the innovations that are powering this new era — including Full Stack Observability (FSO), Cybersecurity, and Multicloud Networking — and that are vital to success in 2023 and beyond.

New architectures needed

With the explosion of hybrid work, enterprises have been catapulted into a new reality. Hybrid cloud models that incorporate both on-premises infrastructure and cloud-based resources have become the enterprise norm.

In a panel discussion on “Innovation Trends Reshaping the Enterprise Technology Landscape,” speakers explored the newer architectures that need to emerge to handle the challenges created by hybrid cloud models. The panel featured Janey Hoe, Aleem Rizvon, and Noah Yago — all VPs of Corporate Development and Cisco Investments — moderated by Cliff Thomas, SVP of Sales at Cisco.

"Network admins will have to embrace a new hybrid cloud networking model and all that that implies from an architectural standpoint," Aleem explained — "because the new model is here to stay."

"They have to figure out how to seamlessly manage workloads that are running within the enterprise data center as well as the public clouds, and provide secure connectivity to those applications and workloads irrespective of where the users may be," Aleem said.

ChatGPT and generative AI

No discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing enterprises today would be complete without touching on the potential impacts of ChatGPT and generative AI.

The panel explored a range of impacts of large language models (LLMs), from increased infrastructure spend to more regulatory constraints around data privacy and sovereignty.

“AI democratizes everybody’s access to massive amounts of data,” Janey said. “It could change everything about how we do everything.” 

That includes networking and cloud computing. Aleem explained how, unlike search where data is already indexed, Generative AI & LLMs are computationally intensive. Besides, they generate large quantities of horizontal traffic, which will require increased compute & networking capacity in both data centers and public clouds. In addition, as enterprises utilize LLMs on proprietary data (BloombergGPT and Salesforce Einstein GPT, for example), look for increased investment in private clouds.

Complexity is here to stay

Two key drivers of the increased complexity facing enterprises today are the co-existence of a hyper-mobile workforce (courtesy of hybrid work) and hyper-mobile workloads.

A recent Cisco survey[1] showed that 58% of customers move workloads between on-premises and cloud environments weekly, and many of these customers use more than one public cloud. ChatGPT and generative AI only add to this complexity. Now more than ever, managing this network complexity calls for a holistic or platform approach.

“It's no longer just a network admin’s responsibility,” said Aleem. “They have to figure out how to bring the best practices from SecOps, DevOps, NetOps, and have the agility to manage these ever-changing networks on a regular basis."

One innovative approach to securing applications and data — the primary targets of data breaches — is for enterprises to embrace a new security architecture. In a session titled “The Next Frontier in Cybersecurity — Securing Data and Applications,” co-founder and CEO Rehan Jalil detailed how this architecture could help enterprises build a distributed security perimeter around their multi-cloud data, enabling them to meet their data security, privacy, and compliance obligations across hyper-scale cloud environments.

Just as networking teams may have a NOC (network operations center) and security teams a SOC (security operations center), this new era presents enterprises with an opportunity to have a data command center — complete with tools, technologies, and automated controls to intelligently drive security, privacy, governance, and compliance in a much more unified fashion.

“There has to be tools, technologies, and controls in place so that this intelligence actually drives automated controls on security and privacy and governance and compliance in a much more unified fashion,” Rehan said.

FSO meets SLOs

When it comes to the complexity around monitoring cloud stacks, Full Stack Observability helps take the heavy lifting out of customers’ hands. In the panel discussion, Noah spotlighted FSO as one of the biggest trend shifts of the new enterprise era.

“Full Stack Observability isn’t really a technology, it's a business goal,” Noah said. “Historically, we considered IT operations to be a cost driver. Today, with digital transformation, IT systems drive core business value – the health of your IT systems equates to the health of your business. Observing an IT system is therefore critical to a modern enterprise’s P&L.”

But FSO in a cloud-native world presents a number of challenges, from talent shortages to disparate systems, reduced budgets, and more. One innovative way to adopt and implement an FSO strategy is by using cloud-native Service Level Objectives (SLOs) to define reliability goals — an approach laid out in a session titled “Full Stack Observability Moving into a Cloud-Native World,” featuring Nobl9 co-founder and CEO Marcin Kurc.

SLOs are measurable targets of an SLA mutually agreed upon by the software provider and its customer. Just as a self-driving car must learn the rules of the road before it starts driving, SLOs codify the agreed-upon guidelines and guardrails for a customer’s infrastructure and IT operations, enabling the customer to build automation and run their operations confidently even as conditions change.

“It's important to have a platform not just focus on reporting, but also having an automation component that takes SLOs as code and lets you proactively automate that response to an incident, often before it happens,” Marcin said.

Key recommendations

So, what’s an enterprise to do in this new era of dynamic change, complexity, opportunity, and risk?

Top recommendations from the EXPLORE summit speakers were to embrace automation, along with secure connectivity, and FSO for network visibility. They also urged customers to get their hands dirty by playing with new technologies. And when it comes to solving the challenges facing enterprises today, look to the people who are closest to the issues for help.

“In the face of change…, I've learned that you're always better off to lean forward into it and take an open stance towards the innovation,” Janey said. “Because that's the only way that you can stay with it, stay ahead of it.”

[1] Cisco 2022 Global Hybrid Cloud Trends Report.