Digitization and APIs
Before we get into digitization, let’s discuss disruption. As we all know, Blockbuster was disrupted by Netflix; and the taxi business is being disrupted by Uber as we speak. If we look deeper, Netflix and Uber essentially streamlined a process by digitization and hence disrupted it. These are two examples of disruption via digitization that I hope we can all relate to. Digitization is constantly happening around us, and Cisco and several of our partners are helping customers digitize their processes.
In the DevNet Zone at Cisco Live, I hosted a lively panel discussion with four of our partners to discuss how the various technologies from Cisco are helping them drive digital transformation with their customers. Let me briefly introduce the panelists who joined me:
Craig Sanderson, Senior Director at Infoblox, leading provider of security and network control solutions.
Russell Wiant, VP of Product, Nectar Services Corp, enabling seamless communication across the network.
Chris Gaun, Director of Strategy, Apprenda, Enterprise PaaS solution provider.
Jose Bogarín, Chief Innovation Officer, Altus Consulting, helping customers reduce their IT costs.
Enabling Adaptive Network Control With Cisco pxGrid and Infoblox
In the discussion with Craig, he shared that Infoblox partnered with Cisco to help customers with automated responses to a variety of security-threat-related events. He emphasized that “Threat intelligence sharing helps in rapidly closing the gap between detection and response.”
Cisco’s pxGrid, a data exchange platform, provides a publish/subscribe model, eliminating the need for point-point integration between the various security products a customer might have. Infoblox and Cisco ISE integration utilizes Cisco pxGrid to exchange information between Cisco ISE, Infoblox, and other pxGrid participants, for a unified, automated solution.
Craig further explained that using pxGrid APIs, Cisco ISE shares user, device, and network context, while Infoblox shares DHCP and IPAM (IP address management) context. Based on the combined context, Cisco ISE is able to then automate a response, such as quarantining an endpoint.
Optimizing Unified Communication Experiences With Cisco DNA and Nectar
Next, Russell joined me from Nectar, where they are helping customers have a seamless voice and video communication between any two endpoints, wired or wireless. Have you noticed when having a video communication, you get the message saying “the call is experiencing quality issues due to the network” or something along those lines. The reality is that several factors, such as network bandwidth and latency, server performance, and configuration issues, could be playing a role resulting in a compromised experience.
Russell shared that Nectar provides monitoring capabilities with its Unified Communications Management Platform (UCMP) solution, helping identify where communication problems are occurring. In addition, the recently launched Nectar Evolution provides the means to set the appropriate QoS settings to correct the problem. Nectar Evolution learns about UC events in real-time and communicates them to the APIC-EM controller from Cisco using corresponding APIs. This intelligence, when given to the APIC-EM, enables it to configure the network dynamically, enabling the right prioritization and capacity needed for the two endpoints to communicate effectively.
Building a Secure PaaS With Cisco ACI and Apprenda
I also had the pleasure of having Chris join us from Apprenda. He shared with the audience how they are using Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to provide a “secure PaaS” offering to their customers.
Chris explained that developers are responsible for changing or hosting their applications on Apprenda. They are not aware of the underlying network or infrastructure architecture, which is abstracted by the Apprenda platform — the platform takes care of those details. When the developer is ready to host the application on the platform, the developer defines information about the application, such as whether it includes personally identifiable information (PII). This definition creates policy information about the application. The Apprenda platform passes that policy information from the application configuration file and metadata to Cisco ACI.
Cisco ACI then stores that policy in the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), creating the rulebook that determines which applications (or tiers or arbitrary groups of endpoints) can talk to each other. The Cisco APIC pushes the policy down to the individual Cisco Nexus® 9000 Series Switches in the fabric, which implement the required networking rules for the application architecture.
The result is a policy-based secure hybrid cloud application platform that helps you achieve dynamic isolation of application tiers, including data and network, without dedicated infrastructure. Apprenda also integrates with Cisco Metapod to enhance the provisioning of infrastructure services. Together, Cisco and Apprenda provide a way for enterprises to drive governance, security, rapid development, high service levels and order of magnitude savings in operational and capital expenses.
Allowing Business Users to Configure Cisco Contact Center Securely With Altus Contact Center Manager
Jose joined me to share how his company’s solution is able to help their customers automate the tasks within Cisco Contact Center Express. Tasks that previously took days can now be done in minutes; freeing up time for the end user and IT administrator for business value activities.
Jose’s organization, Altus, developed Altus Contact Center Manager (ACCM), a software solution that integrates to UCCX, using its APIs, and provides an easy to use interface for the end user to configure it.
ACCM enables business users of a Cisco Contact Center Express to make configuration changes in the IVR, CSQs (contact service queue) or agents without having to go through IT.
In most cases, IT did not even solve this by themselves but instead had to open a support ticket with their Cisco Partner. Jose mentioned, “So if you take into consideration having to go through two help desks in order to make a simple configuration change, like a greeting audio or an agent skill, our software allows to do in five minutes something that right now may take two or three days to solve.”
Begin Your Journey Towards Digital Transformation
It's amazing to see how these partners have leveraged Cisco technologies and their innovations to digitize various processes ranging from threat detection and response, network automation for seamless communication, security policy propagation from application to the network, and quickly enabling changes to the contact center. Cisco DevNet played a key role helping our partners learn how to use the various APIs and test their applications in our sandbox.