The pandemic has been one of the most disruptive yet transformational events for businesses across the globe. At Cisco, the focus has been to help customers, partners, and the industry stay up and running during this time.
As companies start operating in the next normal, Cisco is enabling businesses to become more resilient and agile as they accelerate their digital transformation.
In this interview, Cisco India and SAARC’s Managing Director for Commercial Sales, Sudhir Nayar, explains how the company is transforming its business model, pivoting a majority of its portfolio to be delivered as a service to help future-proof businesses in the new world. Excerpts:
DQ: The pandemic has led to a business continuity challenge at an unprecedented scale. How are players like Cisco enabling businesses to become resilient in the post CoViD-19 world?
Sudhir: In the new normal, the ability of organizations to pivot and adapt their business and workforce models will determine their success. Recognising this, small to large scale enterprises are exploring a new way to conduct business – they are looking at a hybrid work environment, virtualizing their workflows, moving their processes to the cloud, automating their supply chains, etc.
In this journey, organizations need to prioritize developing an agile and flexible infrastructure and recalibrate for changing employee and customer experiences.
The aim, ultimately, is to build a resilient digital enterprise, where three things are crucial:
• No compromise on employee/customer safety, security, productivity, and experience across a flexible distributed working/business environment
• Flexibility to shift and scale IT capacity, capability, and resources where the demand lies and as the market environment evolves
• Ability to develop and automate new capabilities in an agile manner as the business need arises
To help make this transition easy and seamless for our customers, Cisco is bringing the capabilities of a resilient technology infrastructure that can help them work from anywhere, collaborate from any device, manage from anywhere (automation, analytics, assurance, and policy), and maximize experience and productivity.
By serving distributed workers and things with distributed applications and cloud services, with security at the front and center of it all, because the threat landscape has not only widened but become far more complicated.
DQ: Clearly, there are new business challenges in the new normal. What have you learned from this, and how is Cisco enhancing its solutions portfolio to help businesses mitigate new-age challenges?
Sudhir: A year ago, it was hard to envisage having board meetings, industry events, and selling to customers virtually. The most significant learning is that anything is possible with the right mindset and innovative technologies.
I frequently interact with my colleagues and teams across India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Today, I efficiently do this from my virtual home office setup. The transition has been seamless, thanks to a renewed mindset and the disruptive technologies that enable the adoption of new ways of working.
The pandemic and the digitization it spurred has also been a great leveler. businesses and individuals are leveraging flexible lifestyles to innovate and experiment, leading to improved productivity and output. This, however, does strain the it systems, networks, and teams.
Another meaningful learning is that technology needs to be able to scale up 100X or scale down as needed quickly and securely. For example, at Cisco, when our Webex usage surged rapidly at the beginning of the lockdown, we promptly made the necessary provisions within the backend infrastructure.
This enabled us to manage the challenge of operating on dispersed systems and meet the sudden and massive demand.
Technology today needs to be adaptive and simple. we are striving to simplify the management of complex infrastructure to make it flexible and scalable for our customers.
Be it on-premise, hybrid, multi-cloud, or even a private cloud environment, Cisco customers today enjoy unparalleled control and visibility of their optimized infrastructure, end to end.
DQ: How is Cisco helping businesses achieve business resiliency in a secure and agile manner?
Sudhir: Businesses need a solution that helps them manage their apps seamlessly and securely across hybrid environments. To enable this, we have created a new solution called Intersight, which syncs on-premise and cloud data/apps for easy access and monitoring. Intersight also allows the switching of apps between cloud and on-premise infrastructures.
Additionally, we have created a new security platform called SecureX, a broad cloud-based security platform connecting the breadth of our portfolio and our customers’ security infrastructure by providing unified visibility and automation across applications, the network, endpoints, and the cloud.
The SecureX platform solves key use challenges leveraging tools like security orchestration and Automation (SOAR), extended detection and response (XDR), and custom-built Forensics and Integration tools. With SecureX, our customers can reduce the time taken to identify a breach by 81%.
Between Intersight and SecureX, our customers can fast-track their journey towards building an agile and resilient business.
DQ: How about hardware and software licensing?
Sudhir: Today, the secureX platform is free for our customers. and they can quickly deploy and start using it. today, the SecureX platform is free for our customers, and they can quickly deploy and start using it.
We have also launched enterprise agreements for almost every segment of our architecture.
At Cisco, we are now thinking like a software company and new consumption models powered by Cloud have increased our enterprise Agreement sales by 100% just the commercial business segment for India and SAARC.
By providing the ability to integrate everything and put it in a simplified enterprise environment, we aim to enhance customer experience and add tremendous value to our offerings.
DQ: What brought about this change in the mindset?
Sudhir: Pandemic has forever transformed the way we work and do business. these changes have triggered a massive and rapid shift to remote/hybrid operations and automation, catalyzing a transition to an ‘everything- as-a-service’ consumption model. regardless of size or industry, businesses are looking at crafting a digital version of their business model, where everything is cloud-managed or cloud-delivered.
Cisco’s new “as-a-service” move is driven by the acceleration in the consumption of technology as a service that we’ve seen in the last fiscal year. 51% of revenues came from software and service in Fy20. we now have 78% of our total software revenue sold as subscriptions, surpassing the target of 66% we had set.
We are transitioning a majority of our portfolio to an as- a-service consumption model, building on our increased focus on software, services, and subscriptions.
DQ: What other solutions does Cisco offer for businesses that want to explore hybrid cloud?
Sudhir: Cisco started the hybrid cloud journey around three years. back. we made several strategic investments, including a critical one in the area of customer success.
We have an entire portfolio of solutions that businesses can use. For instance, HyperFlex an innovative software- based platform that enables the data center to operate seamlessly and transparently. Other solutions include intersight, our all-inclusive data center platform, among other auxiliary solutions.
DQ: Do you have any specific solutions for small businesses across industry verticals?
Sudhir: As they strive to recover quickly and accelerate growth, most small businesses in india recognize that digitally disrupting themselves is critical. Our goal is to enable MSMEs to capitalize on the opportunities that the pandemic is shaping and create a level playing by giving them access to top-notch, easy-to-use technology solutions.
In these efforts, Cisco is doubling down its focus on serving small businesses through Cisco designed, a suite of simple, secure, and flexible solutions tailored to small businesses.
The Cisco designed portfolio comprises offerings that have been curated for small businesses and address their networking, security, collaboration, cloud, and internet connectivity needs.
DQ: Can you tell us about the internet2network Catalyst product line and partner solutions?
Sudhir: Let me start with Catalyst. the idea was born when we were exploring various options of creating a software layer over the networking switch. we developed solutions that intelligently learned customer patterns over time.
Catalyst manages, virtualizes, and evolves continually. For a large company with a few thousand locations, any modification would typically take at least three months. With Catalyst, this can be done in almost real-time. We also have a video solution where 99% of the background noise can be muted. Users can also record the call, translate, and transcribe on-the-go.
The Webex system is critical during challenging times like these. Powered by AI, it acts as a virtual secretary that takes notes or pointers from meetings. you can speak to the technology and tell it what to do. Teams is a part of Webex.
Everything is integrated with teams, where you can communicate with your internal and external stakeholders. we believe these are some of the many reasons for the massive growth of webex this past year.
DQ: What have you learned from the Webex outage incidents, the bombing issues, and innovations brought by other players?
Sudhir: The key learning is that everything is hyper-scale. when we think about any platform, we think of hyper scaling by 5-10X. we have integrated security throughout webex – from the endpoint to the network, devices, data center, and beyond. we are also investing more in R&D. we believe that innovation has to be relevant, fast, and future-proof.
DQ: How are you countering competition from SD-Wan appliances?
Sudhir: We understand that the most important channel of interaction for a customer – both internal and external – is applications. Hence, apps need to be agile, seamless, and easy-to-use. this is precisely what Appdynamics provides – an intuitive dashboard for app performance.
Given that security has become a top priority for businesses, we also integrated Cisco SD-WAN with Cisco umbrella, helping customers evolve toward a SASE (secure Access service edge) architecture.
This future secure networking model, which delivers security and networking services together from the cloud, is intended to enable organizations to securely connect any user or device to any application with the best experience.