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Cloud Enablement & Operations

Cisco Live 2018: Talos, DNA Center, & More!

By Kevin Dresser, Solutions Architect

Hello All!

I recently attended CiscoLive 2018 in Orlando and wanted to share some of the highlights. While there were not any of the traditional big announcements around new products, the messaging and focus was all about the open integration platforms to build, manage and secure the network.

For example, Cisco’s partnership with GoogleCloud will help customers build and maintain consistent environments across public cloud and on-premise data centers. The solution will be released later this year and will combine a Kubernetes-based container platform with their HyperFlex hyper-converged infrastructure product.

Cisco DNA Center, announced last year, is essentially their software-defined networking platform for the enterprise network. The DNA Center platform centralizes the network design, policies, provisioning and assurance into a single interface. Cisco will begin to integrate it’s own cloud solutions into DNA Center like their Meraki Dashboard, StealthWatch and Viptela SD-WAN interface vManage. Cisco will also be opening DNA Center to third party developers through APIs and SDKs that will enable much broader integration and customization capabilities.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins says in the opening Keynote, “we have to think differently about how we build networks.” The complexities of multi-cloud environments, regulations of cross border data movement and the exponential increase of devices being added to the network every year are certainly factors that require a different approach to managing the network. Of course, security and identifying threats need to be the highest of priorities. Roughly 50% of all network traffic is now encrypted and 70% of the security threats use encryption. The advanced analytics tools like StealthWatch and Cognitive Threat Analytics can be used to identify threats hidden in encrypted packets. Cisco Umbrella is another security tool providing endpoint protection that processes billions of DNS transactions per day and helps gather threat intelligence to be analyzed by Talos.

Talos is the cyber security threat research organization within Cisco. I had the privilege of attending the first ever Talos Threat Research Summit to start my week off at CiscoLive. The summit was a full day of presentations from security experts sharing years of experience and providing deep insight into threat research, malicious actors and techniques and even a view into Cisco’s own security incident response team. Here’s some of the key takeaways from the day:

  1. Threat actors range from low level organizations with limited funding to high level nation states with almost unlimited resources.
  2. Attackers are reverse engineering the next-generation security tools and products to stay ahead.
  3. The best threat mitigation prioritizes good people and processes over products and tools; the people who will actually manage network security should have the most leverage in choosing the right security products – not based on the best financial and purchasing deals.
  4. Hire a legitimate penetration testing team, re-test every time applications and architecture changes and implement the changes they recommend – not a checkbox on an audit list.
  5. Some of the basic network security fundamentals from 20 years ago are still more important now than ever; proper segmentation, access controls and auditing.
  6. Current End user education and training practices are not working; accountability and consequences are going to become necessary.
  7. Visibility and analytics must be part of any security strategy to mitigate threats. Ransomware is a one-time hit, crypto-mining is a recurring drain on corporate resources that will have huge long-term costs if undetected.

Overall, the Talos summit provided a different perspective on network security that highlighted many of the human elements required instead of hardware devices or software.

Of course, the many CiscoLive breakout sessions offered deep dives into all areas of Cisco’s products and solutions. I focused on the Viptela SD-WAN solutions, Catalyst 9000 switching and some of the key security tools like StealthWatch, FirePOWER and Identity Services Engine.

Cisco just released a brand new product to their UCS product line, with two exciting features. Check out the video below to learn more.

Please reach out to me with any questions and let me know how I can help our customers understand some of the advances Cisco is making towards providing complete networking solutions.