Cisco’s been through a bit of an ordeal over the six months or so since we joined its customers and partners for the US leg of Cisco Live last June. While we were rapt in discussions around AI, 5G and the evolution of networks, ongoing security concerns cast a long shadow in San Diego.
Whether its place in the industry may change in light of the turbulent fortunes of its Chinese competitor Huawei has also been up for debate. That said, the latter half of 2019 was by no means smooth sailing for the US heavyweight either, and even more security slipups have dogged the company.
August, in particular, saw the company pay out $8.6 million in damages over allegations that it knowingly sold unsecured surveillance equipment to US government agencies. This is on top of the continued materialisation of security flaws, including three serious vulnerabilities found in its most popular switches for SMBs. The fact that Cisco’s been forced to patch a 9.8 CVE-rated critical security flaw in its network management platform just days before the conference is also far from ideal.
Cisco’s summertime woes coincided with a modest collapse in its share price, all but wiping out the gains it had made during the first half of 2019. It’s a position from which the company hasn’t really recovered as we approach its annual customer and partner event.
Next week at Cisco live in sunny (we’re hoping) Barcelona, the company’s execs will be hoping to put these issues firmly in the rearview mirror as they look to a much brighter 2020. Although the firm’s top brass won’t be making it out for the EMEA-oriented event, it’s nevertheless a chance to see how Cisco will position itself as we embark on a year that’s set to see 5G technology grow in popularity and mainstream business adoption.
We’re also keen to look out for how the company tackles the bigger and broader issues plaguing the industry, including the neverending Huawei saga, and whether this may have a role to play in any potential slowdown.
Last year’s Cisco Live event saw the firm futurescape to some extent about the exciting possibilities of universal high-speed networking, with technology like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G just around the corner. We could expect to see superfast and superstable connections both indoors and out, with a smooth handover between these two interlacing innovations.
We heard little in the way of a strategy as to how the wider networking industry – including mobile network operators – may work to reach these more remote and rural parts of the world. This is, therefore, something I’ll certainly be pushing to learn more about over the course of the week. Of course, this is an issue felt across many parts of the UK, with research suggesting it’s come at a great long-term economic cost.
Cisco will also be looking to build on the technology it unveiled in San Diego, particularly new AI software for network analysts that can be deployed to help differentiate a general issue from a potentially damaging threat to a network. It’ll be interesting to see whether customers are truly reaping the benefits of this integration, and, for Cisco, whether its software push is paying off.
Ultimately, what matters most to businesses, are the potential applications for any emerging technology Cisco may lift the lid on. We’ll expect to see plenty of great ideas, as anybody would at an event as prominent as Cisco Live, but how these ideas make a practical difference to businesses today will especially catch our attention.
It’s a fascinating time for the networking industry, and while issues surrounding Huawei will continue to dominate the discourse as we move further into 2020, it’ll be intriguing to see how a company like Cisco takes its chance to position itself to customers, partners and journalists who’ve made our way out to the event.
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Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.