Reflections on Cisco Live Berlin

Reflections on Cisco Live Berlin

Following a fantastic week at Cisco Live Berlin, I wanted to share my thoughts around some of the key topics that resonated throughout the entire event.

First up, Digitisation and Transformation. How this applies to organisations across different industries varies somewhat, but the fundamental principle remains the same. Instead of simply using technology to support day-to-day operations, consider how this technology be leveraged to truly define an organisation, using technology not only to differentiate but to deliver real competitive advantage.

This really struck a cord with me. Prior to joining Block, I spent the 11 years within the NHS and have seen first-hand how technology has helped transform a very manual, static, paper-based environment into the thriving technology-based ecosystem it is today. The Digital Hospital will be delivering 21st century healthcare, driven by technology, highly reliable and available, automated to streamline processes and importantly, increasingly mobile. One of the best examples of this is in the adoption of Wireless within the NHS. Just 8-9 years ago, Wireless was deemed as a luxury – a nice to have option. Today however, it is considered critical, not only to staff but patients and the public too.

Within the NHS, technology is gaining momentum as means to deliver better patient care as opposed to just an IT administration tool. Opportunity  to embrace technology within areas such as Big Data and Analytics will pave the way for a new NHS. I personally have been driving the ‘Wireless Hospital’ concept for many years, so it was great to see the new Cisco 802.11ac Wave 2 Wireless Access Points being shown – which will offer 4-5 times faster speeds than most current wired connections. Having seen several iterations of the uptake of wireless over the years, I feel this one could potentially be the first time organisations that take step away from wired connections once and for all and move to a truly wireless mobile experience. Naturally, this puts greater importance and reliance on good WiFi/RF design and underlying infrastructure, which must be capable of supporting the ever-increasing number of devices out there (also great to see increased support and presence of IPv6).

Finally, with the recent headlines around security breaches and malware attacks, it should come as no surprise that perhaps the most prominent topic throughout Cisco Live was Network Security. This was an overarching theme feeding into all elements of the event, through Enterprise Networks, Data Centre, Endpoint and even into Cloud technologies. The message was clear; no longer should security be focused solely on the network perimeter. Organisations must not only know how to prevent cyber attacks, but how to react effectively should a breach occur. Network visibility is critical to achieving this, something I relate to how network monitoring was positioned many many years ago – without sufficient network monitoring how can you know exactly how your network is performing? Where are the bottlenecks, packet losses, high-latency links?

The same principles apply now to security; visibility enables proactive actions and strategy. It is no longer sufficient to just monitor the perimeter firewalls inbound and outbound traffic for threats. With so many malware and cyber attacks out there, and a marked move to cyberthreats remaining undetected and potentially causing greater financial impact, it is increasingly difficult to know how secure an organisation is without proper end-to-end visibility. Importantly, what happens when you do need to react to a security or malware issue? How do you effectively contain the situation without disrupting business operations? Being able to respond and remediate swiftly is a business critical requirement – it’s not just the damage of the attack that causes impact, but the time, effort and resource required to resolve post-attack. It was therefore exciting to hear and see first-hand how Cisco Security products are aligning and integrating. Traditional security designs would often end up as a mixture of different point solutions– each to meet an individual objective or task. Whereas the current architectural design is based on a centralised strategy, providing visibility, analytics, and leveraging the underlying network infrastructure to achieve a comprehensive end to end network security solution.


Craig McVeigh
Enterprise Networks Solutions Architect & Practice Lead