A very different Cisco Live customer event began today: Totally online, no pomp, blaring music or flashing lights and featuring a keynote address that hit upon global challenges outside the tech industry.
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said that 2020 has been a difficult and challenging year starting witih the COVID-19 pandemic and the fundamental change it brought upon all aspects of business, including a dramatic economic contraction and job losses.
Then, noting the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others that sparked national outrage and protests, Robbins said, "It reminds us of the need for dignity, respect, fairness, and equality, in all of our societies around the world."
Robbins said society's "own reckoning with deep-rooted, systemic racism and bigotry has brought to light centuries of inequality, injustice, and fragility underpinning our society for far too long."
“It is clear to me that our notions of corporate social responsibility, advocacy or even the most recent notion of stakeholder capitalism simply aren’t doing enough to care for our world,” Robbins said.
Cisco has donated some $500 million to a variety of COVID-19, justice and equality causes including a recent $5 million donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Black Lives Matter and other organizations fighting racism and discrimination.
With those daunting issues as a backdrop to the virtual conference with more than 120,000 registered to attend, Robbins said he was optimistic about the future.
Product announcements, too
On the technology side that means helping customers cope with rapid, major infrastructure changes, security issues and the evolution of software and applications, Robbins said.
In that vein Cisco rolled out a variety of initiatives targeting business faced with supporting multitudes of remote workers for the foreseeable future as well as helping business offices that have started to reopen.
For example a new feature in Cisco’s Webex system called Workspaces lets businesses set capacity limits on meeting spaces and provides visual, real-time notifications in Webex Control Hub if that capacity is exceeded.
Webex Control Hub features analytics that can gather details such as meeting-room usage to determine employee work patterns and schedule room cleanings or to reconfiguring of meeting spaces to accommodate more people, wrote Sandeep Mehra, vice president & general manager of Webex Rooms and Telepresence at Cisco in a blog about the new features. “This will prove an essential tool for going back to the office, empowering IT, facilities managers, and HR with critical insights into the office spaces,” he wrote.
The company has also embedded Webex Assistant in conference room phones and other devices so they can be controlled via hands-free voice commands, a key safety feature in the no-touch world of COVID-19.
Webex has seen its use more than triple from January through April with 500 million participants generating 25 billion meeting minutes, Cisco says. The vendor also says it has added 25,000 new enterprise Webex subscribers since February.
Cisco announced that its SecureX cloud-based security package will be available with all Cisco Security prodoucts by the end of June. The platform, announced earlier this year, is aimed in part at protecting resources used by remote workforces.
Cisco describes the SecureX service as offering an open, cloud-native system that will let customers detect and remediate threats using data gleaned from Cisco and third-party network, endpoint and cloud security products through a single interface. IT security teams can then automate and orchestrate security management across enterprise cloud, network, applications and end points.
“Overnight entire business models shifted to adapt to a world that became almost entirely virtual, and companies had to enable remote work at a scale that previously seemed unimaginable,” wrote Gee Rittenhouse senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Security Business Group in a blog about SecureX. “While this has ensured a level of business continuity, it also dramatically increased organizations’ attack surfaces.”
Also in the security realm, Cisco announced Cloud Mailbox Defense, a cloud-native email security platform for Office 365. The package looks at inbound, outbound and internal messages for evidence of email-based threats such as ransomware and phishing.