Mingis on Tech: What Cisco announced at Cisco Live

Cisco is a company in transition as it looks to move beyond its networking roots into areas as diverse as security, mobile, the Internet of Things and the now "intent-based networking."

(That last one isn't quite as futuristic as it sounds.)

Network World's Brandon Butler has been at Cisco Live this week, keeping tabs on what the company is up to -- something that's not easy when there are 28,000 people in attendance and 1 million square feet of exhibition space. He filled in Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis on the details.

The big news? Actually, that came last week and involves intent-based networking. IBNS, as it's known, uses machine learning to automatically program a network based on user needs. In a nutshell, the system allows IT to define detailed policies for a corporate network and have a software platform that executes -- and even maintains -- that desired state. 

Although IBNS as a concept has been around for years, said Butler, it's the arrival and refinement of machine learning that makes the system a more realistic possibility. That said, the hardware-software combo needed for all the pieces to fit together is unlikely to be in place before about 2020.

Other highlights included talk about programmable switches and a surprise appearance Monday by Apple CEO Tim Cook, who talked about the ongoing Cisco/Apple partnership. It's a symbiotic relationship: Apple is trying to break into the enterprise through partnerships with the  likes of Cisco, IBM, SAP and others; Cisco sees an opportunity to help its networking customers better manage employees and provide a more secure network.

The two companies announced a new Cisco security app that will be available on iOS later this year, and unveiled plans to find savings for customers buying cyber insurance -- if they use Apple and Cisco products.

To sum up: Cisco is at a pivot point as it tries to transition from a hardware to a software company; positions itself as something of a security company; and works to integrate the growth in cloud, IoT and mobile computing with corporate network needs.

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