More integrations between different parts of Cisco’s extensive portfolio in networking and security, combined with as-a-service consumption models meant to make customers’ lives a lot easier.
For years, Cisco events were mainly about adding new features, products, services and often entire acquired companies to the portfolio. This has resulted in an extensive and very powerful platform that you can use in any way you want as an organization. One consequence of this was that the portfolio could appear rather complex and confusing. The hybrid world organizations are moving towards add even more complexity. Organizations have moved towards a distributed and hybrid infrastructure, not to mention the impact that hybrid working has on their IT environments.
So some of the complexity has been created by Cisco itself, some is the result of general market developments. The good news from Cisco is that because of the important role it plays in these developments, the company can therefore also help solve them. Chuck Robbins, Cisco’s CEO, promises to do just that during the keynote: “We want to simplify the things we do with customers. We’re working hard on that, and we’ve made some good strides in doing so.” He is also refreshingly honest when he points out that while Cisco has made some progress, it really needs to improve. Among other things, he mentions simplifying licensing and merging the various platforms that Cisco has on offer.
Meraki and Catalyst merge
To counter the negative side effects of more than a decade of progress, Nightingale (and Cisco) made a big announcement during Cisco Live. In fact, it was the biggest announcement of Cisco Live. Not the most surprising by the way, because it was inevitably coming, but a very important one. Cisco is going to merge Meraki and Catalyst. That is, it will ensure that Catalyst products can be managed and monitored from Meraki’s cloud platform. In doing so, Cisco says it is merging the number one cloud-managed networking platform with the number one campus networking platform.
Mind you, it doesn’t mean that the current ways to manage and connect Catalyst hardware will be retired. There will still be support for Catalyst hardware from (on-premises) DNA Center. Customers and partners can also continue to use CLI to do the management. Lastly, all Catalyst hardware that has come to market since the introduction of the Catalyst 9000 series can become part of the new management environment.
Is this merger good news for everyone?
Merging Meraki and Catalyst may be a good and timely move on paper. However, what does it mean in practice? Also, how will the market react to this merger? It’s not hard to imagine that not everyone will be happy with this. Partners and organizations have been using Catalyst for a long time now. Changing how they monitor and manage that platform is quite fundamental. We wouldn’t be surprised if many of them want to continue to use Catalyst hardware in the old way.
There are several reasons for this. The first is that until at least a few years ago, Meraki had an SMB/SME focus at Cisco as far as we know. As such, the Enterprise Networking division and the Meraki division are two different parts of the company. That must affect the capabilities that Meraki offers versus what Catalyst offered and is offering. The second reason is that many partners have created a business model around the ‘complex’ nature of Catalyst management. They don’t want to give that up.
In time, these two parts will undoubtedly move (even further) towards each other. This will not be the case immediately at launch. In any event, Cisco will be more in the driver’s seat moving forward, according to Nightingale. That is, the new offering won’t be about having as many features as possible anymore. “We don’t necessarily want to try to be feature-complete, but use-case complete”, he states. This probably means that the number of features will decrease. Nightingale more or less confirms that. He gives a (hypothetical) example that the new environment may well reduce the way you do a specific configuration from twelve ways to two ways.