Cisco Live 2019

This year Cisco Live was held in sunny San Diego. Between the breakout sessions, the walk-in labs, and an amazing performance by Weezer and the Foo Fighters, Cisco announced some new products and new certifications.

Here is my list of some standout highlights from Cisco live:

Certification Overhaul

To those who have been tirelessly studying for the last few months, myself included, news that the current certification tracks will be overhauled invoked both fear and lit a fire under us to complete our certifications before the overhaul.

Come February 2020 the Cisco exams we all know will radically change. From a high level Cisco is getting rid of the CCENT certification, consolidating all CCNA tracks into a single over-arching CCNA exam, overhauling each of the CCNP tracks by only requiring a core and specialty exam in each track, and replacing the CCIE Route/switch exam with a new CCIE Entriprise Infrastructure exam while simultaneously refreshing all other CCIE tracks. (man that was a mouthful) With the exception of the CCENT, all old certifications passed before February 24th 2020 will be converted to the equivalent new certification, so no need to retake certifications you already passed.

In addition to these changes, Cisco has introduced a DevNet track. Now those of you who have a software engineering and automation background can be officially certified. As Cisco continues its trend to open access to its software with APIs, this DevNet track is increasingly becoming more relivant.

Broadsoft Realized

About a year or so ago Cisco acquired Broadsoft, a competing cloud PBX system with a contact center solution. (Something Cisco’s own Cloud PBX system was lacking) Over the last year and a half we hadn’t really seen anything released from Cisco regarding all this new IP they acquired…Until Now!

At Cisco’s Collaboration Village, they spent the week demoing what they are calling the new “Webex Calling”, not to be confused with their existing Webex Calling feature. And a cloud contact center solution with direct integrations with SalesForce and other CRMs.

On the hardware side, Cisco showed off their new line of wired and wireless headsets, an 85inch Webex board and a cool new feature for those of us with Webex boards and a traditional video unit in the same conference room. This new feature is called Companion mode and allows the video unit and Webex board to be combined into a cohesive collaboration unit. Very cool indeed.

DNA Spaces

On the enterprise infrastructure side, Cisco has continued to refresh their all encompassing Catalyst line. With the launch of the Catalyst 9600 (replacing the old 6500 series chassis), for the first time Cisco has completely refreshed their switching line and brought them all under a single family, the 9000 series switches. With port bandwidths ranging from 1 to 100 Gbps, the 9600 is a chassis switch designed to operate at the core layer. The 9600 uses the same programmable ASICs as the rest of the 9000 family, and is designed with SD-Access inmind for those looking at a DNA Center solution.

Speaking of DNA, Cisco gave a sneak peek into a new standalone product called Cisco DNA Spaces. For those of you familiar with CMX you will understand what DNA Spaces is. Built to provide location based analysis, and business insights for the new Wifi 6 APs, DNA Spaces works with both the new Catalyst 9100 series APs and the Meraki APs.

Cloud Security of the Future

As cloud based applications slowly consume us all the reality to break the centralized internet model and provide local internet access at each branch site is becoming a necessity. This new business requirement poses a new security headache; how are we going to distribute our security policies? In the past we had to buy a firewall for every site and either locally, or hopefully centrally manage the policies. This could be fine if you have five sites, but for say retailers with 8000 sites, this becomes a hassle. Enter the Cisco Umbrella team!

The Cisco Umbrella team, known for DNS based security, has broadened their…Umbrella. (yes, I’m the worst) They unveiled two new features under their service, a cloud based web proxy and a layer 3/4 firewall. The firewall is set to release sometime in the fall, with the web proxy released shortly after that.

The way the cloud firewall works is an IPSec tunnel is established between each branch to the cloud firewall and all your internet traffic is sent to the firewall providing “centralized” outbound firewall services. The keyword here is outbound; they will not host inbound services on the firewall. This service works with any peering device that supports IPSec, so this mean any router including and 3rd party router, can peer with this service.

But what about my remote clients, isnt the idea to promote workplace mobility? This is where the Web Proxy comes into play. Using the Anyconnect client, a new always-on Web Proxy module will be introduced so that all HTTP/HTTPS traffic will be redirected to Umbrella. This is similar to how their DNS proxy module works today.

Final thoughts

As Cisco Live 2019 has come and gone, it’s easy to get lost in the fun of it all. Between the free swag, the scavenger hunts, the happy hours, and did I mention the kick ass concert by Weezer and the Foo Fighters, it was no doubt a fun week away from work. But beyond all this, Cisco showed this week that they are committed to continuing to innovate and restructure their services as the market changes. Cisco is there to help us Build A Bridge to Possible.

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