Now is the time for IT professionals and channel partners to build out more robust technology infrastructures to prepare for whatever comes next -- and as the COVID 19 pandemic proved, no one really knows what comes next, according to Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.
"Many of you have the air cover and the ability to actually go tackle some of the architectural debt we have in some organizations," Robbins told an audience of more than 120,000 IT professionals and channel partners that attended the Cisco Live 2020 digital event on Tuesday. "Unless you're dead in the epicenter [of COVID-19], you have permission," he said.
IT professionals and partners need to start at the infrastructure level, including making appropriate changes to the WAN, moving to cloud-managed networks, and injecting automation along the way. Executives will probably travel less frequently, and many businesses won't bring back all their employees to a central site. IT professionals have to make sure their teams or clients feel empowered to work from anywhere and continue to effectively collaborate with each other, because that pandemic has shown us that remote working "is working," Robbins said.
To that end, Cisco on Tuesday launched a Business Resiliency portfolio that targets specific industries, such as education and healthcare. The portfolio includes distance learning, remote contact center, flexible remote access and secure remote worker solutions. The suite also includes a temporary connected field hospital solution; a packaged IT infrastructure kit that includes wireless networking technology to access data, voice and video, integrated network security and deployment guidance and support. The temporary connected field hospital kit was developed by Cisco, closely with partners who had experience supporting temporary hospitals, such as the NHS Nightingale field hospital in the U.K. and the University of Maryland Medical System in the U.S. Cisco said.
The new Business Resiliency portfolio also includes a new Social Density Monitoring and Insights capability to help businesses support social distancing in the workplace. This feature is built on Cisco's DNA Spaces and will be available beginning in July, the company said.
"Challenging times are where innovation comes," Robbins said. "When we're in need, we try to solve problems and we want to use these opportunities because all of you are problem solvers at heart, and we've certainly been given some big problems to solve recently," he told partners and IT professionals.
The future of work might be changing, but Cisco’s partner strategy is not, according to the tech giant’s global channel chief, Oliver Tuszik. Cisco plans on working hand-in-hand with partners, despite the current economic downturn, to promote channel profitability, he said.
Cisco and its partners at the start of the pandemic were selling security and collaboration, but the market has moved into a different phase as most businesses have tools like WebEx and VPNs in place. Now, businesses are getting conservative and spending is slowing down globally. To help partners during the sales slump, Cisco is working on new offers – like the Business Resiliency portfolio – as well as financing options powered by Cisco Capital to help businesses recover faster, Tuszik said.
The tech giant in April announced its Business Resiliency Program would extend $2.5 billion in financing to help businesses invest in the IT solutions they need to keep their businesses running and productive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are preparing for the future,” Tuszik said. “The new normal will be better for us because [customers] will need more IT and there will be higher demand.”
Cisco has been at the forefront of the pandemic with free solutions to help businesses and their employees get up and running from home. The tech giant in March expanded the capabilities on its free Webex offer in all countries where it is available, and offered unlimited usage or no time restrictions and support for up to 100 participants. The Cisco Webex platform, which now includes calling, video, and messaging all in one place, had more than 500 million meeting participants and logged more than 25 billion meeting minutes in April, according to Cisco.
In security, Cisco in March extended free licenses and expanded usage counts at no extra charge for three of its security technologies, including Cisco Umbrella, Cisco's Duo Security offering, and Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client. Robbins said these free offerings will extend as long as businesses need them.