Our insight


It’s argued that there is a place for both SD-WAN and MPLS in modern WANs. But we’re backing SD-WAN and for good reason...

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The term disruptive gets bandied about a lot these days - seemingly for anything involving a couple of clicks or an app - but while the term is overused, it's a very real phenomenon. Ask Kodak or Blockbuster, who went from market leaders to market leavers when technology undercut their business models.

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At the start of the month I was at Cisco Live in Barcelona: an entire week of presentations, workshops, networking and general hobnobbing among Cisco, its partners and IT professionals. I've been before, but this year I was with fellow solution architects Daren Vallyon and Adrian Clarke - a strong showing from Ideal.

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SD - should this stand for security disaster?

We're often talking about software-defined networking (SDN), and how the latest generation of hardware has the intelligence to simplify the provisioning and management of networks. Added brains bring the ability to support new security features like Cisco TrustSec, but we've also moved away from the labour-intensive configuration of individual devices, and towards simplified, centralised administration.

That's great for convenience, allowing admins to configure and support branch networks from a single controller, but if there's a weakness in the system, or if an unauthorised user gains access, isn't software definition a disaster waiting to happen? Does SDN actually stand for security disaster networking? We asked network solutions architect Richard Harvey and senior cyber security consultant Adrian Clarke to put our minds at rest.

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It's a few weeks since Cisco announced the next step in its journey toward simplifying and automating network provisioning and management: Cisco DNA Centre. Building on the APIC-EM, which we've been using for a while to help configure intelligent wide-area networks (iWAN), Cisco promises that DNA Centre will be a transformative tool in network design, provisioning, policy management, and support. It's up to people like me to work out whether and when that promise will be fulfilled.

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I've already written a bit about segregating enterprise networks, and about the new technologies that are making this easier and more effective. As Ideal's solution architect for networks it's something I get asked about a lot, so I thought it might be helpful to look at this from the customer point of view. You can probably boil it down to three questions: Do I need to segregate?, What do I need to segregate? and How do I segregate?

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For a long time, technology has existed in silos: hosted, cloud-based, on-premises, data centres, LANs v WANs v SANs - and that's before you even start to consider all the different proprietary brands, operating systems, backends and consoles it takes to make the average IT operation operate - some manufacturers can't even make all their own products talk to each other. But something interesting is happening with APIs, and the walls between systems are, perhaps, beginning to come down.

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We've looked before at how the public cloud, for all its benefits, isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. From concerns about data security and sovereignty, to my own thoughts about the challenge of managing data and applications across providers, it's clearly not a panacea.

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We've talked a lot about software-defined networking (SDN) and the increasingly intelligent network hardware that enables it. Lately, fellow solutions architect Daren Vallyon and I have been trying to provide a bit more detail about how Cisco is innovating in both areas, with technologies like Digital Network Architecture (DNA) and Campus Fabric.

Our take on the details might be interesting to fellow technologists, but what if you're trying to build the business case for your organisation to invest in new networking technologies?

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We all know the Internet of Things (IoT) is coming, but a recent conversation made me realise that for some of us, it's already arrived. A colleague here mentioned that he'd got something like 20 connected devices on his home network. That seemed a bit of a stretch, so he listed them. After we'd enumerated computers (5), phones and tablets (5), Kindles (2), Audio and TV kit (4), network hardware (4), IP cameras (2) and a printer, we'd arrived at 23 devices, all on a single home network.

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Our series of interviews with women who work in IT and the technology sector was started by co-founder Claire. It's a response, in part, to the lack of female applicants for our job vacancies - a particular problem when it comes to technical, hands-on roles.

Marena Karasevich has just such a job: she's a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and a 2017 Cisco Champion, responsible for network design and maintenance at a Canadian college. What advice can she offer women looking for a similar role?

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