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Thu 8 Feb 2018 05:24 PM

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Connecting all the dots: the transfer of information and workflows to cloud services is gathering pace

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins outlines what that means for businesses and governments

Connecting all the dots: the transfer of information and workflows to cloud services is gathering pace
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins.

In its latest Cisco Global Cloud Index, released last week, the US networking giant predicted that by 2021, 94 percent of all workloads in the public and private sector will run on some form of cloud environment.

Global cloud data centre traffic is predicted to reach 19.5 zettabytes (1ZB is equal to 1trn GB) per year by 2021, up from 6.0 ZB per year in 2016 –  a 27 percent compound annual growth rate from 2016 to 2021. By 2021, Cisco also expects IoT connections to reach 13.7 billion, up from 5.8 billion in 2016.

The implications of this new cloud-based world are vast. The data deluge has to be managed and harvested for information. Threats across the network have to be foiled faster than ever before. And virtually all public and private sector entities will need to figure out how to utilise the potential that a fast, secure and intuitive platform gives their business.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins outlined the potential for a networked world to Arabian Business on a visit to Dubai late last year.

On the challenges facing Cisco’s customers as they move to cloud services...

Everyone is building networks in a massive way. It’s like plumbing, where people just expect it to be there.

Our customers are navigating a world that involves public cloud services, SAS services, private data centre services, the internet of things (IoT), as well as an explosion of edge connections [IoT data that is processed closer to where it is created instead of being sent across long routes to data centres or cloud], so they are moving to an environment where there are no perimeters and the only common denominator across all that technology is the network.

The reality in all this is that there isn’t a single “cloud”. Our customers find they have multiple providers, so what they thought was a move to simplify their life has not happened that way. Cisco’s ability to help our customers manage policy and security in that world is pretty important. We’re trying to help our customers create a secure, intelligent platform for digital transformation, which is what everything starts from.

The way we think about it is that we have five pillars that are fundamentally reinventing the ways networks are built and operated. The first is starting with a robust security architect. The second is re-imagining how networks operate in the future.

The third is helping our customers manage policy and security across this multi-cloud environment. The fourth is giving our customers greater insights from the data coming across their technology infrastructure. And the fifth is helping our customers help their customers have a different experience. Those principles shape everything we do.

Cisco launched its Dubai Innovation and Experience Center (IXC) in November

On the need for instant data access...

The networks of the last 30 years will not accommodate the future world. Our customers need to move faster with a higher degree of automation and they need to have instant access to the data. If you ship all that information to a public cloud and process it there, you’ve lost an opportunity because of the time lost in that process. For example, we’ve worked with TomTom to get their traffic updates from 12 minutes down to 11 seconds. This is a foundational component for autonomous vehicles where you need real-time information.

We’ve got mining operations, such as Barrick Gold Corporation in Canada, where they have connected everything to the network. We’re aggregating that data so they can do predictive maintenance checks, and the efficiency of operations goes through the roof when you do this.

We built hyper-location services, which means the wireless network knows within a metre where you are. So in a retail environment, if a customer pauses to look at an advertisement then you can instantly send them a coupon to their mobile device.

In healthcare you have staff, visitors and equipment all connected to the network and a different profile has to be created for each component. By creating an automation capability policy, the healthcare provider can define every profile to automatically segment within  the network.

On networks that teach themselves...

We blow out 20 billion cyber threats per day. It’s six times more than Google does searches. We’ve create architecture that is able to correlate all those threats and automatically upgrade the security on your mobile device to stay ahead of the game. We had some unbelievably talented engineers who spent two years figuring out how to find malware inside encrypted traffic without decrypting it.

This is complicated stuff, but then we are talking about running the internet.


Innovation centres

Last November, Cisco launched an Innovation and Experience Center (IXC) in Dubai to serve as a hub for open innovation and showcase what is possible with digital transformation.

The $10m facility is part of a global network of Cisco Innovation Centers and hubs and will work closely with the network and Cisco’s partner ecosystem to push forward new ideas and foster creative approaches that improve business outcomes for local and global organisations.

Beyond showcasing Cisco’s latest solutions, the facility features demonstration labs, where Cisco and its partners are developing solutions adapted to the specific needs of industries in the region. Sectors include healthcare, retail, education, hospitality, transportation, utilities, banking and financial services, and oil and gas.

The centre is the eleventh such facility for Cisco worldwide, and will also support Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) programme for the UAE, one of sixteen CDA’s worldwide which aim to support national digitisation agendas.

Networking academies

Cisco’s Global Academy recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. In that time it has educated 7.8 million students in 170 countries, and there are currently 1.1 million students enrolled in its programmes around the world. In the UAE alone, there are 45 network academies with 3,000 students, 42 percent of whom are female.

Government collaborations

Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration Programmes (CDAs) are active in 16 countries, helping governments execute their visions for development. Fields of interest include working towards smart cities, delivering better healthcare and education and tackling cybercrime.

Here in the UAE they’re talking about everything from healthcare, citizen experience, efficient government and education, to logistics, transportation and tourism. And specifically in Dubai the three-year Smart programme will finish in 2020, tying in with Expo’s launch.

The programme has been built off the Vision 2021 programme. And this will be followed by more partnerships for further three year cycles that help take citizens to the next stage of prosperity.


Arabian Business Exclusive

Are we ethically ready for AI?

Ayman Alashkar, founder & CEO of OBOTEO, a Dubai-based AI solutions company

I think we all have to start accepting that humans and autonomous machines need to get used to coexisting in a work, domestic and perhaps even social environment within the near-term future.

So, here’s a question that is gnawing at me: it’s believed that our collective group intelligence is highly correlated to the social intelligence of the group’s members. If that is the case, how evolved is our social intelligence when it comes to the treatment of artificially intelligent robots, and therefore how ready are we to incorporate AI into our organisations?

There has been plenty of discussion on how we should design AI programmes that behave ethically towards us, but there’s a lack of discussion on how ethical we should be towards AI programmes.

For all the hypothetical discussions covering human-machine interaction, I find that there’s an underlying fact that’s rarely ever considered.

We are a species that still doesn’t know how to interact with each other harmoniously. We go to war with each other across the globe. We draw lines demarcating our differences. We assimilate into groups along lines of “us” and “them”, and we are afraid of anything that is “different”.  I know we aren’t all to blame for our faults as a species, and we certainly prefer to think of ourselves as part of the solution rather than the problem, but let’s say it like it is: it’s a fact.

So, what’s going to happen when humans adopt that same behaviour – which we’ve been exhibiting throughout our history – in our interactions with the artificially intelligent robots about to permeate our lives? Since we do it to each other, surely it’s inevitable that we’ll be doing it to robots, no matter how much we try to design them to endear themselves to us?

The technology behind AI is only going to make robots smarter with time. In the near-term, AI is going to become capable of reasoning. When it does, how will AI react to the treatment it receives at the hands of some humans? Will there be a framework governing how humans can and cannot behave with AI? What happens when the rules are broken? What will the consequences be? Who will enforce them? Will humans find themselves having to make judgements in favour of machines, against the interests of other humans?

If you have two work colleagues, one a human bully the other a humanoid robot victim, how will you react if the former intentionally causes harm to the latter?

We need to consider these questions as we rush to implement AI, because we are still evolving in this space. My concern is that if social intelligence is highly correlated to group intelligence, and we haven’t yet developed with regards to our treatment of AI, then organisationally and individually, we should be ready to endure some pretty painful lessons.