Published: July 21st, 2017

Calgary-based Long View Systems has been a top Canadian partner of Cisco for a number of years. So when Cisco introduced its groundbreaking new adaptive network intuitive platform just last month, the organization had a few thoughts on how this could change the networking sector, both in general and in the great white north.

Our reporter Mandy Kovacs had a chance to sit down with Justin Cohen, a solution architect at Long View and team lead for service delivery in central and eastern Canada, while attending Cisco Live at the end of June to talk about this announcement.

(Questions and answers have been lightly edited for flow and clarity)

CDN Now: Cisco has officially unveiled its new network intuitive platform. What is your initial reaction?

Justin Cohen: At Long View, we want to elevate any conversation beyond just technology, and look at them from a business perspective. So for us, Cisco’s new direction toward programmable intent and context in this new intuitive network, it fits exactly into what we want to do. Rowan Trollope [Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of its IoT, collaborative technology, analytics, and developer platforms] said at Cisco Live that they are reinventing their business with intent that’s powered by context to get closer to their customers, and that’s a quantum shift in how we think about networking. We should be thinking about business applications from the get-go, and being able to program what your business wants into a network is fantastic. Before, context and intent were things we had to infer and think about, but now the network does it for us.

CDN Now: What’s new and/or unique about this?

Cohen: They’ve completely rewritten their operating system (OS) in creating the network intuitive platform, and that’s a huge feat. If you want to draw a parallel to that, look at years ago when Apple announced iOS 10, which was a complete rewrite from iOS 9. It wasn’t like they imported in and made some changes to some features or capabilities, it was a total rewrite from scratch and that’s what Cisco is doing now.

This network is a complete rewrite of their previous OS, and they’re making it a modular OS so they can start bolting on features that customers want. That’s how they’re enabling analytics, security, and all that stuff. They’re really thinking forward not only for what they need now but for the ability to connect things later – things that they haven’t even thought of yet. And they’ve done this before and it’s good to see them learning from the past. The last time they built a new OS, for example, they put extra space into the modular chip it to add new capabilities later. So in developing this, they looked at where they started to run out of space before and where they had reached their limits, and improved on that. They’ve made it programmable for the future.

CDN Now: What value does this bring to partners like Long View and your customers here in Canada?

Cohen: Where I think network intuitive really delivers value is the fact that Cisco is making it really easy and simple with the one-click model that they’re using for network intuitive. Partners can deliver value to customers much faster with less complex products, obviously. We’ve seem this simple one-click functionality in the small-to-medium-sized business market for a period of time, and customers love it.

That’s the first benefit. The second one is from a security perspective. The ability to do in depth analytics on encrypted traffic is huge. To give you a statistic, processing encrypted traffic on a network takes 10 times the effort because we need to decrypt it first, then analyze what’s inside, re-encrypt it, then send it on its way to whatever destination. And of course, 10 times the effort means it’s very expensive.

Additionally, Cisco is connecting all these security products to the new DNA Centre to give it the ability to catch malware inside encrypted traffic, and that’s unprecedented. It means we can do malware sensing all over the network, basically using the network as a sensor. We don’t have to send things to expensive decryption engines in order to decrypt it and check it; the network is a sensor and we can deliver a monolithic security umbrella over the entire network as a result, and with the ability to quarantine users, even in a large network like a hospital. The fact that Cisco is pushing that into a single interface where the customer can see those threats, that’s incredible. So I think it brings a bunch of security components together at a cheaper price and something that can be scaled easily.

And from a technical perspective, they’ve developed a system that is so programable and expandable, there will be capabilities coming out on the platform over the next few years that developers haven’t even thought of yet. They’re preparing for the future.

CDN Now: Do you foresee any issues or complications with such a large product offering?

Cohen: The biggest issue is as networks become so complex, and as network security becomes so complex, so has the complexities of managing those things. It makes it complicated for us as a partner to deliver to our clients because our people need to have amazing and specific skillsets to put it together, and customers need to have special skillsets to manage it all. So there’s a cost to all of that management and we don’t want to continue growing these management teams of people as our network grows and things get more complex. Partners and customers can’t just keep hiring more people. But on that note, this is an intuitive network that is simple to use and capable of learning as it works, so I don’t think these will be issues for long.

CDN Now: How will you be selling this in Canada?

Cohen: Well, in Canada, we don’t have a lot of 100,000-employee companies; we’re not like the US where they have massive banks, and massive insurance companies that have massive budgets.

That being said, I think we can demonstrate to customers the value of such a product through the reduction of long-term and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) costs. They may be spending a little more upfront on this software because new features come with a cost, let’s be fair, but they’ll likely save money down the road on OEM costs and for things like maintenance. And instead of having to hire new people to deal with this new product, this system is simple enough that you can do it with half the personnel.

And additionally, as a Cisco partner, Long View gives customers the ability to feed all this security data from the new network intuitive system into our security operation centre. We operate a certified network security centre where we analyze data feeds from security devices and react to our customer needs in real time. This helps us as a partner because now we can take this security data into our security operations centre and it gives us the ability to get our customers the answers they need quicker and deliver better value.

CDN Now: What industries will likely be early adopters of this?

Cohen: Long View has a lot of customers working within regulated environments, like in the utility and banking industries, which have very stringent security requirements, and I think we can deliver this well to those kinds of customers because of its great security features. The hydro electric market places security as a top priority, for example, and this will be big for them. The ability to program intent will also have a big impact for these industries, and it might speed up things like audits.

I could also see this being important to the manufacturing sector, which is big in Canada. As the network of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices grows and expands into industrial areas, we need more security controlling them and what other devices they talk to. It’s no longer a matter of separating manufacturing into the front office and the factory floor, because with everything connected, we can have malware that spreads within the facility between all devices, from front office computers to those involved in manufacturing. One piece of malware in a facility can cripple it. Look at food manufacturing plants, for example. If one of those facilities faces a malware attack, not only is that bad for the plant and for the company that owns it, but it can quickly turn into a public health issue as well. So this new intuitive network can help cut down on all those risks.