Cisco helps customers understand risks of a poor digital user experience

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Hard on the heels of my Observability discussion with eG Innovations I caught up with Carlos Pereira, Fellow and Chief Architect, Strategy, Incubation and Applications at Cisco to get his take on what Observability is all about.

Over the past 5- or 6-years Cisco has been on quite an acquisition spree in this space. There were those like Perspica, Epsagon and Replex designed to add enhanced machine learning, observability and Kubernetes management capabilities to its AppDynamics acquisition and then there was ThousandEyes which gave it a pretty unique, and very powerful view into public internet and cloud networks and how to get the best out of them.

Carlos presented a slide showing Cisco’s strategically important Full Stack Observability (FSO) architecture foundation. This indicates a very broad set of capabilities, developed in-house, across cloud and legacy environments that should cover most customers’ FSO requirements. There was a certain reluctance to discuss the challenges of integrating the various technology acquisitions into the coherent, integrated whole as pictured, but a strong statement that all the solutions are delivering now.

Refreshingly, a great deal of attention was focused on the importance, in today’s on-line world, of delivering an excellent digital user experience that drives business outcomes-based service level objectives and indicators. Others pay lip service to this or have customer examples that don’t yet demonstrate genuine business-oriented success metrics. But Cisco was able to share a genuine, in-production, banking example (albeit with the customer’s name redacted) of a contactless cash withdrawal journey that was highlighting a poor user experience (the overall customer transaction was taking too long to complete). All the elements in the journey were shown, enabling the operations team to quickly identify where and then why specific components of either hardware or software were impacting the overall user experience and getting them fixed.

While the platform, and the approach appears more oriented towards operations rather than development, which might make supporters of some cloud native observability tools dismissive, Cisco has been quick to recognise, and commit to, the benefits of using OpenTelemetry. This had one particularly surprising revelation for me…the fact that it can take mainframe logs and convert it very simply into an OpenTelemetry format to be ingested into an observability data pipeline for analysis. That really is full stack observability.

A much deeper dive into the functionality of all the FSO architecture components would be needed to be able to provide a comprehensive update. But it is fair to say that Cisco has come a long way in a short period of time. AppDynamics was (still is) a strong performer in the APM (Application Performance Management) market. ThousandEyes is a genuinely innovative service that has helped close the visibility gap into cloud networks and Cisco’s smaller acquisitions have helped position it as a genuine FSO contender.

What makes Cisco stand out is the way it is working with customers to help them understand business risks, prioritise services accordingly and deliver a business event driven view of infrastructure performance across a very diverse technology stack.