Cisco Systems is injecting generative AI into both its security and collaboration portfolios to the delight of channel partners.
The tech giant announced at Cisco Live 2023 that it was starting to harness large language models (LLMs) to help businesses ramp up productivity and automate simple tasks for their workforces. The opportunity around AI is huge because talent is at a high demand and security threats are getting worse, said Faisal Bhutto, senior vice president of cloud and cybersecurity for Cisco partner Calian Group.
“You can’t hire people fast enough and I think AI plays a tremendous role because the faster we are able to detect, the faster we’re able to contain and protect an organization from massive damage,” Bhutto said.
Generative AI, a “cool” emerging feature to a lot of customers, also opens the door to a reimagined collaboration experience, Bhutto said. “[Things like] using generative AI to write a summary to give us the high points instead of listening to a 90-minute meeting — imagine how easy life would be for [users],” he said. “Every single customer of ours is thinking about AI when it comes to their own innovation right now.”
Security Policy Management
Cisco took to the event to preview new generative AI capabilities for security policy management across the security ecosystem. It’s especially important as many businesses still employ multiple and disparate security tools, Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration, told CRN.
Cisco previewed how the virtual assistant can work with the existing firewall policy set to implement and simplify rules within the Cisco Secure Firewall Management Center. Patel said it is the first of many examples of how generative AI can be employed within Cisco Security Cloud.
“We were going to be investing very heavily in this notion of AI just being part of the fabric of everything, and especially security,” he said. “One of the big challenges we have in our industry is shortage of skill and talent, and we can make sure that every single person can become this very sophisticated user when they start using our products.”
Patel said that in addition to the new AI capabilities that will be baked into the company’s security portfolio, the ongoing progress within Cisco Security Cloud, the company’s platform approach to security, will also help as customers attempt to set and maintain policies across multiple secure access products, firewalls and cloud security tools.
For partners like Long View Systems, it’s a constant battle to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats and bad actors, said Lane Irvine, network business solutions director for Calgary, Alberta-based Long View. AI could have a significant impact on security, both for IT professionals and hackers, he added.
“Ultimately, if we’re not leading the charge with how we’re using AI to provide protection, then we’re going to fall behind,” Irvine said. “I think we’re going to see major changes over the next several years around AI and how it affects security.”
AI-Based Collaboration Capabilities
Cisco has been building AI into its collaboration portfolio right along, as evidenced by features in Webex such as noise cancellation, video framing, and call transcription, but Cisco’s announcements this week is taking AI integration into the next phase, said Joe Berger, area vice president of Digital Experiences for St. Louis-based Cisco Gold partner World Wide Technology.
“We’re seeing Cisco [ask] how does AI become a bit more intelligent, more proactive? Things like capturing meeting notes and doing best next action? I think customers are looking around [and asking], ‘Okay, how does AI start augmenting my workforce experience? How does it make my workers smarter, more productive and faster?’“ he said.
The Webex portfolio now includes generative AI-based conversational capabilities that allow users to give prompts and ask questions, such as “catch me up” to find out the status of a project or to learn what was discussed in a previous meeting or chat. Cisco said that the responses generated are based on data users have permission to access.
The company said that meeting summaries will also extend into Cisco’s video messaging tool, Vidcast, so that viewers can navigate to relevant parts of the video quickly.
New conversation summaries in Webex Contact Center will give agents a quicker, more automated way to consume long-form text from digital chats with customers. The summaries will also help with post-call wrap-up and resolution with customers, Cisco revealed.
Augmenting the agent experience will deliver a better customer experience that end users are looking for because the call center has turned into a customer engagement center, Berger said.
“As customers start to move into different styles of workflows and omni-channel, how can AI start augmenting? Maybe not everything’s a voice call anymore, or maybe it’s more of a chat. I think you’ll start seeing AI take over a lot more in those spaces and the experience has to be personalized,” he said.