Bob Martin is a Business Development Manager at Cisco with a focus on SD-WAN and intent-based networks. In this Q&A, he talks about the current trends in enterprise networks, common use cases for SD-WAN, and how Wi-Fi 6 can improve user experience

1. How do you think Cisco stands out from its competitors & other vendors in the networking space? What are they doing differently? 

BM: Technology, of course, for over 30 years! But that is a given. We’ve come a long way from our roots as a hardware company with recent advancements in areas such as software, automation, and cybersecurity. What really makes us stand out is our extensive partner ecosystem—our partners share our vision and invest with Cisco to deliver solutions for our customers to meet their business outcomes.

I mean, continuous innovation from a technology standpoint is great, but without our partner ecosystem’s ability to uniquely design, deliver, train, and help end-users adopt the technology, our customers would not realize the business benefits required to justify their investment.

2. What are some current trends we’re seeing in Enterprise Networks that you anticipate making the most impact in 2019?

BM: There’s a lot happening in the networking space right now—things are moving fast! Emerging technologies such as SD-WAN and WiFi-6 are becoming the norm for organizations on their digital transformation journey. It’s all about simplicity and scalability. Cisco and our partners will deliver solutions that will help our customers realize improved employee and customer experiences, agility, and of course, cost savings.

3. You mentioned SD-WAN – what are some of the common use cases you’re seeing? Which industries do you feel are reaping the most benefits

BM: As organizations move more of their business applications to the cloud and more devices are connected to the network, performance and security are becoming much more of a priority and part of the conversation up front—these are not only IT careabouts anymore, but also for operations and for Lines of Business.

I remember a conversation I had recently with Will Kerr, a technical architect at CDW. He agreed that security is becoming a priority in these conversations. He told me that “customers want more secure connections, usually with multiple cloud environments, and so we [CDW] see Cisco’s new integrated security features for SD-WANas an important differentiator.” It’s amazing to have this kind of support from our partner community. We are blown away.

With SD-WAN, any organization that needs the flexibility to open new locations, move locations or set up a disaster recovery site, they can do so without waiting months for each site to be configured individually. Or if a school needs to roll out new student or teacher devices in a short period of time because they’re leveraging a digital curriculum. I think one of the biggest differentiators is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach with Cisco SD-WAN, there’s a lot of scalability within our solution.

3. How can an organization tell if they are ready to deploy the solution?

BM: Typically if an organization has three or more locations and is leveraging SaaS applications, or they’re concerned about the current costs of their legacy WAN (MPLS) Network, they are ready for SD-WAN. But ultimately it depends on the desired business outcomes or goals, and the degree of customization you are looking for.

For smaller organizations or those with lean IT, that’s where a solution like Cisco Meraki can provide tremendous value.

4. Switching gears, there’s been a lot of talk recently around Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax which you referenced earlier—what is it, and why should customers care? How does it differ from the current wireless standard

BM: With every new Wi-Fi standard comes a significant improvement in speed. Wi-Fi 6 is no different. It is up to three times faster than 802.11ac [the current standard], which improves the user experience and the performance of bandwidth-hungry applications such as voice, video, and collaboration technologies.

We’re also hearing a lot of buzz around 5G. Wi-Fi 6 and 5G are actually built on the same fundamental wireless technology foundation and thus will bring some of the similar benefits.  In the future Wi-Fi and cellular won’t be an either-or choice … both are hugely critical for the future of wireless, and for the future of businesses.

5 .Where do you see the partnership between CDW and Cisco going, specifically around these networking innovations and advancements happening in the market

BM: Cisco launched its intent-based networking (IBN) vision a little less than two years ago when we announced the Catalyst 9k.  In that time, we have entirely reinvented our network portfolio and created an end-to-end architecture—all powered by software via Cisco DNA Center. 

But we are historically a partner-first organization: CDW has and will continue to invest in delivering tailored solutions to our customers as we continue to evolve as a company and continue our IBN journey. We want to ensure businesses are getting maximum benefit from these new technologies and our partner experts like CDW who help customers plan, design, and implement their transformation are immensely valuable to us and the technology industry overall.

To learn more about how Cisco and CDW can help you digitally transform your network, visit CDW.ca/Cisco

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