Feature Story

Cisco has the edge with artificial intelligence and machine learning

by Stephanie Chan

Cisco has the edge with artificial intelligence and machine learn

The first AI@Cisco Day invites experts to speak about the company's newest innovations.

From cars to computers, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are quickly becoming embedded in every piece of new technology. Cisco has long worked with both AI and ML, and the company's experts came together on July 11th to showcase exactly what they have been working on.

The first inaugural AI@Cisco Day was hosted by Cisco's VP of Partner Solutions, Architecture and Engineering Nirav Sheth and VP of Growth Initiatives and Chief of Staff to the CEO Ruba Borno. 2,000 people joined worldwide in person and via Cisco TV; and over 400 partners participated in the day. Some speakers included NVIDIA's VP of Solutions for Architecture and Engineering Marc Hamilton and Cisco's CTO of Services Software, Systems and Operations Antonio Nucci.

Cisco has the edge

Both Sheth and Borno opened the day by saying Cisco's edge in the AI and ML game is in the way the company can use it to automate and optimize IT infrastructure. By tying IT performance to business performance, Cisco can excel in the places customers really care about—like control over how their applications are performing and bringing machine learning closer to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Cisco's edge in AI and ML is also in the huge amount of data that comes through the company. Here's just a small sample of the types of data that Cisco sees every day: blocking 20 billion cybersecurity threats, DNA Assurance capturing 5 billion data points from 16 different variables across the network, and AppDynamics capturing over 1 trillion events. The company employs top tier talent who understand artificial intelligence and machine learning. They are what the leaders call "luminaries," ranging from VPs to Distinguished Engineers to individual contributors who hold over 400 patents in the field collectively.

The two leaders spoke about how it's a crucial time for the company to invest in artificial intelligence tech. Like the cars and computers incorporating AI and ML, many startups are also using the tech from the beginning and disrupting older models. IDC reports that by 2019, 75 percent of developers will build AI functionality into their apps this yearTractica reports that the global machine learning market is expected to grow over 44 percent by 2022.

"Gartner predicts by 2020, AI will be a top five investment priority for more than 30 percent of CIOs," said Borno, "We're at an inflection point in the industry and Cisco has a disproportionate role to play."

See also: AI and security- the arms race

The opportunity for Cisco, said Sheth, is in two ways— first by embedding AI into everything we do, and by harnessing the power of AI. Cisco already embeds artificial intelligence in technologies like our Webex Assistant technology, in Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA), and how the threat research team Talos operates. Through video and analytics, Cisco harnesses the power of AI.

"We are on the cusp of something completely amazing right now," said Sheth.

AI and ML innovation in Cisco tech

Audience members were able to see the ways Cisco has implemented AI and ML into its work, and how these were already creating exceptional outcomes.

The afternoon part of the day was split into two tracks- a technical track and a sales track. The technical track showcased where AI is being used "behind the scenes" in Cisco—helping speed up root cause analysis in its supply chain, catching coding bugs faster and assigning customer service cases more efficiently. It also included tutorials on how to get started learning and using machine learning and deep learning quickly. The goal was to help Cisco's sales team and partners understand all of the AI embedded in products that are already being sold or soon to be sold. These include ETA, AppDynamics, and Webex Assistant.


Encrypted traffic analytics (ETA) is one of Cisco's latest innovations—it allows businesses and organizations to find threats and malicious activity in encrypted traffic. As more data flows through networks, it leaves room for malware to make its way in. ETA allows the analysis of traffic without decryption to see if there is any malware. Telemetry and machine learning algorithms are used to discover the distinctions between good and "bad" traffic patterns.


The foundation of Cisco-acquired AppDynamics is the Business Transaction, a service that pairs business metrics with machine learning to find problems in data quickly. For example, if one button like "Add to Cart" is slow, AppDynamics can find the root cause of that issue. 

Webex Assistant

One of the newer additions to the suite of Webex collaboration tools is Webex Assistant, an artificial intelligence-powered solution for meeting management. You can use it with voice commands to get calls started, to find people in the directory, and control volume levels. Cisco principal engineer in the office of the CTO and number one inventor in the Collaboration group Keith Griffin took the stage to demonstrate Webex Assistant. Griffin asked Webex to turn on, to locate Ruba Borno from the directory, and to call her—all of which it accomplished seamlessly.

First inaugural AI@Cisco Day

This AI-based event came from the mind of Sheth, with Borno being a active sponsor of the AI and ML affinity group within Cisco.  The leaders were eager to show attendees how Cisco is adding AI capabilities across the portfolio. Talks from partners and experts within the company helped inspire those listening to come up with new use cases.

New innovation can be exciting to explore, and AI@Cisco Day gave participants the opportunity to do that exploration. At the end of the day, the leaders conveyed what they ultimately wanted was using AI and ML to create a more secure and connected world.

To download any of the presentations or watch replays, please visit the SalesConnect AI@Cisco Day Hub: https://salesconnect.cisco.com/#/program/HUB-12780


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