Cisco’s DevNet alters collaboration playing field

Finally there's a software defined network that provides a platform for building a shared narrative layer.

cisco devnet create! classroom
American Presswire/Ahsan Awan

It’s easy to get typecast in the tech industry. Flagship products and services often become the focal point for how we know and relate to companies and brands. Intel is known for processors, but a closer look at both the company’s website and google search results quickly proves otherwise. The same goes for Microsoft, Oracle and many others.

Cisco Systems is known for its gold standard networking hardware. When people think of Cisco, they tend to think of routers and switches. However, the company is much more than that. Cisco is also a software company.

Cisco owns DevNet, a developer community led by the one of the tech industry’s brightest and most inspiring women, Cisco VP Susie Wee. She also serves as DevNet’s CTO. At Cisco’s DevNet Create Conference in San Francisco, Wee and her colleagues produced Cisco’s first IoT and cloud developer conference where they unveiled their incredible developer ecosystem that uses the Cisco network, and a broad suite of products including applications, SDKs and APIs, as a platform to rapidly create software applications for any number of purposes. Wee and her team, including her director of developer experience, Amanda Whaley, another one of the tech industry’s leading women, have augmented the DevNet environment’s applications and APIs with learning and testing sandboxes where developers can interact, gain and refine their skills, and test the products they produce.

For developers, working with Cisco has often been an exercise involving coding in Python. However, based on Cisco’s 2016 collaboration with Apple, announced at Apple’s WWDC 2016, Cisco created the Connected Mobile Experience (CMX), Cisco Spark, Tropo, and Instant Connect. The company committed to creating interoperability between Cisco and Apple products through iOS 10 and swift.

Pause for a moment. Swift coded iOS 10 and higher applications can integrate with Cisco products? Yes! As one developer wishing to remain unnamed because his employer didn’t know he was attending explained, there’s even some hybrid swift-python code being created, he called it SwiftPy and then proceeded to reveal elements of PyObjC, Swift-bridge, bridge.py, and other Python swiftclient code.

Mind blown. How many developers creating products for iOS know they can bridge with Python? How many know they can connect with Cisco products? To say ‘this changes everything’ may be both overblown and cliché, but in all honesty, it’s very significant and goes to the heart of leading edge product development that more and more tends to involve the IoT and network infrastructure.

"Cisco is leading both by creating the software driven network and by providing the platform for building a shared narrative layer," asserts Matthew Woodget, CEO of Go Narrative, a Seattle-based marketing consultancy specializing in storytelling for business. "This very human layer is where we communicate and interact." 

DevNet provides sample code through a GitHub repository that developers can access to view, download, manipulate, use, and contribute to. It’s a sort of open source environment where the common goal is to bridge the gap and grow a software defined networking (SDN) world. Perhaps the best part about is that developers of all skill levels are welcome. With learning modules, training engagements, and sandboxes loaded with virtual and lab equipment product, Cisco has invested wisely in creating an incubator for tomorrow’s talent today.

An examination of the array of DevNet products currently available led all eyes straight to two products, Cisco Spark, Cisco’s amazing team communication software, and Meraki, Cisco's self-described "platform to automate networks, measure traffic, integrate marketing, and track things."

Meraki is a fascinating solution, a centerpiece within the DevNet family. It's used to power the cost-effective VivaSpot - Clover bundled Wi-Fi POS solution "that securely drives customer traffic, intelligence, engagement, and transactions." Clover has been mentioned in a previous article as being one of the five companies worth watching from Dev Week San Francisco

Team communicators have become perhaps the most popular collaboration and operational efficiency tool as of late. Yammer, Slack, Flock, and HipChat can be found in almost every business. From Star Alliance airlines like Air New Zealand, to small startups like Go Narrative, the ability to have mobile team communication, archived memorialized communication records, and file-sharing, has been a game changer. Especially where distant, possibly global, operations exist, it’s almost essential.

Cisco Spark takes team communication to a new level. Secure, encrypted communication including text, voice, video, file sharing, white boarding and drawing, is fantastic. A smooth UI is critical. What the DevNet staff pointed out, however, was that Cisco Spark was built with multi-organizational communication in mind. Rather than creating a team communication silo for a single organization to benefit from, Cisco Spark allows for multiple teams from multiple organizations to connect and collaborate with each other.

Imagine, what would be possible if there were not only cross functional team communication within a single organization, but across multiple organizations that work together as partners? In the case of the Star Alliance, that might look like an Air New Zealand internal team focused on something like sensitive cargo being able to communicate with their counterparts at other alliance partners like United Airlines in order to establish procedures for safe, secure, or possibly even white glove transfer ad handling of that cargo as it moves around the world. This could be critically important when dealing with an antique crystal chandelier, or even your dog, both of which may be considered priceless. Furthermore, in those cases where subjective text descriptions aren’t enough, Cisco Spark’s video conferencing capability allows teams and team members to show each other exactly what they’re dealing with, whether it’s what’s on a plane, or what’s a mile deep, down in a mine. Sometimes words aren’t enough, and when that happens, Cisco Spark can save the day.

Naturally, one might wonder whether Cisco Spark can be integrated into an iOS application as a team communication tool that can enable instant enterprise scalability. The simple answer is YES, and the staff at Cisco’s DevNet Create event wasted no time in demonstrating that. Case closed? It sure seemed like a no-brainer. Obviously, team communicator savvy people know Slack has an edge in a number of areas, but video conferencing and cross-enterprise collaboration aren’t currently their strong suits. With the new iOS 10 swift codebase APIs and SDKs available through Cisco DevNet, the gap appears likely to narrow further. After all, Cisco has never been known to accept being #2, and they clearly have the resources, talent, and leadership to lead in this arena as well.

So how does one get involved? It’s actually quite easy. All you have to do is (1) create a Cisco ID, (2) log into DevNet and create your account, and (3) work on completing your profile, which you can do at any time. Developers interested in doing that need only click here.

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