Cisco Jasper Aims to Empower Business Use of IoT

Today at Cisco Live, Cisco Jasper announced significant shifts to its market strategy around its Internet of Things management platform, Control Center, version 7.0 which is now available.

In a pre-briefing last week, Macario Namie, head of IoT strategy at Cisco, shared details of the enhancements, the motivations behind the moves, and an update on Cisco Jasper's business.

As shown below, the Control Center platform currently supports 11,000 enterprises, and the company reports adding 500 more each month. Across those 11,000 enterprises, 43 million devices are managed on the IoT platform, with about 1.5 million added each month. "We're really in a hyper-growth stage," Namie said. "Our first eight years with Control Center got us to our first five million devices. The last two years or so, we've gone from five million to 43 million devices." The company is looking to reach 100 million devices in the "very near future," he added.

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Further, Cisco Jasper has relationships with 50 service providers, which provide its "route to market" in more than 120 countries -- a critical mass, he said. "Companies that are looking to deploy their connected products, pretty much anywhere in the world, can do so at scale in a common operating standard."

Bifurcating the Platform

With rapid usage growth of the IoT platform, Cisco commissioned a survey to better understand its customers and the barriers to successful IoT projects. The survey, conducted by IDC, revealed that 60% of IoT initiatives stall at the proof-of-concept stage due to barriers such as inflexibility of solutions, security concerns, and immaturity of business models.

While some companies are just getting started with IoT, others are a few years in and dabbling in more advanced IoT projects, likely at greater scale. To meet these varied needs, Cisco Jasper has bifurcated its Control Center platform into standard and advanced offerings.

With Control Center Advanced, companies gain the benefits of advanced security solutions, automation, and analytics.

Analytics, the first module announced for Control Center Advanced, focuses on reliability of service and cost management. While standard reporting is fine when managing 500 or 1,000 devices, "when you're managing hundreds of thousands or millions of devices, you need to have intelligence to be able to do it for you in an automated way," Namie said.

For service reliability, enterprises need to be able to quickly spot devices that are performing poorly, Namie said. "But they also need to be able to identify which devices are next on the list and look for behavior indicative of failure -- ideally in a preventative way," he added.

For cost management, the analytics module will deliver insight on network usage so enterprises can adjust their configurations to optimize efficiency.

"For large companies, even a one to two percent derivative against the mean of network utilization can be very, very expensive -- that's a real cash outlay. So our job now is to be able to identify those ... [and] expose them to the enterprise so they can take any action as appropriate, depending on their unique business," Namie said.

"We're really looking to try to increase the reliability and quality of service for the enterprise's devices and we're trying to allow a greater degree of predictability of cost and to be able to contain that cost in a reasonable fashion," added Namie, noting how difficult that is to do at scale.

Premium Services

In addition to creating an advanced platform option, Cisco Jasper has introduced two premium services as integrated add-ons: Threat Protection & Smart Security (TPSS) and Traffic Segmentation. TPSS essentially extends the Cisco Umbrella threat monitoring technology from today's IT use case to an IoT use case.

Cisco is launching TPSS with connected vehicles, rolling it out to unspecified auto manufacturers. You can look at a connected vehicle much as you would any other endpoint -- it's just as much of a target for hacking as a smartphone or laptop, Namie said, "and these vehicle manufacturers are just as afraid of becoming the next headline of a major hack."

With the Traffic Segmentation service, platform users should be able to identify trends from which they can drive new revenue generation models. Sticking with the connected vehicle example, auto manufacturers could use traffic segmentation insights to create digital products aimed at providing better experiences, as well as generating revenue. By looking at aggregated, anonymized data, for example, an auto manufacturer could discover that from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, users are working during their commutes and accessing apps like Outlook and Salesforce. Conversely, on the weekends, users are most often leveraging connectivity from within their cars to access social networks. Using these insights, an auto manufacturer could then create a social media-only plan for weekends.

"The truth is there's just a lot of unknowns," Namie said. "Our job is to provide these insights and then execute against the service packages they want. And they need to decide, for their own customers, what's the best way to leverage this connectivity to be able to provide the most value to their customers."

Additional Support, Spark Integration

Cisco Jasper also announced that Control Center will now support multiple low-power WAN technologies, including NarrowBand IoT and LTE for machines. In essence, this allows Cisco Jasper to support a larger number of devices via Control Center.

A final point worth noting is that Cisco now offers an integration between Control Center and Cisco Spark. The integration enables notifications and alerts -- related to service and usage anomalies, for example -- to flow directly from IoT devices into a Spark room dedicated to support. Such integration would help reduce the mean time to resolution for service issues, as well as facilitate immediate action by enabling collaboration between support and finance teams.

This goes to show the power inherent in combining collaboration and communications functionality with IoT.

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