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Tearing down the walls: transcending organizational silos using multi-domain architectures

Tearing down the walls: transcending organizational silos using multi-domain architectures
Operating in silos is one of the biggest barriers to an organization’s ability to deliver great customer value.
Tearing down the walls: transcending organizational silos using multi-domain architectures READ FULL ARTICLE

Tearing down the walls: transcending organizational silos using multi-domain architectures

Vish Iyer
Cisco Systems
Vice President, Architectures, Asia Pacific, Japan, and China

April 22, 2019
  • Press Release

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  • Technology, Data Centres, Enterprise Networking

Operating in silos is one of the biggest barriers to an organization’s ability to deliver great customer value. Typically, siloed companies have teams that focus only on their department objectives, rarely share information outside their department, and shun cross-functional collaboration.

However, tearing down silos is no easy feat. It requires a cultural change, shift in mindset, strong leadership, tight collaboration, co-creation, and a shared set of values and common goals that the entire organization can work towards to. While each company will have a unique set of goals, today they are all addressing a common challenge – the rapid rise of technology.

While it is already well-known that technology has pervaded everyone’s lives, it has also created its own set of challenges – a department can easily purchase software using a credit card or an employee can bring a device to access company information, all without IT knowing about it. Every domain within an organization can deploy its own technologies, often without talking to each other. This has many implications, especially around security and policy, but most of all, this makes tearing down organizational silos even harder. This means, today, more than ever, there needs to be an approach that looks at not just a single domain, but all domains within an organization.

Customers are facing increasing complexity every day
The cloud, alongside mobility is perhaps the most seminal technology in the last decade. It provides organizations with a multitude of capabilities including scalability, agility, availability, and automation, among others. In addition, enterprises are expanding not just to one cloud, but to multiple clouds such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud and are also deploying hybrid environments where workloads and applications sit in the cloud, on-premise, or being consumed as SaaS. However, as these customers expand to the cloud, they also face enormous complexity as there are implications on security, managing costs, and the entire orchestration of that stack.

We are also living in an app-based world. The application is the primary interface for customers and employees. The expectation on user experience is no longer enterprise-class software. Every employee and every customer have consumer-like expectations, and that’s become the gold standard for everyone that’s using app. This means a bank’s heaviest branch is no longer a traditional branch in a city. It’s a railway station or an MRT station because these have the highest concentration of customers leveraging mobile platforms to connect to the bank. This means every business needs to build next-generation digital experiences for both their customers and their employees.


If you combine the rapid expansion to the cloud and the need to create digital experiences, and you are a CIO managing your IT infrastructure, you are creating a new set of variables that are constantly changing. On one side, its connecting hundreds of users and millions of things, whether it’s in manufacturing plants, bank branches, smart cities, oil rigs, and autonomous vehicles. On the other side, CIOs are being asked to redefine applications, and create cloud-native applications. These applications are being virtualized and containerized. Between this interconnection, the most valuable thing is the tremendous amount of data that’s being generated.

Unlike the traditional world, this data is no longer centered in the data center. This data is being generated from the millions of personal devices, from the edge, from a local data center, or from a cloud provider, and each of these dimensions are expanding or contracting. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on every domain in the IT infrastructure.

IT architectures must be reinvented for the realities of this digital world
Let’s look at these four variables – users, devices, applications, and data – and examine the interconnection points across the different domains in an enterprise and why these need to be reinvented for the realities of today.

At a fundamental level, it’s connecting users and things, which could be in the IT infrastructure and OT infrastructure, through wired or wireless infrastructure. This infrastructure then needs to be connected over a wide-area network to hundreds of branches to the headquarters to the data centers or to cloud providers hosting the data, or to co-location providers or Saas providers.

Moreover, users can come from all parts of the world, so an equally important domain is the service provider infrastructure. Finally, across all of these domains, security needs to be foundational. In short, all of us today have to think about the multi-domain network. We can no longer think about building an IT infrastructure focusing only on one domain, but across every single domain. This is what we in Cisco have been doing for the last 24 months because we understand that every customer is dealing with these complexities.

If you are in the pharmacy industry, you need to deal with highly complex compliance requirements. In order to bring a new drug to the market faster, a pharmaceutical provider needs to automate the compliance time. Similarly, banks need to deal with the complex local regulations around data integrity and data localization, and data protection as they build new applications – from the branch, to the internet banking customer and to the data center. A few big questions that also need to be addressed - how do you automate the infrastructure? And as the infrastructure becomes programmable, how can it talk to APIs?

Cisco is looking at this from a couple of different lenses, the first of which is pervasive multi-domain security. What are they key concerns around this? Identity, mobility, and having a consistent policy across the domains. How can we leverage compliance, so we can get products to market faster? How can we think end-to-end and not solve these problems in individual parts from the device to the app?

The second part of this is making sense of all of this. We then need to consider visibility for users, things, and applications. This means, if you’re a bank, its being able to get a performance management report for its application, so that when a user is accessing its app in metro station, the bank can have complete visibility on transaction time. If there’s a delay, the bank can immediately find out where is the issue in the app that’s causing that delay. On the top of that, it means providing assurance to the regulator that these transactions are being executed in nanoseconds or milliseconds and provide the data to them in the form they want to see.

These are only a few examples of multi-domain challenges that our customers are facing with, and we at Cisco are helping them solve these problems both from a multi-domain and multi-cloud perspective.

Cisco: Building a multi-domain architecture that securely connects any user, thing, or device to any network, any application, and any cloud
Cisco is becoming a software-defined platform provider. In the past, we used to innovate within customer silos. But we have realized that our greatest value is connecting the dots across the silos, across the layers in mobility, identity, compliance, automation, and analytics, and make it work across these different domains so our customers can provide the digital experiences that their customers/consumers are expecting.   

This is the journey we’ve been on. We have reinvented the network, launching the network intuitive in June 2017, launched Cisco DNA Assurance and Analytics last year, improved ACI over the years, and launched Data Center Anywhere this year. All of these platforms serve an important purpose – to make the interconnections across domains work for our customers. Today, we can confidently say that Cisco has a multi-domain architecture that securely connects any user or any thing or any device to any network, any application, and on any cloud.

Not just a “Marketchitecture”: we are making it real!
When we say multi-domain architecture, we don’t just rely on marketing spiel. We are executing on this around the world with our customers and I’m happy to share a real use case that highlights the traction and delivery of this multi-domain approach.

Recently, one of the plants of a large manufacturing company was brought down by the WannaCry attack. While bringing down one plant may seem mundane, the cost of the plant being down was about US$80 million dollars. This was both direct and indirect costs, while also factoring in the negative press and stain on their credibility.

When this customer understood why it happened, they realized that they had different vendors with different domains in their IT infrastructure, OT infrastructure, and data center – or in other words siloed operations. They also had manual and static configurations. It took them over 24 hours to troubleshoot and fix the issue as the attack happened. It was a major issue for their board of directors and their current state of operations were preventing them from aggressively expanding in different markets. This customer wanted a different architecture and clearly needed to look at it from a multi-domain approach both for their existing and new operations.

The customer looked at this from two different constructs: who are the consumers of technology and who are the providers of technology. They looked at it from customers, the ATMs/devices, the public hotspots, the wide-area network, all the way to their data center and their public and private cloud – which is essentially a multi-domain approach.

We helped the customer understand that they had different silos or different administrative domains that did not talk to each other. We helped the customer implement an architecture that bridged all of their domains: OT infrastructure, IT infrastructure, data center infrastructure, and application infrastructure.

Using a multi-domain approach, we helped the customer achieve key business benefits:

  • Seamless connection and 360 view across all domains– connecting 1,000+ users and 10,000+ different devices to applications, the company’s data centers, as well as two major cloud providers
  • Intuitive segmentation – an IP telephone, a video surveillance device or connected thing, it will be recognized and segmented to that particular instance in the data center. This means if a device is compromised, it will not bring down the entire plant. Inherently, the physical manual construct is converted into an intuitive, dynamic construct. This brings consistent digital experience with in-built, inherent and integrated security
  • Policy and compliance all integrated into one seamless operating model across SecOps, NetOps and InfrastructureOps
  • Transformed operating model – drove significant agility and visibility in the network using intent-based networking (self-managing network as determined by the customer) while taking out operating costs
  • Blueprint for expansion – the customer is able to expand its operations faster than before because of many of the processes have become automated across domains  

It was an amazing customer success story, but it was not easy. It needed a major cultural change in the organization because most companies, as I mentioned before, are typically still very siloed. More than the technology, cultural change is the biggest barrier that customers face today because it requires buy-in from across all domains, starting with the senior leadership in the organization all the way to the front-line employees. 

This shift also requires new skillsets – cloud skills, programmability skills, security skills, APIs, that are cross-domain and cross-functional. At Cisco, we are capable and more than ready to help our customers upskill their workforce to be ready and adapt to this new digital era.

Four key takeaways to start thinking about now
In summary, the four main points that we want you to take away:

  • Focus on your business outcomes – what do you want to achieve? What is the real problem you want to solve?
  • Think multi-domain customer experience to help break down organizational siloes – there will always be a cool vendor in one silo with a shiny new technology. But you need to think “will this technology work across domains? Will this work on my app domain? Will it deliver the business outcomes you want?” You also need to think multi-domain not just from a technology standpoint, but also from a customer experience standpoint and think “will this help me break down the silos in my organizations in order to deliver the next-generation experience that my customers want?”
  • Leverage Cisco platform – we are a platform provider. We have 25,000 engineers around the world that are extremely passionate in helping customers achieve their business outcomes.
  • Let’s co-create together – we want to partner with you and co-create with you in this digital world.

We at Cisco believe we have a tremendous opportunity to help our customers by building a multi-domain architecture that can help overcome organizational silos!

I look forward to connecting with all of you around the region to share joint success stories as we deliver digital experiences together.

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