Live from Las Vegas, Cisco Jasper announces Control Center 7.0

Live from Las Vegas, Cisco Jasper announces Control Center 7.0

Cisco Jasper announces Control Center 7.0
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, the venue for this week's Cisco Live! keynotes

At Cisco Live in Las Vegas, the networking giant has announced details of Control Center 7.0, the latest update to the IoT platform it acquired with its 2016 purchase of Jasper.

The changes include a new delivery model that Cisco Jasper claims will help to bring the benefits of Control Center to a broader audience.

For the first time, Control Center will be delivered in two editions: Control Center and Control Center Advanced. The latter is intended for companies that are further along in their IoT journey and, as a result, have substantially more IoT-connected devices under management, introducing new complexities. In effect, Cisco Jasper has opted for a multi-tier model for Control Center.

In addition, Control Center will be supplemented by other technologies from within Cisco’s vast portfolio, packaged as ‘premium services’, in order to address “previously unmet needs in the industry related to IoT monetization and security.”

The first Premium Service is the Threat Protection and Smart Security (TPSS) service, based on Cisco OpenDNS Umbrella, to protect against malware and phishing attacks. This will initially be focused on connected cars. The second is Traffic Segmentation, which will support different types of revenue generation models.

Finally, Cisco Jasper has announced that Control Center 7.0 will extend the platform’s capabilities to low-power devices, with support for devices connecting via low-power WAN (LPWAN) technologies, including NB-IoT and LTE-M.

Ahead of the announcement, Internet of Business sat down with Macario Namie, head of IoT strategy at Cisco Jasper, to dig down into its details a little further.

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A nice clip

But first, Namie gave us a quick rundown of the latest available figures on Cisco Jasper’s progress since the $1.4 billion acquisition by Cisco in early 2016. This follows on from an earlier update delivered in February this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona by Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins. At that point, Robbins revealed, there were 40 million devices connecting to Jasper, compared to 17 million when the deal was first struck. Enterprise customer numbers, meanwhile, had risen to 9,000 from 3,500.

Just four months on, there are now 43 million devices connecting to Jasper and 11,000 enterprise customers in total, according to Namie. “We’re moving forwards at a very nice clip,” Namie told Internet of Business. Every month, around 1.5 million devices get added to the platform, he said, and some 500 new enterprise customers sign up.

“We’re seeing a maturity level, a comfort level among enterprises that we’ve never seen before. They’re recognizing there’s value to be had from IoT and they’re putting in place the mechanisms to get started on their initiatives. Equally important are those enterprises that started a while back and are now adding more products and connecting new devices out in the field.”

As a long-term Jasper employee, who joined the business way back in 2007, Namie said he finds it astonishing to reflect on its growth since then. It took Jasper around 10 years to get to the first 5 million devices, “and then two years to get from 5 million to 40 million.”

Read more: Cisco acquires IoT start-up Jasper Technologies for $1.4bn

Control Center bifurcation

So what was behind the recent decision to deliver Control Center in two editions? It is a big move, he acknowledged:

“It’s the first time we’ve ever done this kind of bifurcation, but like I said, we’re now seeing a maturity level start to come through among a lot of companies that have been working on IoT for a while and deploying connected products to customers or connecting devices out in the field. Their needs change when they go from 1,000 units or 5,000 units and start to scale to hundreds of thousands or even millions of units. We want to reserve the value that we can bring to those large-scale, multinational deployments for when they actually need it.”

In other words, it’s about providing a clear migration path on the journey from early-stage to mature IoT deployment, along with new features and functions to those furthest along.

As an example of the added functionality a customer might expect from Control Center Advanced, Namie cited new large-scale analytics capabilities. These allow companies running large IoT networks to look at trending and analysis in two areas. The first is quality of service and reliability. “If you’re managing devices in their thousands or hundreds of thousands, you simply can’t look at every single one to understand the health of it. So trending and analysis can help capture anomalous behaviour and develop preventative models to tackle any problems before they become real issues.”

The second is understanding cost of operations and, in particular, cost of network operations. “If you’re using the mobile network, you’re paying for every kilobyte of data. So if you’re managing an incredibly large fleet of devices, even a small percentage deviation from standard behaviour [in terms of transmitting data] can represent serious cash outlay. That’s why we’re providing analytics that help companies to capture that behaviour and understand the impact on costs,” he said.

As for the introduction of premium services on top of both Control Center editions, it’s a way to introduce customers to other Cisco products that may be of benefit to them – and a tidy upsell opportunity for sales teams across the networking giant, presumably.

The focus of the new Umbrella-based premium service on connected vehicles, incidentally, is no accident. Of the 43 million devices connected to Jasper, some 12 million are connected vehicles, representing slightly less than one in four of the total. Automotive has been a real hotspot for Cisco Jasper and continues to be, says Namie, along with retail point-of-sale systems, especially in developing markets, where customers are now moving quickly to credit cards and mobile payments.

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Life under new management

When a start-up like Jasper gets acquired by a tech giant like Cisco, it’s standard practice for executives from the acquired company to wax lyrical about the new opportunities and larger resources to which they now have access. Certainly, Namie doesn’t deviate from the norm in that respect. He did, however, admit to some initial misgivings:

“There’s always a risk when you’re part of a smaller business joining a much larger one that the larger one will pat the little guys on the head and say, ‘Thank you, we’ll take it from here.’ And then the smaller company loses what made it so attractive in the first place. The magic can go away very fast. You hear horror stories all the time – and I was certainly concerned that it might happen here.”

That hasn’t proved to be the case at all, he insists – and, either way, Jasper’s growth under Cisco has been pretty remarkable. In fact, Jasper’s founder and former CEO Jahangir Mohammed is now general manager of Cisco’s wider IoT Software business unit, reporting to Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of the company’s IoT and Collaboration Technology Group.

Jasper and Cisco are clearly coming closer together over time – and the addition of premium services from Cisco to the Cisco Jasper Control Center 7.0 product is a clear indicator of how quickly the convergence is happening.