Cisco, Apple press security message, eye expanded partnership

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins on stage at Cisco Live 2017 in Las Vegas

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins on stage at Cisco Live 2017 in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Although the two have been partners for some time, it came as quite a surprise to many of the 28,000-plus in attendance at Cisco Live here this week when Apple CEO Tim Cook joined Cisco boss Chuck Robbins on stage.

Cook was the highest-profile of a number of guests who joined Robbins on stage, and came to press both the message of the Cisco-Apple partnership, and the message that Apple is serious about the enterprise space. A “better together” security message was at the core of the two chief executives’ pitch.

“Together, we make up the most secure combination of anybody in the enterprise, and increasingly, that’s not just important, but necessary,” Robbin said.

Cook, for his part, seemed to suggest that Apple and Cisco would together push to earn their joint customers a discount on the cyber-security insurance that more and more corporations are looking at to help mitigate against the potentially devastating losses that can come from hacks, breaches and other attacks.

“The thinking we share here is that if your enterprise, your company, is using Cisco and Apple, the combination of those should make that insurance cost significantly less for you than it would if you were using some other person on the network side, or some other OS in the mobile arena,” Cook explained.

While Apple remain predominantly a consumer-focused company, in the post-BYOD world there’s no doubt that many of its devices have found their way into enterprise users hands — either by right of, or in spite of, corporate policy. But in recent years, Apple has sought to raise its profile as a welcome (and not just “in through the back door”) member of the enterprise vendor communities, working with Cisco on creating optimizations for devices based on Apple’s iOS mobile operating systems on networks run on Cisco’s IOS network operating system. Apple has also inked high-profile deals with decidedly non-consumer vendors including IBM and SAP.

And in a post-keynote press conference Monday afternoon, Robbins said he and Cook had spend “the last couple of hours together,” and actually came up with a few new ideas for working together in that time.

Robbins didn’t go deeply into what the two executives had discussed as next steps in their partnership, but did suggest that possibilities include deeper integration with Cisco’s network-based security and analytics capabilities, introduced last week, on iOS devices. Such analytics integration could go both ways, Robbins explains, giving the example of a network using the Apple device’s “perspective” on WiFi network performance to help inform network layout and configuration.

“We built a foundation proving that we can work together in creating innovation for our customers on the same path, and we’ve actually identified a few more opportunities in the last two hours alone,” Robbins told reporters. “There’s a multitude of opportunities for us.”

Now if only Robbins could convince Apple to look at the channel in a more Cisco-like fashion.