Cisco Canada emphasizes progress, passion and possibilities at Cisco Connect event in Toronto

Cisco Canada President Rola Dagher recounted Cisco Canada’s trumps over the last year, which saw Canada named as Cisco’s top theatre for growth, while also highlighting the initiative Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins launched the previous day in conjunction with Deloitte and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Rola Dagher, Cisco Canada President, onstage with Dr. Damian Jankowicz of CAMH

TORONTO – On Thursday, Cisco Canada played host to over 2800 attendees at their Cisco Connect event here at the Toronto Congress Centre. It was an enthusiastic gathering, with the company coming off a very strong year in Canada. And – unusually for these kind of regional customer events – they announced some significant news as well.

“It was another record-breaking session for us,” Rola Dagher, Cisco Canada’s President, announced at the start of the opening keynote. “Last year at Cisco Connect, I had been 129 days on the job when I addressed all of you. Now, 14 months later, you gave me the best 14 months of my career.

Dagher emphasized that the event was about three themes – “progress, passion, and tons of possibilities.”

Dagher said that the progress in Canada has been amazing, with Canada being named the top theatre for growth at Cisco this August, and with the partner count now up to 1650. The focus continues to be adding quality, not pure quantity of partners.

“Where I see an opportunity for further growth is to make it easier to simplify how partners do business with us, to increase our focus in the midmarket,” Dagher added.

“In the last 14 months, we grew the business in Canada double digits across the board,” she said. “That applies geographically – western Canada versus central Canada versus eastern Canada.”

Dagher reinforced that Cisco’s broader message continues to focus on the five strategic pillars the company has articulated as the focus of their strategy, beginning with intelligent intent-based networking, and including security, multi-cloud, collaboration and the power of data.

“Our five-pillar strategy is based on secure intelligent architecture, with the network as foundation for all of this,” Dagher said. “The network is the common denominator of everything that we touch with those customers. The network we have had in the past cannot serve the future. That’s why we reinvented the network and added capabilities like artificial intelligence and machine learning so it can learn and evolve. And we have embedded security everywhere. It has to be your first thought, end to end, with no gaps.”

Liz Centoni, Cisco SVP and GM of IoT elaborated on Cisco’s vision of intent-based networking.

“It is about changing how we build networks, and how you use the power of data to deliver on your business outcomes,” she stated. “It’s about us completely rethinking the building blocks of how you complete and secure your networks, making significant investments in silicon, hardware and software. We have been talking about this since last year. The telemetry from the network is fed into an analytics engine, which tells us what’s going on, to let us know if the event was delivered the way we want.” She noted that this engine makes 60,000 contextual entries every second.”

Centoni also emphasized the importance of the Cisco Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group to the company’s overall strategy;

“The questions organizations face is whether they have an effective security posture,” she said. “Talos is the world’s largest civilian threat agency, and is able to block 20 billion threats a day. We feed that threat information into our entire portfolio. It’s when the remediation time is as close to zero as possible that you have an effective response.”

Dagher also said that what makes Cisco different is not just the technology that they have, but their culture of putting people first. Here she touched on news that Cisco had made the previous day, when Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins launched a new initiative at the Canadian Club in Toronto, jointly with Deloitte and the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health [CAMH].

“This is about access to mental health services,” said Willa Black, Cisco Canada’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs. “One in five persons has a mental health issue and only half of these can access the services they need. We have had a pilot running for less than a week on an education program with CAMH, working with WebEx platform in a trial to see if these education services can be delivered virtually.”

Black said that this platform, with intelligence built into the network, is very visionary and very early stage.

“Through facial recognition and data analytics, we plan to develop through a system of partners the ability to let clinicians diagnose and treat more effectively,” she said. “We don’t know what the endpoint will be. No one has ever tried to do this before in Canada. But we have an effective team for this based in the U.S., and a very motivated partner with CAMH.”

“The fundamental challenge we have to solve is access,” said Dr. Damian Jankowicz, VP of Information Management and CIO at CAMH, who joined Dagher onstage. “To get care to all the patients who really need it, we are looking at new models and ways of doing things to really transform mental health care. Your culture and expertise help us make that transformation.”

Black said that the plan to deliver this platform is 18 months to 3 years – very aggressive given that Cisco’s earlier Connect North initiative to bring Cisco HD Telepresence to schools in Nunavut took eight years to bring to full fruition.

“The amount of messages and tweets about this has been massive since it was announced yesterday” Dagher said.