AI and security tops in Robbins’ mind in Splunk deal

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins at Partner Summit 2023

MIAMI — The intersection between the biggest forces in technology and business today, AI and security, drives Cisco’s biggest-ever acquisition, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told partners at Partner Summit this week.

In September, Cisco announced its intentions to buy Splunk in a deal worth about $28 billion. In his keynote presentation here, Robbins said the deal, expected to close by September next year, will cement Cisco’s position as “one of largest software companies in the world.”

While the deal has yet to close, Robbins was joined on stage by Splunk president and CEO Gary Steele to discuss what the combined company will mean for solution providers. Robbins painted a picture of broadening Cisco’s business in key areas, including observability and security. At the same time, Steele said he looked forward to the force multiplier of the broader Cisco channel community.

“There’s tremendous value that can be delivered. We think a lot about adoption, about customers using Splunk more broadly across their businesses, and partners play a key role there,” Steele said. “Partners play a critical role here.”

Splunk itself has been a Cisco partner for more than a decade, so it is familiar with how Cisco works with partners, Steele said. He urged partners to get to know the management tool vendor before the acquisition closes to understand how they can bring value to their customers with Splunk tools.

“We want to engage. We want partners to review Spluk and get engaged with us,” Steele said. “We welcome the opportunity. With managed services, consulting services, and integration services, there are a lot of opportunities to make money in the Splunk ecosystem.”

Robbins discussed the whopping $4.4 trillion (U.S.) that generative AI is expected to add to annual GDP in coming years but noted a disconnect between planning and execution. While 95 percent of customers report having an AI strategy, Robbins said only 14 percent are ready to execute and integrate that strategy into their business. The need to cross that gap is driving demand for services delivered by services; as Robbins said, 60 percent of customers say they need to work with more partners to make their AI strategy real.

He talked about how Cisco is rolling out AI into its tools and offerings, ranging from surfacing more business insights in the Partner Experience Platform to new AI-powered codecs for better audio in Webex.

On the security front, Robbins said 90 percent of the company’s security bookings came through the partner community and noted how the focus has shifted from having a good defence to detection and remediation of attacks, with an eye on eventually focusing on preventing and protecting against attacks. He also touched on how Cisco aims to simplify its security offerings by creating a series of bundles of commonly used solutions.

Robbins also noted the momentum of sustainability concepts in business decision-making, including Cisco tools that help show at a glance what upgrading an older network to newer gear can do to energy costs. He said there’s a cost-savings story to be told in many cases, even when customers have to finance a whole new network, based on the energy use differential alone.

The CEO also discussed important new routes to the market, the ever-growing market for managed services, and cited Cisco’s work over the last year getting its solutions offered on marketplaces from the cloud hyper scalers. 

He repeated that while Cisco has done a lot to be an easier partner to do business with, there are still many opportunities for improvement.

“We need to simplify your experience,” he told partners. “We talk about it every year, and I will talk about it every year until I retire. No matter how good we do, we have to do better.”

On that front, Robbins touted advancements to the PXP partner portal, offering more value, and the company introduced products built from the beginning with managed services in mind.

“Our engineering team is now building technology from the get-go with the concept you delivering as a managed service as opposed to you having to figure it out after the fact,” Robbins told partners. “What a novel concept.”

Robbins also took a gentle jab at his outgoing channel chief, saying that for the last five years, Oliver Tuszik has been “the biggest pain… advocate for the partner community, in a very good way” before wishing him well in his new role heading up Cisco Europe.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997.