Over the last few weeks we’ve seen organisations and their staff adopting remote working solutions at a speed and scale hitherto unprecedented in our lifetimes.
As governments all over the world put in place measures to physically distance, many people have found themselves, where is practical to do so, working remotely from home – often for the first time. Under this ‘new normal’, collaboration, security and connectivity are proving essential for effective remote productivity.
At Cisco, we have been reacting to the surge in demand for remote working solutions on a global scale. All over the world we’re helping companies, governments and communities to connect and remain as productive as possible. Cisco has been closely engaging with heads of states and government agencies to support policies that keep their economies, medical professionals, and schools, productive while ensuring public safety.
So, what does this situation look like for Cisco’s people ‘on the ground’? We spoke to three of Cisco’s Collaboration leaders in EMEAR, Coralie Marion, Head of Collaboration Solutions for Cisco in France, Roberto Moral, Architectures Director for Cisco in Spain, and Anton Doeschl, Collaboration Architecture Sales Lead for Cisco in Germany, for some ‘behind the scenes’ perspectives on how they and their staff are reacting to the sudden surge in demand for collaboration solutions.
Tell us, how has an ‘average working day’ changed for you in the last few weeks?
Coralie: As you’d expect, the last few weeks have been probably the most intense of my career. We’ve had to pivot quickly to meet not only the continuity needs of existing customers, but also others in need of a solution to their remote working needs, quickly. I’ve been thrilled to see the teams at work, as they’ve brought answers and solutions to each customer in record time. Working within the constraints everyone has to face, linked to our confinement, the teams are more united and committed than ever because they feel invested in a mission. But there’s no question that we’ve faced some long and intense days, with chains of video calls to deal with rapidly emerging needs, and ensuring we give priority to, e.g. health services, public administrations and educational facilities.
Anton: The same answer, essentially: I’ve also had the most intense few weeks of my career, both in terms of working hours, but also the intensity with which the teams at Cisco – globally and with our partners – have been working together. I’m lucky to have such a strong team. Everyone wants to give everything, and I can rely on everybody 100%. Although it’s a crazy-busy time for us, our work has real meaning for us because we can see how much we can help people.
Have you ever experienced demand or a situation like this?
Roberto: Honestly? No. But it’s not so much the amount of work, as the sense of urgency, and the clear social impact of the things we’re doing.
Coralie: For all of us, it’s the first time we’ve experienced this. We’re all confined, with a sudden need for tools to be able to communicate, reliably and securely. It’s a unique situation and has revealed big disparities in companies’ preparedness for teleworking. Some were ready and had already equipped their employees with effective collaboration and security solutions. Others had to start from scratch. We had to respond in all cases, and our partner network was a real asset here.
What motivates you in responding to this unprecedented situation?
Coralie: I’ve never been so proud to work for Cisco. We’re a key player in helping people get through this crisis. Every week we deliver video equipment that allows hospitals to consult remotely. We equip administrations, schools, etc., and thus contribute to individuals’ personal safety, wellbeing and job security by allowing them to work from home and enabling business continuity. We observe our impact on a daily basis and, I have to say, it’s a great source of motivation for Cisco’s teams across the board.
Roberto: Absolutely. It’s all about helping customers and partners experience the least disruption possible to their business and work. Our teams feel a strong need to ‘live up to’ this situation in terms of our social responsibility.
How is the boom in homeworking affecting traffic?
Coralie: We’re actually seeing a boom everywhere on two fronts: increased consumption from existing customers, and the addition of new customers to the platform.
Anton: The global use of Cisco Webex, and associated data, has grown at an unprecedented rate. The figures are being updated all the time, but in March Webex grew 4x in Europe compared to pre-pandemic levels (2.5x in The Americas and 3.5x in Asia Pacific). We saw close to 240,000 global signups in one single 24 hour period. And in one day alone, Webex handled 4.2 million meetings – more than twice the average on a peak day before the pandemic.
The patterns of use have geographically followed the proliferation of measures to tackle the pandemic. Initially the largest increase came from Asia, and when Europe began to implement travel restrictions it was there. We’ve also seen demand for our security solutions increase by about 5-10 times.
Roberto: In Spain traffic on IP networks increased by around 40% as a result of the Coronavirus situation. Mobile calls have grown by around 50%, and mobile data by around 25%. Despite this the service has remained stable for users, with no network downtime or significant issues. However, my understanding is that in the rest of Europe traffic is generally now starting to level off.
So Cisco is reacting to increase capacity and keeping things running smoothly?
Anton: Absolutely, in co-operation with a number of additional partners.
As regards Webex we are responding in two ways: The first is monitoring and redeployment, and the second is expansion of capacities. Together with SPs we operate 24/7 monitoring of our systems and clusters and data centres in the US, Europe and Asia. The peak loads we observe lead us to draw conclusions about how requirements will develop, and we’re continuing to expand our capacities in-line with these observations.
Our cloud platform is built to be elastic, so that peaks can be intercepted and compensated for. When there is a lot of activity in Europe, for example, we may distribute the traffic to the data centres in Asia. Somewhere in the world it is always night-time, and we use this to our advantage.
We’re expanding resources as fast as we can; with more servers and more datacentres. We’re also working with partners to improve the ‘pipelines’ into these datacentres. We’re in daily co-ordination with all service providers.
Any final words?
Coralie: I’d just like to extend thanks to our tireless staff and partners for ‘stepping up to the bat’ in the last few weeks. They’ve been extraordinary.
Anton: Absolutely agree. We’ve seen Cisco staff and partners, and for that matter people across other related industries, such as security and Service Provider, going ‘above and beyond’ to keep systems and infrastructures running, even when their own personal circumstances have not been ideal.
Roberto: Personally, I find it inspiring to see how IT Heroes all over the world, in Cisco and beyond, have come together. They’ve all risen to the challenge to keep the world collaborating, secure and connected.