Cutting complexity for an app-fueled world


In today’s world, businesses can’t afford to provide anything less than a superb application experience — for customers and employees alike.  

But that’s not easy in a highly distributed, multi-cloud world, where simply locating the source of a problem can be a vexing challenge. And downtime and latency can quickly translate into lost revenue and eroded brand loyalty.  

That’s why there’s such a deep need for full-stack observability. In this complex environment, it’s the only way to provide visibility into application performance. Because you can’t optimize, secure, or fix what you can’t see.   

In this interview, Ronak Desai, recently appointed SVP and GM for Cisco AppDynamics and Full-Stack Observability, shares what’s unique about Cisco’s powerful and wide-ranging Full-Stack Observability solution — incorporating AppDynamics, Security Cloud, Nexus Cloud, Intersight, and ThousandEyes — all integrated by the company’s simplified platform vision.


Thank you, Ronak, and congratulations on your new role! What are the business and tech challenges that make full-stack observability so imperative. 

Today, if you look at applications, businesses depend on them as never before. But they are incredibly distributed, across multiple clouds or multiple data centers. And technologists are having to contend with soaring complexity and unfathomable volumes of data across the technology stack. As the complexity of applications is going up, so too is the time to resolution when an issue occurs.  

The expectations of customers are also skyrocketing. In a Cisco AppDynamics report we found that 72% of people believe it’s the responsibility of the brand to ensure that a digital service or application works perfectly. Application performance is inherently tied to the brand of the company, and the brand takes the ‘wrap for the app’ when things go wrong. When application performance is bad, a company’s brand gets affected. It is something which is top of the mind for our customers. 

So, into this tangled web of complexity steps full-stack observability? 

Yes, the way our customers troubleshoot application performance is by using many different tools. But our vision is to help them with a holistic, platform-based solution. Because a critical anomaly could be the result of a storage problem, it could be a network problem, it could be a WAN problem, it could be a cloud problem. Our vision is to provide an integrated platform that helps our customers triage, figure out in which domain there is an issue, and then provide them with a solution. This is what full-stack observability is all about — to help customers narrow down the problem in the fastest possible way. Then provide the fastest solution to help that particular domain owner to fix the problem. 

In terms of cutting through the complexity, a platform approach is essential, isn’t it? 

Yes, taking a platform approach is essential for reducing the overwhelming complexity that our customers are facing. And this extends to our partners as well who we are working with us to build value-added services. It’s just not practical for us to build everything. So, we want to open this up to the ecosystem so that we can accelerate the journey that our customers are on. 

You are leading AppDynamics specifically and Full-Stack Observability in general for Cisco. Let’s start with AppDynamics. What is unique about it?

AppDynamics has been a leader in Application Performance Monitoring (APM) for a decade now. And we have more than 2,300 customers using it. But there is a big transition happening in the industry where IT teams and application owners have started building microservices-based applications, in addition to more traditional monolithic applications. And this is where we are focused on a hybrid approach. This is unique to us. We will not only take care of a customer’s legacy applications, but will also take care of their modern applications, all from a single console. This is also the reason why, at Cisco, we decided to bring both AppDynamics and Full-Stack Observability together under one general manager. This way we can take care of it all, through a single hybrid-application environment, whether an organization is running its application in a private data center or a public cloud, or whether they want to run it fully on a cloud as-a-service. We are addressing the whole gamut of potential scenarios. 

These separate domains create siloed teams. Are we helping to bridge those divides? 

Yes, you will have a network ops team, application ops, a virtualization admin, security, and so on. But at the end of the day, the customer wants to see a single, intuitive solution. So, building one solution that encompasses these different personas bridges the divide and helps maintain their operations procedures is something we are creating with our customers.  

So, this simplicity — together with the integration of these separate tools — is a big part of what differentiates Cisco in the market. 

Yes, and I think the other big thing for me – the reason we are differentiated compared to any other vendor – is that we at Cisco cover pretty much the whole infrastructure. We sell the infrastructure on-prem or in the cloud. There is no other company that covers security, networking, application performance and compute management. When we bring all those things together in a seamless, simplified experience, then it is an extremely powerful proposition for customers.  

Security is a huge element of full-stack observability. How is Cisco approaching security in this multi-cloud, app-driven world? 

Today, security is critical for our customers. And so, the rich assets that we have, like Secure Application and Talos Intelligence, along with our AI innovation, are highly valuable for our customers. I believe none of our competitors can match this combination, and we see enormous opportunity for growth in this area.  

What are you most excited about from AppDynamics and full-stack observability in the coming month? 

The first is addressing the hybrid application — that is, both monolithic applications and applications that are micro services — to bring all of that together with full-stack observability as a holistic solution, really solving that problem for our customers. We launched AppDynamics Cloud in June which was a major milestone in our expansion in this market and I’m excited to build on this and deliver for customers.  

And again, the big breakaway and the differentiator for us is our platform capability. So, we are focused on working with the rest of the ecosystems inside Cisco, like security, cloud, networking, and IoT, to bring all of that into a holistic solution. I truly believe that we have an opportunity to double up from where we are from a revenue perspective. 

There’s an urgency to win the market, but there’s also a higher purpose at Cisco: powering an inclusive future. How does your team support that overarching purpose. 

One of the things we talk about it is how do we make sure our solutions reach everyone, including the other participants of this world economy who may be underserved. It’s a critical role, giving the best possible application and digital experience to a user in even the remotest parts of the world. And this is how we are helping the ultimate goal that Cisco has. To ensure that everyone is a first-class citizen and has the same experience on the network.  

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