Diane Gongaware on Cisco’s Security Approach for Agencies & ‘Internet of Things’ Trends to Watch

Diane Gongaware in January started her second full year as vice president of U.S. public sector services at Cisco, where she manages the company’s sales of technical and security services to government agencies at the federal, state, local and education levels.

The 10-year Cisco veteran first joined the company in August 2007 and her subsequent roles have included operations director, senior director for federal services and senior director for the U.S. public sector partner and channel organization.

In this conversation with ExecutiveBiz, Gongaware offers an outlook on security trends she plans to focus on in 2017, how agencies are changing their methods of cloud computing acquisitions and items watch for regarding the “Internet of Things” concept.

ExecutiveBiz: Which area of Cisco’s public sector business did you focus on the most in your first year as vice president?

Diane Gongaware: Listening to customers and the challenges in their workplace. What I heard across the country from federal, state and local officials, administrators and staff in higher education and K-12 was basically the same. Our customers need their workplaces to run smoothly to serve the public in the most efficient way possible.

The best way for Cisco to enable our customers' success is to focus on the customer's customer — the public — and provide simple, secure and reliable solutions. No one buys a network or an integrated platform for technology's sake; customers are buying technology to keep data safe, to increase physical and virtual security and deliver quality public services.

Part two of that is listening to my team and building trust between us. My continuous focus is on leaning on their expertise, needs and desire for growth. I was struck by the commitment and passion this team has at work and in the community. We have employees who are helping with hurricane and flood relief, and we do volunteer work with Veterans Affairs during their winter and summer sports events. “Serving those who serve“ is very real for us.

ExecutiveBiz: Where do you plan to shift your attention to this year at Cisco?

Diane Gongaware: Without a doubt, security services. Pervasive IT security is one of the most complex and fastest-changing landscapes. Cisco is helping customers with a range of services from basic incident response to managing network security environments.

We are focusing on helping our customers manage both Cisco and multi-vendor security products to help detect, respond, mitigate and prevent issues.

In my services sales organization, more than half of my representatives have specialized Cisco security certifications because this area is the number one priority for our customers. They can share and represent security, from our supply chain focus to the capabilities of the Cisco offerings, to special operations within our network.

They are supported by Cisco's TALOS organization, which focuses on comprehensive threat intelligence. TALOS is a game changer for Cisco. These technical masters detect and correlate data in real time to protect against threats.

Additionally, we have specialized offers that address the unique security needs of government agencies such as compliance in areas like HIPAA and PCI, cloud and planning for the transition to digitization from a government lens.

ExecutiveBiz: How are agencies changing consumption models for cloud resources?

Diane Gongaware: We see hybrid cloud as the dominant approach, which meets the need to manage information seamlessly across both public and private clouds. Customers want to be able to make decisions about workload placement, such as developmental for one application that eventually needs to move out of developmental and testing and into production in a public or hybrid cloud system.

Customers desire the ability to integrate a variety of vendor products that talk to each other in a seamless fashion for their employees. As a result, our public sector customers are asking for the right solution with the Internet of Things being a huge driver.

The pace of cloud capabilities is accelerating. We are committed to helping agencies understand the art of the possible and how to plan a scalable, migration path. It is our job to help customers navigate these technologies and figure out how we can best deliver simplicity and security to our customers' migration path.

ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see agencies focusing cloud security efforts this year?

Diane Gongaware: Agencies want to seamlessly and securely apply network and application policy and management, make decisions about workload placements, and simplify cloud security in general. To do this, addressing the network with cloud security is critical.

Additionally, Cisco's concept of “the network as sensor“ is becoming more widely recognized, with the network providing the ability to detect, monitor, manage and control policy from one dashboard, including on-net and off-net traffic.

Cisco's multi-billion-dollar investment in security capabilities offers seamless cloud security, an “as a service“ subscription, and integration and optimization capabilities with our advanced services planning  to help with the “how“ involved in the process.

Our services are at the front of the planning process and help our customers realize the advantages of moving to the cloud. We help customers leverage the assets they have and find ways to better manage them within that planning process.

As communities around the country move to cloud services, the need to protect and secure the data, and capture and analyze data swiftly and securely is growing exponentially with smart metering, smart parking, smart lighting and public safety cloud solutions. This year is the one that IoT transitions from ideas to implementations.

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