Global technology major Cisco has announced the setting up of a new data center in Chennai and expansion of the existing facility in Mumbai. These centers are aimed at providing Indian customers with enhanced security services in cloud infrastructure. The company has also rolled out several new features under the zero trust security framework against cyber security threats. Cisco also plans to train 5,00,000 people with cybersecurity skills over the next three years through Networking Academy. Currently, India is the second biggest research and development hub outside of the US. Fortune India spoke to Daisy Chittilapilly, President, Cisco India & SAARC to understand the new initiative. 

Edited excerpts of the interview

Fortune India: What are the gaps that you see at an enterprise level between board room discussion on cyber security and the implementation?

Daisy Chittilapilly: The cyber readiness index which is a study that we have done gives a bleak picture that is emerging. There is a lot of awareness at board level, yes. Perhaps the ability to quantify business risks is where there has been a gap between CSOs’ understanding and the board’s understanding. And that is where the problem is. Today vulnerabilities can come from anywhere in a connected world, and from many dimensions. Boards understanding this and CSOs are now being able to better quantify these risks. My view is they have to spend in many areas because security is embedded into a lot of technologies and if you have a weakest link that will be exploited . So I think investment needs to be done not just in security technology but also a massive look at technical debt that exists in organisations and to fix this. 

Fortune India: You have committed to massive skilling in the cyber security space through the NetAcademy, what would this mean to the ecosystem and tech talent in India? 

Daisy Chittilapilly: Our fundamental ethos around Networking Academy has been very simple. Today if someone goes through a course in academy there is a 95% chance to find an new job or a better paying job. The way we measure success is through employability. In India it is 95% and in Srilanka and Bangladesh where we also run the program is 100%. I really like the fact that at the Networking Academy, 30% of the instructors and students are women. The Women in Tech program that we announced earlier is also very popular since India has been the cradle of the hot skill and with cyber skills being in shortage, this new initiative will be a very sought after skill in coming days. 

Fortune India: What are the key reasons behind your expansion of data centers now and the key drivers behind the enhanced security infrastructure?

Daisy Chittilapilly: According to reports, India is seeing a 3x increase in cyber attacks over the past three years. Cisco’s Talos is the world’s largest commercial threat hunting engine. We called out last year that India has become significantly more vulnerable. In technology deployment, most companies can't count beyond 8- 10 players, but in reality they have 40-70 security technologies. These overlaps in technology create gaps and risks for enterprises. Companies need to change old operating models. NetOps, SecOps and DevOps need to come together. So there is a need to establish new standards of trust and new capabilities. Technical debt in Indian companies is very high and Covid-19 has made that very obvious. We are pivoting a lot of our technology towards software and SaaS since consumers and our customers want to consume technology that way. So all of this means that we need to make our SaaS capabilities, secure models at scale and provide that in low latency and in a highly efficient manner and that's why the location of data center in India becomes critical. 

Fortune India: Are there new capabilities that are being deployed at these data centers? 

Daisy Chittilapilly: We are doing two things: One, we are augmenting the data center footprint augmentation and two expanding the scope of the technology services, which means new services will be offered, so both are happening . 

Fortune India: From an India stand point, where do you see the company stand today in terms of the strategic shift from hardware to software? 

Daisy Chittilapilly: Its going very well. Globally we are looking to get 50% of our revenues from subscription by 2025. We are not lagging behind. Infact, India is a software destination. We are matching the global move and in fact in a couple of aspects we are ahead as well. We are on track with the global strategy laid out by the company . 

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