FROM CISCO LIVE, LAS VEGAS: Cisco unveiled a $1 billion fund it intends to use to back start-ups with the ultimate aim of aiding development of secure AI products, as the networking company launched a spate of new enterprise offerings.

The fund has been formed in an attempt to support start-ups which complement its own offerings. Part of the Cisco Investments cash pot has already been earmarked for generative AI players Cohere, Mistral AI and Scale AI.

Announcing the investment drive, the company sought to position itself as a major backer of AI companies, pointing to the fact it has already made more than 20 “AI-focused acquisitions and investments”.

During the keynote session Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins (pictured) said the company was thinking about the fund “a little differently,” adding “everybody yawns when you hear about a billion dollars for AI these days.”

The executive added it was “not just investing to watch them and see if we can make a little return on this money,” pointing to an intent to “co-develop” products for the market.

Other news from the opening day of the event included the first results of a collaboration with Nvidia announced in February 2024 to develop infrastructure solutions for enterprise.

The jointly developed Cisco Nexus HyperFabric AI, launched today (4 June), is a platform for data centres claimed to ease deployment of AI models and applications. Cisco asserted the product would allow those without “deep IT knowledge and skills” to use, monitor and manage systems.

Building on the launch of Cisco Networking Cloud by its ThousandEyes division at last year’s edition of the event, it announced upgraded capabilities designed to provide digital experience assurance on the platform and other systems.

The company noted the “AI native” product would allow customers to “see and manage every enterprise, cloud, SaaS, and Internet network for exceptional digital experiences”.

Cisco also revealed expanded compatibility for security system Hypershield, upgraded its application management offering using technology from recently acquired business Splunk and added new features to its Webex contact centre platform.