Vishnu Chintamaneni and Anjali Gugle

Vishnu Chintamaneni ( Director, Engineering at Cisco ) and Anjali Gugle ( Product Security and Data Strategy), Cisco Systems

Supernova Award Category: 
Data to Decisions
The Organization: 

Cisco Systems is the worldwide leader in technology. Cisco's products and services focus on three market segments—enterprise, service provider, midsize and small business. The company inspires new possibilities by reimagining applications, securing data, transforming infrastructure, and empowering teams for a global and inclusive future. Cisco develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment, and other high-technology services and products. Cisco is one of the largest technology companies in the world ranking 74 on the Fortune 100 list.

The Problem: 

Cisco's digital economy runs on data residing in multiple systems and locations where data is a differentiator in delivering frictionless journeys to provide real business value at every stage that customers increasingly expect, but with data volumes and velocity multiplying, the variety of the data expanding, proliferating data silos and ineffective sharing across business units, the need for governance, security, and user access becomes increasingly essential. 

Our key challenge, however, is the current architecture does not effectively scale due to highly coupled pipeline decomposition, hyper-specialized ownership, and loss of context, leading to ineffective data management and weak governance and stifling productivity and innovation.

To become more data-driven, we needed to democratize our data, making it available securely for proper use, increase data literacy and data quality, enable visibility, clarify ownership, and provide transparency and Cisco saw an opportunity to build 'Stellaris' - a data and API platform based on data mesh architecture paradigms to solve the issues presented by centralized, monolithic data lakes by treating domain-based data as the end-product and allowing separate business domains to host and serve their datasets in an easily consumable way and enable analytics that truly reap the benefits of its data.

The Solution: 

We conceptualized Stellaris which provides a composable and modular approach to productize and serve data products based on the Data Mesh architecture and built on the Witboost platform from AgileLabs with Hasura GraphQL API and Snowflake data store.

The platform supports automation-driven workflows to accelerate the delivery of data products built with a product-thinking mindset ensuring total governance enabled by computational policies addressing internal rules and policy requirements to achieve data democratization.

This modular approach democratizes access to trusted data, drives quality and transparency throughout the data product provisioning lifecycle, proactively mitigates risks, publishes trusted and compliant data products via the centralized marketplace to data consumers, thereby elevating data consumer experience with federated query capabilities and connected intelligence to facilitate data-driven decision-making.

The Results: 

The challenges created by centralized monolithic data lake architecture in the areas of data management and data governance, including the proliferation of data silos, inhibited the democratization of data access and scale.

Against this challenging backdrop, Stellaris made a tremendous impact by breaking down data silos to positive outcomes: improved ownership, boosted discoverability, enhanced data accessibility, accelerated data sharing, actionable insights, and greater trust in the data.

By shifting responsibility of the data to the domain teams that best understand the context, Stellaris helped make informed decision-making and enhanced agility with flexibility for data owners.

With Stellaris, we improved the ability to get value from data at scale and deliver high-quality governed data with context to faster insights.

Stellaris catalog improved the speed at which consumers can access multiple data sources and correlate using connected intelligence to make informed choices.

With Stellaris , we consistently foster a culture of data-driven decision-making with improved data literacy, trust, and transparency.

The disruptive potential of Stellaris is the net result of the interplay between these enabling and inhibiting factors stated above as it brings disruptive innovation to data management.

We’re seeing significant change and foresee gaining more traction which is the strongest indicator of success.


Before Stellaris, we had data consumers facing problems in accessing data due to hyper-specialized teams and highly-coupled data pipelines. Stellaris helped manage and govern data effectively. At the end of the fiscal year 2022, we did not have data products defined and mapped to the domains. In May 2022, Stellaris fielded 3 capabilities, crawled 50+ datasets, and productized using 20+ computation policies. We plan to measure results in several ways. A few gains include:

  • Reduced costs: by tracking down the dark data and enforcing purpose-based limitations.
  • Increased discovery by 15+% - with curation of reference metadata
  • Minimized access request delays by 10+% - by automating the access request and approval process, enforcing data contracts to restrict sensitive data sharing and verifying the requestor, and this equates to people, time, and money savings.
  • Identified quality issues by 10% - uncovering schema discrepancies gave us wings to recognize the value in the data being ingested in the current data platform, but not utilized to the fullest.
  • Improved Data literacy by 20% - by creating an info-centric culture by managing and governing the data effectively.

The platform has solved the first use case – case management – and it is an asset for the future as it better connects the value of technology investments to the fulfillment of business outcomes.

The Technology: 

The Stellaris platform is an important enabler for Data Mesh transformation at Cisco.
We leverage a Witboost platform from AgileLab to connect to polyglot sources to create data products.
We used Hasura GrapQL API for publishing data products.
Development and provisioning is orchestrated through a template mechanism based open source technologies such as Airbyte, dbt, and Airflow and deployed in the AWS cloud.
Underpinning is a Snowflake database where output data products are stored.

Disruptive Factor: 

There were several challenges to address and dynamics to consider as the Stellaris team aspired to build a data-mesh-based platform believing that data democratization improves decision-making and agility.

We rolled out the Stellaris initiative with a presentation to all stakeholders emphasizing the need for a composable, modular, self-service, and interoperable architecture ready for the modern world of data consumption and leveraged findings from case studies to alleviate the stigma around transitioning towards a distributed data mesh, clarified concerns around new competencies, and addressed perceptions around traditional data governance.

This served as a catalyst to generate momentum and enabled us to demonstrate Stellaris's ability to show visibility into where the datasets came from, understand the data discrepancies to address business requirements, articulate transparency into our datasets to make them secure, responsible, and compliant, to our stakeholders and establish success indicators for our data democratization initiative program to progress toward our long-term vision.

Stellaris built a proven blueprint for our data citizens to use data for strategic decision-making and elevate the customer experience and is foreseen as an indispensable tool that offers solutions to all our data exchange and management problems and has received support at an executive level as data product creators and consumers embark on the data democratization journey.

Shining Moment: 

Stellaris is on a mission to spread its magic to increase speed to value and empower data citizens to make data-driven decisions and has successfully showcased the art of the possible and driving impactful change.

One highlight was receiving an invitation to nominate Stellaris's enterprise data product catalog design at the AWS Re-invent 2023.

What we as a data strategy team have been able to drive with this novel approach by connecting with our stakeholders has been amazing.

About Cisco Systems

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in technology that powers the Internet. Cisco inspires new possibilities by reimagining your applications, securing your data, transforming your infrastructure, and empowering your teams for a global and inclusive future.