Cisco’s intentions now clearer – intent-based networking

A blog entry by Chuck Robbins clarifies Cisco‘s intentions for the future. They want to deliver intent-based networking to make the lives of network engineers simpler. Intent-based networking has been around for a while. Their APIC and APIC-EM platforms provide an intent-based capability already. But they are not happy with just these.

The challenge that Cisco sees is that network engineers are looking at managing many more devices with less time to support each. The automation boom cause part of this, which means fewer engineers are needed per device. The main driver, is however, the continued growth of connected devices. This will drive the need for connectivity wider that before, meaning there will be more devices needed.

“The network has never been more critical to business success, but it’s also never been under more pressure. By building a more intuitive network, we are creating an intelligent platform with unmatched security for today and for the future that propels businesses forward and creates new opportunities for people and organizations everywhere.” – Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco

Three pillars support Cisco’s version of intent-based networking:

  • Intent – using a policy to shape network configurations and not explicit commands
  • Context – understanding the who, where, what and how of network flows and changes
  • Intuition – using the data collected across the network and machine-learning, delivering reliable insights and predictive information.

They have developed new areas to sell network capability and differentiation with the rest of the marketplace. These are in the following areas:

  • DNA Center
    This is the nerve centre for the new network, delivering through a management dashboard intent-based ways to design, provision and define policy and measure assurance. Having an understanding of the context of the entire network, DNA center will the platform to deliver the remaining features.
  • Software-Defined Access (SD-Access)
    SD-Access is Cisco’s new method to take the drudgery out of port-by-port access switch configuration. By using SDN capability, it uses a single network fabric to support policy enforcement and network segmentation automatically. They claim time reductions in network provisioning of 67%, improved issue resolution by 80%, reduced security breach impact by 48%, and opex savings of 61%.
  • Network Data Platform and Assurance
    Instrumenting the network generates a lot of data. Cisco will collect this, feed it through machine-learning tools, and correlate and categorise it to create information. This information will then generate predictive analytics, business intelligence and actionable insights delivered through an Assurance service in the DNA Center.
  • Encrypted Traffic Analytics
    Half of cyber attacks today are hidden in encrypted traffic. Protecting the business without impacting privacy will be more challenging in the future. Using Cisco’s Talos cyber-intelligence will analyse traffic patterns and find fingerprints of known threats, without decryption. Cisco are claiming that only they can detect threats in encrypted traffic with up to 99% accuracy, with less than 0.01% false positives.
  • Catalyst 9000 Switching Portfolio
    It would be a bit of a shock if Cisco didn’t introduce a new hardware platform to support all this new ability. So Cisco is delivering the Catalyst 9000 series of switches. Supporting mobility, cloud, IoT and security, Cisco are claiming, of course, invocation at both hardware ASIC and IOS-XE software layers.
  • Software Subscription
    Cisco’s move to manage their revenue stream through software subscriptions continues. This  is now an essential element to get access to  DNA software capabilities in the new switches.
  • DNA Services
    Cisco will also continue to sell their professional services, re-branding these as DNA Services. Partners can sell these services, delivering advice, implementation, optimization and technical skills. They can also build network practices that deliver software management , security, automation and analytics for their customers.
  • Developer Center
    Cisco is updating DevNet DNA Developer Center with resources to help developers. With new learning paths, sandboxes, and API support resources, this allows you to drive the intent of your business into the Cisco network. By using the community, this will also help Cisco shape the DNA Center of the future.