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Network management is easy. Said nobody ever. Until now.

- July 18, 2017 2:05 pm

As you embrace the key elements of digitisation – speed and agility, connecting everyone and everything, and using data to drive your business – your network is increasingly being burdened by complexity.  I’ve experienced this first hand when working in a team looking after a global network. To many of us solving these problems is something we can only dream about, as so far our campus networks are still a complex beast.

And as this complexity grows, there is a widening gap in the effectiveness of the network.  Cisco estimates show that organisations are typically spending 75% of their IT OpEx on network changes and troubleshooting.

What if you could dramatically reduce your OpEx costs and free up Network IT time?  What if you could avoid the errors altogether, fixing them before they occur? It’s a network manager’s dream.  That is now a reality with a new era of networking. The Network. Intuitive.

Making the complex easy

Figure 1 – DNA Centre homepage

That’s where DNA Centre comes in. When it comes to design, delivery, operation and troubleshooting of a network, at the moment generally this means reaching for a whole bunch of different tools one by one.

DNA Centre is bringing all this together.  A simple to use, task-based management console that provides turnkey deployment of network services end-to-end, across the campus, branch and WAN.

How does this make your life easier? 

 There are 4 key areas that I think we can all get excited about. 

  1. Simplifying the network design process

    Figure 2 Design

    When designing a network, what do you normally do?  Most likely you reach for a bunch of different tools like Visio for network diagrams, Excel for an IP addressing scheme and some photos or CAD drawings of floor plans.

    With DNA Centre, you can start building out the network hierarchy in a single view, globally.  You can even import floor plans to accurately build up the characteristics of a building and decide where the network infrastructure will live.

    That’s just the tip of the design features.  Other areas that DNA Centre will manage for you include the IP address pool, interfacing to DHCP, DNS and RADIUS. Plus, some basic SNMP and CLI credentials will be defined too.  Software images can be stored and SSIDs and wireless profiles can be created.  Everything you need.  In one place.

    Now instead of handing over a load of config files and IOS images to the implementation team, you can simply provide a profile in DNA Centre.  It all just got a whole lot easier.

  2. Speeding up policy management

    Figure 3 Policy

    Imagine if I was asked by the organisation to implement a security policy to ensure guest users can’t communicate with Application Servers. It sounds like a simple request, but to implement it I’ve got to think along the lines of IP addresses, VLANs, ACLs, VRFs or Firewall Rules. It’s actually quite complicated.

    Enter the policy application. This is a simple and intuitive way of achieving the organisation’s business intent through network access, security and segmentation. Centred around groups –anything from contractors to printers. Managed through DNA Centre and ISE.

    Once you have your groups defined, deciding what they can or cannot be allowed to do on the network becomes as simple as drag and drop.

  3. Provisioning made easy

    Figure 4 Provision

    Within DNA Centre the network fabric can now be created.  Devices are added to the fabric and can take one of several roles, provisioned with the network profiles configured in the design phase, and have policies pushed directly to them.

    If you’re interested in how this all works, check out the Campus Fabric Design guide.

    The final part is onboarding hosts such as our computers and wireless devices. DNA Centre will push down the AAA, RADIUS and Dot1x settings to each edge switch. In addition, an Anycast gateway is applied to all edge switches, allowing hosts to easily roam to any edge switch with no additional provisioning.

  4. Getting assurance. Fast.

    Figure 5 Assurance

    I’ve been there before – an employee raises a helpdesk ticket for slow, poor wireless experience. So what do I do? I pull out my ping & traceroute tools, hop on a few devices, take some packet captures or go to a network monitoring tool. This is time consuming and reactive. What if I could get to the root cause in a just a few clicks or even be proactive so that the problem never occurs?

    This is where DNA Assurance comes in. With availability later this year, this uses the network to gain end to end visibility and insights.  Insights are generated through machine learning and correlation. Sensors help predict how the network will perform. And streaming telemetry gives device insights in seconds rather than minutes.  What’s more is there’ll be API integration with a whole bunch of systems including IT Service Management (ITSM) tools.

    Probably you won’t even get the helpdesk ticket, because the problem is solved before it was even noticed.

When and how can you get your hands on it?

DNA Centre is available in the summer of 20171 with a qualifying Cisco ONE Software subscription license.  It’s as simple as that.  Foundation provides base management, while Advanced provides advanced fabric such as SD Access.  You can start some features with existing DNA-Ready infrastructure like the ISR 4000, Aironet Wave 2 Access Points, and the Catalyst 3650 and 3850 switches.  Additional functionality requires the new Catalyst 9000 series switches.

Is it really that different from what I’ve got now?

Whatever your current network infrastructure, this new network is unlike any other network, and will be essential for IT to scale at the pace the business increasingly needs.  To find out more go to www.cisco.co.uk/networkintuitive or listen to our podcast Getting under the hood of the new era of networking – technical edition

 

Footnote
1  DNA Centre 1.0 with Base Management and Software Defined Access

 

 

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