Cisco Takes Aim at Cost of Network Operations

    Cisco has updated its DNA Center software to enable IT organizations to now automate tasks across twice as many endpoints. Version 2.2.2 of Cisco DNA Center also expands the usage of machine learning algorithms to enable network operations to more easily evaluate the comparative performance differences of network devices and clients. 

    In addition, the update makes available heat maps that can be employed to track key performance indicators (KPIs) for Wi-Fi network coverage on an hourly basis. Cisco has also integrated Cisco DNA with wireless network tools from Ekahau to enable network operations teams to optimally deploy access points.

    Cisco DNA Center can now also continuously monitor the behavior of endpoints by assigning a numerical score to the level of trust an endpoint should have based on its behavior. That approach, for example, enables IT teams to identify devices that may be communicating with external entities in a suspicious manner.  

    The company is also making it easier to install the agent software it gained via its acquisition of ThousandEyes, a provider of a monitoring platform, on network switches using Cisco DNA Center. It is also now possible to install Cisco DNA Center itself in a few minutes on a three-node cluster that improves overall resiliency. Additionally, Cisco is exposing REST application programming interfaces (APIs) through which network operations teams can now programmatically automate workflows.

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    Finally, Cisco has bolstered security by making it simpler to transition to SD-Access, a zero-trust framework for managing access control without reconfiguring a virtual local area network (VLAN).

    Cisco, with the latest update to Cisco DNA Center, is enabling IT teams to manage distributed networking environments at scale without necessarily increasing overall headcount, says Jeff Scheaffer, vice president of product management and strategy for Cisco. “Automation allows us to reduce labor,” he notes.

    For example, a network operations team can upgrade up to 1,000 Cisco Catalyst 9000 devices every hour. Cisco is also now providing tools to enable network operations teams to calculate the return on investment (ROI) enabled by the automation capabilities embedded within Cisco DNA Center.

    Enabling Observability

    As the Cisco networking strategy continues to evolve in 2021 there will be a lot more focus on enabling observability across highly distributed networking environments as part of efforts to provide networking teams with more actionable insights into potential issues before they arise, adds Scheaffer.

    As network management becomes more automated it’s not clear to what degree networking specialists will be required going forward. Many network operations tasks will increasingly be subsumed by IT administrators employing automation tools, such as Terraform and Ansible, to unify the management of servers, storage and networks. That approach not only reduces the total cost of IT; the IT organization itself also becomes more agile at a time when IT environments are changing on an almost daily basis.

    Naturally, there will also be a need for architects to design a network. However, the daily operational management of those networks is slowly but surely shifting toward the IT generalist that manages the rest of the IT infrastructure that networks are now just one more critical element.

    Read next: Cisco Looks to Drive Down Total Cost of IT

    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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