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Jun 29 2017

Cisco: Next-Gen Networking Will Be Intuitive

At its annual Live event in Las Vegas, networking behemoth Cisco has introduced a fresh concept for connecting computing devices through a new class of solutions that will "learn, adapt and evolve" over time. The idea is to make network management easier and more intuitive – and use machine learning to help customers protect their data traffic.

As one might expect, Cisco's new technology specifically addresses problems that may arise in future IoT-influenced networks – or, in the words of its CEO Chuck Robbins, "a world where you can connect billions of devices, identify them almost instantly, know what's trustworthy and what isn't, and draw exponential value from the connections" and only have to spend "hours instead of weeks and months" on the network setup. To achieve this, network admins must be given the opportunity to use automated deployment processes wherever possible, as if they were working with an 'intelligent' network that "can think ahead" and recognize in real time what a staffer intends to do.

Since this new type of "intent-based" networking is radically different from existing approaches, data centers need a whole new platform to build it on. At least this is what the company thinks and why it unveiled its new Cisco Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA) last week, which is now being heavily promoted at the in-house exhibition. In its full-fledged version, Cisco DNA consists of a suite of hard- and software building blocks and services intended to work together as one. Key components include:

  • The new Catalyst 9300, 9400 and 9500 series enterprise switches, which rely on new ASICs and freshly coded parts of Cisco's IOS XE operating system for boosts in performance, security and – most importantly – programmability
  • DNA Center, essentially a centralized management dashboard/GUI that enables admins to swiftly design network infrastructures and workflows, define user and device profiles, and implement and enforce security policies
  • Software-Defined Access (SD-Access), Cisco's version of a software-defined networking architecture that helps admins build a single common network fabric
  • Network Data Platform and Assurance, a combined monitoring and analytics tool that categorizes and correlates data traffic with network events with the goal of identifying and solving possible congestion and other problems before they occur, and finally
  • Encrypted Traffic Analytics, a service provided by Cisco's Talos threat intelligence and research division that relies on machine learning to analyze and identify "metadata traffic patterns" that are related to attacks launched via encrypted communications; according to Cisco, the service works with 99% accuracy and delivers less than 0.01% false alarms

Whether or not the new platform can deliver on Cisco's promises remains to be seen; if so, Cisco DNA could in fact help IT teams realize an age-old dream to use predictive analysis for designing, building, monitoring and protecting data center infrastructures. For more information, check out the related articles at Computerworld (w/ podcast) and The Register. Footage from Cisco's Las Vegas event will be available by July 20 via its on-demand library.


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