Massive network operational savings possible with Cisco DNA

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Published 09-Mar-2017 08:59:40
Massive network operational savings possible with Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA)

Five-year ROI of adopting Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture could exceed 400 per cent, according to IDC.

Cisco DNA helps networks become digital ready

In the drive for digitisation and increased efficiencies, the fanfare surrounding Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) at its announcement in March 2016 was to be expected. “The digital network is the platform for digital business,” explained Cisco’s Rob Soderbery. “Cisco DNA brings together virtualisation, automation, analytics, cloud and programmability to build that platform.”

Now that the concept has had a bit of time to bed in, some very interesting projections are appearing courtesy of analysts IDC, who’ve studied eight organisations that have already adopted Cisco DNA. A full report – released in November 2016 – can be obtained here, but the headline figures are somewhat jaw-dropping. For example:

  • The organisations were realising $48,117 in annual benefits per 100 users, with a nine-month payback.
  • Projecting over five years, IDC estimated ROI of 402 per cent.
  • There was an increase in network operations productivity of 28 per cent.
  • On average, IDC found that customers were able to shave 17 per cent off of the time it took to deliver new applications.

Network transformation isn’t something that would ordinarily excite line-of-business heads, but these figures should seriously strengthen any business case. What’s more, Cisco claims that DNA could dramatically reduce the scope of security breaches (measured against how many clients or machines are compromised) while shrinking the time to detect those breaches.

Many IT leaders recognise that their current network models are not sustainable, but getting business leaders to understand – and ultimately invest in – network transformation is a major challenge. “Ultimately, Cisco DNA is a game changer, and one that will likely elicit a response from key infrastructure players and solution providers,” says Rohit Mehra of IDC.

Interested in how your business might be able to benefit? IDC’s created a Cisco DNA readiness assessment, which you can try yourself.

Let’s take quick look at what Cisco DNA involves.

Cisco DNA overview

Cisco DNA is an open, extensible and software driven architecture for digital business, built on five guiding principles:

  • Virtualise everything, giving freedom to run any service anywhere, independent of the underlying platform – physical or virtual, on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Use automation to make networks and services on those networks easy to deploy, manage and maintain.
  • Use pervasive analytics to provide insights on the operation of the network, IT infrastructure and the business – information that only the network can provide.
  • Deliver service management from the cloud to unify policy and orchestration across the network, combining the agility of cloud with the security and control of an on-premises solution.
  • Remain open, extensible and programmable at every layer – integrating Cisco and third party technology, open APIs and a developer platform, to support a rich ecosystem of network-enabled applications.

There are many different threads making up DNA. The Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC-EM) streamlines operations through automating tasks and creating consistent workflows and policies across the network. For keeping data secure, Cisco DNA allows for Network as a Sensor (NaaS) and Network as an Enforcer (NaaE) through services such as Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE) and StealthWatch. In this way the network effectively becomes an end-to-end sensor that proactively detects and stops threats across all segments.

Virtualisation is at the heart of Cisco DNA. Enterprise Network Functions Virtualisation (E-NFV) allows you to start up software instances of network functions wherever they are needed. Infrastructure routing, switching, and wireless products include DNA on-premises managed products and DNA Meraki products.

Cisco DNA provides easy-to-understand analytics to make faster business decisions based on customer behaviour or what your employees are doing, through solutions such as Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX).

The Cisco DNA roadmap

Cisco DNA has a five phase roadmap of which three are already available.

  1. Base automation for greenfield and brownfield opportunities.
  2. SDN/Automated Enterprise, controller-based networking with assurance across WAN, LAN and wireless.
  3. Advanced Network and Security Analytics (a next generation threat detector with analytics app).
  4. Scheduled for 2018 is a single cross-domain orchestration solution that will see the network used as an app with policy is enforced on all PC domains.
  5. For 2020 a self-driving network will enable policy-based compliance to drive optimisation.

So not only does Cisco DNA appear to be delivering good returns on investment in the early stages – there are plenty more innovations in the pipeline that should boost efficiencies over the next few years.

In February 2017 Cisco’s Jeff Reed explained a bit more behind the company’s thinking. “The big three mega trends (IoT, cloud, mobile) may sound cheesy but they are real. Customers are now fundamentally rethinking how they are using their networks with cloud.”

Citing a Fortune 100 company with 45,000 network devices and more than 40,000 configurations, Reed explained that the IT team carries out 1,100 network changes a month, but that almost all of these changes are done manually (95 per cent). Approximately 80 per cent of those have a human mistake.

“Users want to transition to an automated network. In the future the network will enable apps throughout in an open API framework, right on top of the network.”

The Vohkus perspective on Cisco DNA

At Vohkus we’ve a substantial body of experience and plenty of excellent references for Cisco implementations, and we’re really excited about the way forward that DNA presents. We’re already helping customers examine strategic plans for network transformation that will allow them to spend more time innovating and less time troubleshooting.

By simplifying processes and making the most of network insights, we think Cisco DNA provides a solid basis for organisations looking to a digital future. And IDC’s ROI figures back that up.

If your IT department is one of those that spends 75 per cent of its cost and time just keeping the lights on, Cisco DNA represents a practical solution to achieving more with the same staff.


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