5 Things To Know About Cisco's Promise Of An 'Always-On' Intent-Based Network

Cisco says partners stand to make recurring revenue gains with life-cycle management and security services and the company has made a significant investment to motivate the channel to push the new capabilities.

Good Intentions

Cisco Systems Tuesday introduced Network Assurance Engine and DNA Center Assurance, two new software systems the company said can give customers clear visibility into the efficiency, operation and security of intent-based networks.

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The Network Assurance Engine is aimed at intent-based systems in data centers using Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure, while DNA Center Assurance covers branch and campus networks using Cisco Meraki technology. The systems are based on mathematical modeling nearly three years in the making. The company said the software mines predictive analytics to make assurances about network performance, efficiency and security and give partners a strong foothold with customers eager to undergo digital transformation.

The system gives customers continuous visibility into the network, guarantees that the infrastructure is operating properly, and presents users with the ability to take corrective action when needed.

Cisco partners stand to make recurring revenue gains with life-cycle management and security services, the company said, and the company has made a significant investment to motivate partners to aggressively push the new capabilities.

Click through for five things partner should know about Cisco's new intent-based assurance systems.

Pushing Partners

Cisco is backing the launch of the assurance packages with what Nirav Sheth (pictured), vice president sales and systems engineering in Cisco's global partner organization, calls the company's largest-ever investment in channel activation. The company, Sheth said, is investing "millions upon millions" of dollars to get the channel ready and able to help customers activate and operate the assurance systems, he said. The effort includes deal registration programs, as well as a migration incentive program for customer refresh deals. The company is also changing its Value Incentive Program rebates to better fit the software strategy. Partners will be rewarded a traditional rebate and will also get additional rebates and awards as customers activate the assurance software packages, he said.

The Pitfalls Of Intent

Intent-based networking promises to set and orchestrate networking policies, configure systems and maintain network integrity based on simple business outcomes chosen by users. The problem until now has been that there's no way to see whether the intents set by customers are being carried out. When things go wrong, troubleshooting can be time-intensive, security problems can be difficult to discover and networks can quickly fall out of compliance with various regulations.

Team Effort

Network Assurance is based on mathematical modeling nearly three years in the works by as many as 60 Cisco engineers. The system gives customers continuous visibility and verification of what's going on in their routing, switching, wireless and data center components. "It guarantees that the infrastructure is doing what it's supposed to do, and provides a means of taking corrective action," said Sundar Iyer, Cisco distinguished engineer. The system can also predict outages, accelerate changes, ensure compliance and provide predictive analytics.

Strong Fundamentals

Cisco's intent-based networking push began with the launch of its data center-based Application Centric Infrastructure in late 2013, and it's picked up steam with the introduction of the Catalyst 9000 family of subscription-based switches for campus and branch uses. Since last June, more than 1,100 customers have bought Catalyst 9000 switches, and 150 of them have started using Network Assurance software. About 1.3 million networks encompassing tens of millions of devices are attached to Cisco's Meraki dashboard, which is covered by new Cisco DNA Center Assurance software.

Circle Of Life

For partners, the key opportunity in the new assurance packages comes in the host of services they can deliver. "There's an unprecedented level of security opportunity for partners to uncover and interject into the network," said Cisco's Sheth. "Partners can drive more in the way of life-cycle and adoption services, drive stickiness across the entire timeline of that customer with Cisco. This is a tremendous opportunity for analytics at the edge. Analytics can be digested by our partners and delivered back to our customers in ways we've never been able to do before. Wi-Fi analytics are available, and that gives you the ability to understand how those devices are interacting with the network, where they're going. It presents a host of opportunities for what our partners can do with their ongoing services capabilities."