Getting Smart with SDN: Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture


March 22, 2016

Earlier in March, at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego, Cisco announced the launch of their new Digital Network Architecture (DNA). The DNA is a repackaging of some old products, combined with a few new products to create a suite of software. But, that’s just what it is. What it does is provide a roadmap to transition a legacy network into a cutting-edge, software defined network (SDN) with advanced analytics, security, and functionality.


Cisco’s Vision for the Digital Network Architecture

Cisco doesn’t want to just push more SDN technology into the market. In recent years, there has already been a dizzying amount of innovation when it comes to the network. Between cloud, SDN, NFV, NetConf/YANG, and more, it can be difficult to sift through the slush of new technologies to find what works, what works now, and what can work for you. Cisco DNA is designed to clarify an approach, a process for transitioning into an SDN.

Moving from zero to sixty on digitizing the network is a challenge few environments are ready for, so Cisco frames this transition to a digital network as a journey taken at your own pace. Cisco lays out a five step roadmap to guide you through the process. Wherever your environment falls in the guide, there is a defined next step to take.

1. Base Automation: Start small. There are simple automation tools you can add to your existing network today and receive immediate benefits and improvements.

2. Policy Services: Next, you can move on to more sophisticated software like intelligent WAN (IWAN). With Cisco IWAN, you can enact policies that optimize key applications and intelligently route traffic to improve performance.

3. Advanced Security: Change the security philosophy of your environment by transforming your network into a sensor and/or an enforcer of your security policies.

4. Complete Software Control: With much of the groundwork laid, making the full transition to a software defined network with automation is a much shorter leap.

5. Digital Services: As a digital network, the environment is prepared to take advantage of a new generation of digital services including the Internet of Things, analytics, and more.


New Cisco Products in the DNA: Digital Network Architecture

Cisco DNA is more than just a repackaging of existing solutions, it has exclusive new innovations as well. If the goal is to create a transition process, some Cisco products would need to be tweaked to align with that effort. To start, Cisco has made three notable changes to their products, and as the Cisco DNA matures and grows, more technologies are sure to be added to this list.

  • Cisco CMX Cloud: Cisco Mobile Experiences (CMX), a robust analytics tool, is now available as a software as a services (SaaS) cloud application. This makes the CMX solution far easier to implement and immediately utilize. Use Location Analysis to track movement in your brick and mortar store, or Engage to directly interact with mobile users from any device.
  • Cisco APIC EM: The Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC EM) is a variant of the standard APIC, a centralized control platform used to automate the (SDN) in Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). The APIC EM, however, is compatible with the existing network hardware and provides a low risk option for moving towards an SDN. Furthermore, the APIC EM is capable of automating advanced features in the Cisco IWAN.
  • Enterprise NFV: Network Function Virtualization (NFV) has been a benefit to the service provider, but Cisco DNA expands the benefits of NFV to the enterprise. IT directors and CIOs alike can now virtualize individual branches or campuses, abstract the network intelligence, and utilize an infrastructure and orchestration layer for easy management.

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