April 21, 2021

Automating your Cisco Network – It’s in your DNA

Chris Day
Principal Consultant - Infrastructure Solutions at Data#3
With mobility and security threats drastically reshaping networking architectures, combined with the rise of cloud-first applications, IoT, AI and machine learning, the network is becoming increasingly complex to manage. Despite this, traditional manual processes still reign supreme – with IT teams doing 95% of network changes manually2 and spending 43% of their time troubleshooting network issues3.

There’s no signs of slowing, with Cisco predicting a 42% growth in mobile traffic from 2017 to 20221, and a twelve-fold increase in augmented and virtual reality by 20221. In short, as our reliance on technology balloons, networks are simultaneously being swamped.

As IT teams struggle to manage the accelerating scale, complexity, and dynamic nature of the growing network, the value of automation has come into focus in a big way.

The untapped potential for automation with Cisco DNA

One leading solution that addresses the new demands on enterprise network architecture is Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture – known as Cisco DNA. It’s software-driven architecture that integrates into a single network management and control platform. That’s network management, automation, virtualisation, analytics and assurance, security, and IoT connectivity – all within a single pane of glass. It very much represents the future of network management and offers an array of benefits for managing complicated networks – notably automation.

Whilst many are pre-empting network growth by investing in network management solutions like Cisco DNA, some obstacles – mental and physical – are still restricting adoption.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Many have a lack of understanding around Cisco DNA‘s capabilities and claim ‘they’re waiting for it to mature’, even though it’s now been around for three years.
  2. Others are continuing to manage their network manually, and after day-to-day operations have too few hours spare to focus on the bigger picture. Or they’re simply reluctant to be pushed out of their comfort zone.
  3. A final reason is legacy hardware. Automating and using Cisco DNA requires the latest switching equipment and refreshing hardware can be an expensive and onerous task to undertake.

However, Cisco DNA has tremendous potential for businesses, saving IT teams time, freeing up resources from mundane, repetitive work and introducing robust, standards-driven approaches to configuring and establishing new equipment. If your organisation is serious about embracing network automation in the future, Cisco DNA is worth a serious look.

The Cisco network automation advantage

We understand that maturing your network may be a daunting feat. For organisations looking to make the first move, automation is the easy step to take on the Cisco DNA journey. Leveraging Cisco DNA automates a whole range of highly manual tasks from device onboarding, configuration, provisioning, and maintenance processes – effectively simplifying operations while limiting configuration errors that plague traditional manual processes. By collecting and correlating data, Cisco DNA removes the grunt work of gathering business insights and identifying issues to deliver more personalised experiences.

Zero touch provisioning | Zero-touch device provisioning reduces device installation or upgrade time, shaving hours off the daily grind. For example, new devices are almost entirely hands-off because they are automatically discovered – and using predefined policies – are onboarded and configured without the need for human intervention.

Software image management and patching | Speed up and simplify the deployment of new software images and patches by automatically managing software upgrades and controlling the consistency of image versions and configurations across your network. You can also build a central repository of software images that can be automatically applied to devices and device families.

Security policy orchestration | Automation capabilities allow you to define granular policies and configurations using business intent and control access based on the identity of the user, device, location and time. Learn more about Cisco security solutions here.

Application performance automation (QoS) | Automation functionality provides continuous feedback to ensure business services are appropriately prioritised throughout the network while maintaining a smooth application experience.

Wireless automation | Automates configuration and wireless deployment of networks with intent-based workflows covering:

  • network profiles,
  • guest and SSID creation,
  • PnP provisioning for Aps,
  • IP ACL support,
  • advanced RF support for wireless networks, and plenty more.

When is the right time to adopt Cisco DNA?

Let’s begin with legacy infrastructure and why it may be time to look at moving to Cisco DNA. First, if you are currently using Cisco Prime, be aware that it will soon be phased out in favour of Cisco DNA. That said, you are able to run Cisco Prime and Cisco DNA side-by-side and migrate capabilities as and when you’re ready. There are also workhorse devices such as the 3750 switch approaching end of life which means at some point you will need to be looking to refresh your network hardware. This would be a good time to move to Cisco DNA.

No matter whether you’re a new or existing Cisco customer, adopting Cisco DNA supports a move on your own terms. This is because implementation is not rigid like other vendors. Rather it can evolve alongside your objectives and technology, allowing you to infuse your network with an integrated, holistic SD-WAN over time. This is supported by three tiers of software licensing – Cisco DNA Essentials, Cisco DNA Advantage, and Cisco DNA Premier. It’s a unique proposition that allows customers to start their intent-based networking journey and introduce incremental automation and assurance capabilities to help them work more efficiently, securely and faster.

Why Cisco and Data#3

With a partnership spanning 25 years, Cisco and Data#3 are the safe pair of hands to take your network into the future. To better support customers, we’ve developed a unique lifecycle approach – meaning we are with you every step of the way from assessment and enablement modules to procurement, implementation, adoption, maintenance and support. This process has won Data#3 both Cisco ANZ Customer Experience Partner of the Year and Lifecycle and Adoption Services Partner of the Year.

To learn more about where you are at in your networking journey, or how to further unlock automation value, contact a Data#3 Cisco DNA specialist or take a look at our DNA Center Readiness Assessment.

1 Cisco (2020), Cisco 2020 Global Networking Trends [ONLINE]. Available here. 
2 Cisco (2021), Benefits of Intent-Based Networking ONLINE]. Available here.
3 Sirkin Research (2019), 2019 Top Network Performance Challenges [ONLINE]. Available here.