Cisco opens DNA Center network control and management software to the DevOps masses

Opening up Cisco DNA Center's network controller, assurance, automation and analytics platform to developers holds the promise of customers building strategic network applications.

Michael Cooney Jun 15th 2018
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ORLANDO – Cisco made a bold move this week to broaden the use of its DNA Center by opening up the network controller, assurance, automation and analytics system to the community of developers looking to take the next step in network programming.

Introduced last summer as the heart of its Intent Based Networking initiative, Cisco DNA Center features automation capabilities, assurance setting, fabric provisioning and policy-based segmentation for enterprise networks.

David Goeckeler, executive vice president and general manager of networking and security at Cisco told the Cisco Live customer audience here that DNA Center’s new open platform capabilities mean all its powerful, networkwide automation and assurance tools are available to partners and customers. New applications can use the programmable network for better performance, security and business insights, he said.

Under the program DNA Center now opens:

  • Over 100 APIs that let IT and business applications constantly communicate their performance, policy and compliance needs to the network.
  • Adapters and connectors for integrating with other IT and network systems (e.g. ITSM and IPAM) so teams can streamline IT workflows.
  • Adapters and connectors for integrating with other infrastructure domains (e.g. datacenter, cloud and security) so that admins can apply and assure intent from anywhere to anywhere.
  • An SDK for allowing the support of third-party network vendors’ devices, so customers/developers can bring intent-based networking to multivendor environments.

Such a community endeavor requires tons of partnerships, developers and other third-party integrators to be successful.  On that score Cisco said it had 15 partnerships including Accenture, Dimension Data, IBM, Microfocus, ServiceNow and World Wide Technology working on applications.

At Cisco Live, IT service management system ServiceNow talked about its DNA Center application built to create trouble tickets automatically. ServiceNow can then generate approvals to DNA Center to execute remediation steps and close out the ticket faster and more accurately than either system could independently, the company said.

DevOps community growth

On the DevOps side, Cisco this week said its own DevNet community now has 500,000 registered members, many looking to target network programming.  

“Our 500,000 strong community is writing code that can be leveraged and shared by others. DevNet is creating a network innovation ecosystem that will be the hub of the next generation of applications and the next generation of business,” Cisco DevNet CTO Susie Wee said.

Software is key to networking

Montana State University CIO Jerry Sheehan, speaking at a user panel at the show outlined why software is now a key driver of network technologies, said when the university needed a network upgrade they knew a hardware-only decision wasn’t going to be flexible enough. 

The university became one of the early adopters of Cisco DNA Center and deployed a software-based architecture with Cisco hardware underneath. So far, the system has helped reduce complexity and provided for more flexibility for researchers at the school, Sheehan said.

Analysts said opening DNA Center to the world is potentially a good move and could help customers more easily build strategic applications, but it will take a big effort make it a successful venture.

“DNA Center is Cisco's strategic management platform going forward, and we believe it will consume functionality that is currently distributed across several products. This should help as Cisco customers have cited multiple management tools as an ongoing challenge,” said Andrew Lerner, research vice president with Gartner. 

“So, this is a move in the right direction, but much work remains. For example, much of the data-center-networking portfolio including ACI and Nexus 9000 switches are not well integrated into DNA Center at this point,” Lerner said. 

“This announcement is about opening up DNA Center’s capabilities via API to do things such as orchestrating with other vendors and platforms – like Infoblox or ServiceNow.  This can add to the value of the DNA Center, platform if third parties and customers use the APIs and/or SDK to develop integrations.  However, that potential is largely aspirational at this point, as the depth and breadth of integrations that will be created are undetermined,” Lerner said.