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March 2, 2016

Cisco Eyes Better Analytics Through ‘DNA’


As the 800-pound gorilla in networking, Cisco already plays a major role in moving data around the globe. But with today’s launch of its new Digital Network Architecture (DNA) strategy, the company has big plans to make data analytics more pervasive across the enterprise.

The new DNA architecture marks a major change for Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), the 31-year-old company that makes the lion’s share of the world’s switches, routers, and other network gear. In addition to being a vehicle to further Cisco’s strategy in hot technology areas like software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), DNA is also a vehicle for enabling Cisco customers to do more analytics.

Specifically, DNA will bring customers new capabilities in the areas of security, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, and location-aware analytics strategies, says Prashanth Shenoy, Cisco’s senior director of product and solutions marketing for its enterprise network and mobility business.

“Data for our customers is the new oil,” Shenoy tells Datanami. “The faster a customer can glean insights from the data, the better off they are to provide a more innovative experience and roll out services a lot faster in a way that matters for their end users.”

Cisco’s network gear has always collected data that IT professionals could use, such as for troubleshooting poor application performance or detecting the presence of malware on networks. But DNA’s analytics focus is targeting the line of business, not the IT department. Specifically, organizations in the healthcare, manufacturing, education, and retail industries will benefit from DNA by enabling more granular collection of data at the network layer, Shenoy says.


Cisco’s DNA stack

“The network provides a lot of analytics in terms of bandwidth utilization around application performance, etc,” he says. “The Digital Network Architecture expands that to provide insights around users and their behavior, around security threats and their behavior, and around applications and their behavior. So it’s fundamentally more about valuable insights for the line of business beyond IT, and using that to drive new experiences and new innovation.”

The DNA imprint will eventually be felt across Cisco’s product lines, but for now its biggest impact will be felt in Cisco ONE Software, which is a suite of software that customers can use to manage DNA-ready networking gear. Cisco ONE includes new products like the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller-Enterprise Module (APIC-EM) automation platform, Enterprise NFV, and CMX Cloud.

Much of DNA’s analytics story appears to revolve around CMX Cloud, which will enable customers to better collect data, and to perform “presence analytics,” where data is analyzed and aggregated according to the location collected from a mobile device or other sensor. This will be useful for better understanding customer behavior, and also for doing security analytics. CMX Cloud becomes available in June.

Cisco says that customers will get better access to higher-grade location analytics because it’s baking these analytic capabilities directly into network gear and the iOS operating system, and exposing the management interface as software as a service (SaaS) application available on the cloud.

Analytics performed on the CMX Cloud will also boost the security of Cisco customers, Shenoy says.

“This is a complete feedback loop where the data generated on the network is leverage by a software platform that detects anomalies in the data, and sends that data to another software platform that provides a policy that can go back to the network to prevent these threats or mitigate the threats from happening,” he says. “This is an example of a software solution that’s not just meant to manage the network, but it’s meant to manage the threats and security posture on top of that.”

Cisco previously provided some security detection capabilities for its networking customers (you can read about that big data project here). But the advent of an end-to-end solution like DNA enables the company to expand and deepen the type of security-related analytic activity that it can offer to its networking clients. It also works to eliminate the average six-month window that currently exists between when a security threat is first detected and when action is taken.

cisco.png“We were providing advanced malware protection on top of it, [but] they were acting in silos,” he says. “It provided for a branch or a WAN or a campus environment, and it didn’t have a complete closed feedback loop, if you will, where the threats are constantly detected on the network, can be analyzed, and proactive action taken immediately on top of it. This is what we’ve done with DNA, which is bring it all together–the detection, the fencing of the threat, the analyzing of the threat, and the protection and enforcement of the threat, all coming together, in every single system.”

The $49 billion-company announced DNA at its annual user conference being held this week in San Diego, California.

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