In collaboration with Ina Singh

Today’s highly complex and dynamic networks create demands that often exceed the capacity of IT operations teams. Within Cisco IT, we are meeting these demands by creating integrations between Cisco DNA Center and ServiceNow.

We use Cisco DNA Center to control the Cisco campus and branch network, as well as to track upgrades and manage the operational states of all network elements, connections, and users.

We use ServiceNow as one of the IT service management platforms for providing helpdesk support to users and management capabilities to our IT service owners.

Customer Zero implements emerging technologies into Cisco’s IT production environments ahead of product launch. We are integrating these systems in multiple ways to make it easier to find the right information to solve problems, streamline tasks for network changes, and allow routine operational tasks to run autonomously in an end-to-end automated workflow. Furthermore, Customer Zero is providing an IT operator’s perspective as we develop integrated solutions, best practices, and accompanying value cases to drive accelerated adoption.

To develop these integrations, Cisco IT takes advantage of Cisco DNA Center platform API Bundles, Cisco DNA Center customizable app in the ServiceNow App store, and other ServiceNow offerings.

Integration #1: All the right information, accessible in one place

One of our first integrations synchronizes inventory information about network devices from Cisco DNA Center to the ServiceNow configuration management database (CMDB). This inventory sync benefits users of both systems. Cisco DNA Center provides up-to-date information on a device so when there’s an issue, an engineer can see it in the CMDB along with context information, such as who to contact about solving the problem.

In the future, the engineer working in the CMDB will be able to click on a link to manage that device in Cisco DNA Center without needing a separate login and subsequent searches for the device. This feature will help the engineer save time, especially when troubleshooting network issues.

Integration #2: Streamlining deployment of software images

Another integration we created supports automation for managing software image updates on our network devices. In the past, Cisco IT engineers have spent thousands of hours every quarter managing these routine updates. But when Cisco IT receives a high-priority security alert, the updates must be distributed and verified ASAP on thousands of affected devices.

With a manual process, this effort requires extensive time for engineers to manage the change activity and track its status on every device. And the network remains exposed to the threat until this process is completed.

In the coming months, we will automate much of the change-management process through the Cisco DNA Center Software Management Functionality and ServiceNow integration. For emergency changes, the engineer can create one change request that covers all devices, which dramatically simplifies approvals. Once the device has been upgraded, Cisco DNA Center updates the individual device record in our ServiceNow system. This automation allows us to maintain current information without needing to process identical change requests for individual devices.

We will also create an integration for “allow list” change requests, which cover routine update tasks that have a low risk of impact on the network state. For these requests, Cisco DNA Center automatically attaches all covered devices to the request and updates each device record in the CMDB. In the past, these changes weren’t always tracked at the device level because of the time and effort required for an engineer to update the device data.

Integration #3: Turning routine work into autonomous processes

Today we are also creating a foundation to automate more tasks between Cisco DNA Center and ServiceNow. For example, an event generated by Cisco DNA Assurance will start a workflow that opens a ServiceNow case, which in turn will send a workflow to Cisco DNA Center with detailed information on the problem and how to fix it. This automation will reduce the number of issues that require attention from a network engineer.

ServiceNow will also be able to request details from Cisco DNA Center when a user files a ticket for a new type of problem. In this case, Cisco DNA Center will provide network information and past events that enrich the ticket with useful information for faster, more efficient troubleshooting and problem resolution.

More integrations to come

We’re just at the beginning of our Customer Zero vision for integrating Cisco DNA Center and our ServiceNow platform. We’ll continue to develop integrations that make our IT operations more efficient. And we’ll continue to share what we’re learning along the way.

What types of IT operational activity are you looking to automate?