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In collaboration with Chris Tomazic

 

As we plan for a safe return to Cisco offices around the world, we are experiencing a large increase in the types and numbers of devices connecting to our network. This means that our teams need to manage an increasingly complex ecosystem more efficiently than ever before.

Like many IT departments, we are scrambling to keep up with these new network demands. In fact, according to one recent study of various enterprises, 43 percent of surveyed IT and network professionals said they struggle to find time to work on strategic business initiatives, and 42 percent spend too much time troubleshooting the network.

As a result, many IT teams lack the time needed both to grow their networks and take on new projects that could set their companies apart from the competition.

To help address these challenges, our Customer Zero team, a part of Cisco IT, deployed the Cisco DNA Center controller as part of a multi-site initiative to better automate and maintain our campus and branch networks.

 

Cisco DNA Center delivers centralized command and control

With the Cisco DNA Center, we can take charge of our network, optimize our network investments, and respond to changes and challenges faster and more intelligently than we could before.

Cisco DNA Center provides a real-time dashboard for managing and controlling our enterprise network. It also automates provisioning and change management, checks compliance against policies, and captures asset logs that can be analyzed for troubleshooting, problem resolution, and predictive maintenance.

In one integrated system, Cisco DNA Center offers two critical networking capabilities: automation and – the focus of this blog – assurance.

 

Assuring optimal network performance

Cisco DNA Center’s Assurance capabilities allows us to quantify network availability and risk based on analytics. It accomplishes this by enabling every point on the network to become a sensor. Cisco DNA Center collects data from 17 different network sources – including NetFlow, SNMP, syslog, streaming telemetry, and more – so that we can view network issues from many different angles and contexts. It sends continuous streaming telemetry on application performance and user connectivity in real time, then uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make sense of the data.

Cisco DNA Center’s clean, simple dashboards show overall network status and flag issues. In addition, guided remediation automates the process of issue resolution and performance enhancement, ensuring optimal network user experiences and less troubleshooting. It allows us to resolve network issues in minutes instead of hours — before they become problems. Cisco DNA Center even lets us go back in time to see the cause of a network issue, instead of trying to re-create the issue in a lab.

How Cisco DNA Assurance operates

 

Making an impact for Customer Zero 

By implementing emerging technologies in Cisco’s IT production environments, Customer Zero provides an IT operator’s perspective as Cisco develops integrated solutions, best practices, and accompanying value cases to drive accelerated adoption.

As part of our mission to use Cisco products in our own real-world environment, the Customer Zero team has deployed Cisco DNA Center as part of a multi-site (six buildings) Cisco Software Defined Access (SD-Access) fabric on our San Jose campus. The solution has already yielded encouraging pilot-test results in four areas of the product: Network Health Dashboard, Client Health Dashboard, Network Insights & Trends (AI-driven), and Wireless Sensor Dashboard. Let’s take a closer look at how the last of these, Cisco DNA Center’s Wireless Sensor capability, is helping us improve the process of making network changes.

 

Real-world use case: network changes with software upgrades

For any required network changes, such as software upgrades, Cisco DNA Center collects information and insights from wireless sensors. The results are then displayed on a single dashboard, allowing our teams to monitor and detect issues more easily.

Wireless sensors behave as wireless clients. They connect to our SSIDs and run network tests, much like an on-site engineer would do. They have the added intelligence of reporting their findings back to Cisco DNA Center, where the data from all sensors is compiled into one dashboard. Sensors run their tests automatically and periodically – after initial configuration, there is no need to touch the sensors again.

Cisco DNA Center’s Wireless Sensor capability has provided five key benefits for Customer Zero:

    1. Reduced time to complete change requests. After changes occur in the network, we check our sensors to ensure they – and, ultimately, end users – have no problem connecting to the SSIDs. Consequently, we can close the change window sooner.
    2. Improved ease of use and productivity for IT teams monitoring the network. Instead of having to perform checks in multiple locations, we can monitor the health of the network in a single place. This is true both when following up after network changes (change requests) and also for daily monitoring of the infrastructure’s health.
    3. Reduced risk and improved confidence. Our engineers use the sensor dashboard to systematically check wireless client health. We gain confidence in the success of our change windows and can assertively close them without worrying about lingering issues.
    4. Reduced costs. Because wireless sensors tell us about the real-time health of our network, we feel more confident about conducting changes during business hours. With the ability to perform upgrades in production during business hours, we expect to reduce costs associated with outsourcing vendors who charge higher rates for off-hours activities.
    5. Increased adoption of NetDevOps (agile) capabilities. The ability to make changes in production while leveraging critical data about end-user experience is helping to change our team members’ mindsets. They’ve become more assertive about embracing NetDevOps continuous improvement / continuous upgrade changes – which is also contributing to improved skillsets.

Our team’s implementation of Cisco DNA Center confirmed the solution’s ability to save time and costs, reduce risk, improve ease of use and confidence, and build stronger skillsets. Most important, our positive experience has laid the groundwork for Cisco IT to deploy Cisco DNA Center at scale and help ensure a safer return to the office.

 

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