Imagine if whenever you wanted to drive somewhere, before you started your car you had to put on the fan belt, connect the battery, and mount the tires. At some point, hands covered in grease, a light bulb would go off: “Why doesn’t a specialist get the car ready to drive before shipping it to me?”

The same goes for network switches. As they become ever more sophisticated (e.g., advanced security, intent-based networking), configuration requires more expertise and more time. The inevitable mistakes affect performance or security. And engineering teams have less time to complete high-value activities because they’re busy with manual configuration.

Now switches arrive (almost) ready to go

That’s why we’re experimenting with centrally configuring Catalyst 9000 switches through Cisco DNA Center. We’re starting in our North Sydney sales office, where we operate a special test network for new Catalyst 9000 family devices.

Cisco IT is “customer zero” for Cisco Enterprise Networking, which produces the Catalyst 9000 series. This is a big bonus for us because our feedback and bug reports have a large role in defining how the product will come to market, and our deployment and management tips become part of the implementation practices.

Our twenty-two Catalyst 9300 switches arrived pretty much ready to go out of the box. Once they’re connected, they “phone home” to Cisco DNA Center to get their configuration. Cisco DNA Center looks at the model and serial number and then downloads the right configuration for each particular switch. All the local IT staffer has to do is fine-tune—the equivalent of adjusting the seat and mirrors in a car.

Next steps

We’re gradually transitioning to centralized switch configuration. Our central engineering team is learning what we like and what options we need. We fine-tuned the configuration for all 22 switches in the North Sydney test network in less than 15 minutes. Over time, the default configuration will get closer and closer and require even less onsite tuning, giving our site engineers more time for higher-value activities. You can bet we won’t be spending the found time on oil and filter changes.

Read more about what we’re doing with Catalyst 9000 switches in this Cisco on Cisco case study.


What are you doing to make switch configuration simpler? Please share in the comment box.