Cisco’s New Intent-Based Networking Platform in Use: An Example
Earlier this week we unveiled an important evolution to our intent-based networking suite: Platform capabilities for DNA Center. It gives Cisco partners and customers a way to program applications that take advantage of their networks’ capabilities – without requiring detailed knowledge of the particulars of the network.
As Cisco SVP Scott Harrell pointed out, it provides a level and depth of abstraction that is both powerful and general. We don’t know how far people will take it. But we do know where they will start. We’ve been working with several partners to spin up the first applications that use the APIs in the DNA Center’s new platform.
Integrating IT and Network Tools
Here’s one use case: Basic IT support. A lot of the issues IT teams deal with are network issues. Often, end users will flag a problem for IT, which then has to determine if it the problem is actually due to a network issue. If the network engineers suspect that is it, they have to begin the often-difficult task of tracing the problem to the cause.
DNA Center provides a depth of knowledge about what the network is (or is not) doing that can make the network engineer’s job a lot easier. It can also identify issues before users notice or report them.
With the DNA Center’s new platform capabilities, we can link the networking and IT issue tracking systems together. Here’s how one of our partners is doing it..
A Robust API
The new DNA Center platform has about 165 APIs (application programming interfaces), which can expose the workings of an enterprise’s network to developers who want to write applications on top of it. (Obviously, this is under a tight lid of security, which is a topic for another story.)
Some of these APIs come from previous Cisco systems, like APIC-EM, but most are new to the DNA Center Platform. Some are more advanced than anything we’ve ever released. As a group, we call them the Intent APIs.
One of our initial integrations, with ServiceNow, leans heavily on the Incident Enrichment API, which can be used to provide the deep trouble-shooting data from DNA Center, directly to the IT techs using the ServiceNow console.
More than Speeds and Feeds
The Incident Enrichment API provides the IP address of a crashed or degraded device, the nature of the flaw in the device, a list of its neighboring devices (giving the operator an impact analysis), and a suggested remediation action.
There’s connector code that runs on ServiceNow that accesses both our DNA Center APIs and ServiceNow’s. DNA Center can trigger the creation of trouble tickets in ServiceNow, providng the IT operator with all the context they will likely need to solve an issue. The ServiceNow ticket, enriched with DNA Center data, will save operators hours or time they’d otherwise spend hunting for data or trying in vain to recreate an issue.
Our systems know what to look for in network equipment and can flag issues for IT remediation long before a user will see impact. DNA Center can monitor key metrics across thousands of devices at once. For example, DNA Center knows at what point it’s worth flagging the rising CPU utilization of a network device, like a switch. That’s not necessarily knowledge we expect every IT tech to keep in their head, but with DNA Center watching for it, and forwarding the issue to ServiceNow when needed, they don’t have to.
DNA Center can also keep an eye on compliance issues, like out-of-date software images or security vulnerabilities, and can create tickets for software updates and patches automatically.
The DNA Center APIs can also be used to directly fix issues that are being tracked through ServiceNow. Currently, we are working on systems that suggest rather than perform the remediations automatically. But as systems engineers, IT managers, and network operators learn to use these tools, and feed information to the system about the successes of the suggested fixes, we expect more and more fixes will start to be applied programmatically.
Streamlining IT and network management is just one example of what our customers and partners can do with open network APIs, and we have discussed here only one of the APIs we’re releasing with the DNA Center platform. For more about the new DNA Center ecosystem, see the DNA Center resources on Cisco DevNet.