You have been leveraging Cisco Prime Infrastructure for your wired and wireless networks needs and now you are wondering what’s next? Or you, perhaps started way before Prime Infrastructure, and have been looking at ways to make the solution more tuned to today’s technology evolution & digital transformation. Possibly it is hesitation about changing to yet another tool since Prime Infrastructure has been meeting all your network needs up until now.

If this describes you, you have certainly come to the right place!

Before I get started, there are several resources for you to consider such as a recent a blog published on The Business Why’s of migration to Cisco DNA Center written by a Cisco Customer, Shai Silberman, Director of Network Services at San Jose State University, as well as a recently posted podcast Cisco Champions Podcast on Prime Migration.

Evolution of Intent Based Networking

Let me first start by saying this: I completely understand the hesitation; Prime Infrastructure has done well as a traditional network management tool for provisioning, monitoring, optimizing, and troubleshooting both wired and wireless devices.

However, let’s start with some of the earlier management platforms like Cisco Works, and then LMS (LAN Management Solution) – for LAN management were leveraged for just wired infrastructure for advanced wired features. As the network evolved, Network Control System (NCS) built on Wireless Control System (WCS), was introduced to accommodate both wired and wireless infrastructure lifecycle management.

Figure 1: Network Evolution to Intent Based Network Model

Then NCS was replaced by Cisco Prime Infrastructure for Wireless and Wired Management, as your go to management platform, consisting of a central dashboard, centralized troubleshooting, and reporting. Prime put a spotlight on simplified operations capabilities from branch to data center.

Factors driving Digital Transformation

While this has worked in the past for many organizations, the rapid change in today’s networks is the new norm. Organizations are evolving their business models and adopting a digital approach faster than ever. A secure, agile network plays a foundational role in enabling business agility and resilience while reducing risk. At the same time, cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, IoT, Wi-Fi 6 and a slew of other technological advances are making it incredibly difficult for IT teams to keep up.

IT disruptions leading to digital transformation
Figure 2: Factors driving Digital Transformation [1]
More than ever, customers and teams are demanding secure & seamless access to any application, on any device, at any time, from anywhere, and the number of network devices is ever growing.

Applications and services are scattered over data centers, Public Clouds, and edge environments. Also, as workloads become more distributed, so does the security exposure.

The Cloud model has provided convenience while also giving security teams more to think about.

So, how do we solve the issue of not being agile enough? The answer is Intent Based Networking. It describes a closed loop system approach to bridging between the intent of the business or IT and the services the network delivers to support that intent.

Figure 3: Intent Based Network Model

Today’s network needs to be simple, automated & secure.

What does that look like?

  • It starts with a unified and scalable architecture across wired and wireless
  • It must have security that’s integrated into the network model
  • End-to-end visibility – Constantly learning and providing rich insights to identify and mitigate issues
  • And finally, it must be comprehensively automated: Easing operations, and scaling to meet business requirements.

Cisco DNA Center

Cisco DNA Center is the network controller, and analytics platform at the heart of Cisco’s intent-based Network. Cisco DNA Center helps streamline network operations through automation & provisioning for both greenfield and brownfield environments. It leverages discovery and Plug-n-Play to get your network devices managed fast. Also, through Software Image Management (SWIM), many devices can be upgraded in minutes using the Golden Image designation. Through Assurance, DNA Center allows IT to find and isolate issues faster with minimal effort, leveraging network insights, Machine Learning (ML) and AI, all at your fingertips, and in one dashboard.

The way we work has simply changed. As users, devices and applications grow, networks become more complex, and we need to adopt a comprehensive management platform that can tackle all modern-day challenges. While Prime Infrastructure provides a way to manage a wired and wireless network, it does not take an Intent Based Network approach. In order to keep up with the growing challenges, IT need a solution designed for agility, automation, evolved lifecycle management (Day 0 – N), Analytics with AI/ML and simpler to consume. This is what Cisco DNA Center can give you.

Cisco Prime Infrastructure to Cisco DNA Center Migration

Migrating from Prime Infrastructure to Cisco DNA Center has been made very easy using a 2-phased approach: preparation and migration itself. The preparation phase is very important because that is where you get to decide what you are going to migrate and whether you will do it once or gradually. Whatever you choose, we have you covered.

Let’s talk preparation first: How do you start? What do you migrate, and how do you figure out what you have? A lot of engineers often were not there at the beginning of the network design they manage, or decisions that were made. This can be a daunting task to move from one platform to another.

The good news is that we have made it easy for you. We have created a tool that helps you get visibility into Cisco Prime Infrastructure use cases and managed devices, compares them to what Cisco DNA Center supports and then assess your migration readiness.
This tool is called PDART, which stands for Prime Infrastructure DNA Center Assessment & Readiness Tool. Details on how the tool works and how to configure it can be found here: PDART Tool.

The report generated by the P-DART tool gives you the following:

  • A detailed visibility of your current network and what it takes to migrate your environment to Cisco DNA Center
  • You can visualize what types of devices you have deployed, platforms, software versions, and whether they are compatible with DNA Center or not, or on the roadmap, and what’s the equivalent in Cisco DNA Center.
  • The report highlights use cases available in Cisco Prime Infrastructure, which ones are in use and their equivalent in Cisco DNA Center if supported, as well as what size of Cisco DNA Center appliance you will need to accommodate your infrastructure.
  • The reports are showcased and their equivalent in Cisco DNA Center
  • Each section will also highlight devices, use cases or reports that are not supported in Cisco DNA Center to help you plan.

Here is a sample of the report:

Figure 4: The PDART Sample Report

The first thing the report will show is the version you are running on your Cisco Prime Infrastructure and the recommended version of Cisco DNA Center. It will also show you how long the PDART script took to analyze your network and create the report. Moving down, the report is divided into 4 sections. The key thing to note is that each section shows you what you have today on your Cisco Prime Infrastructure and how it compares to Cisco DNA Center. After this first page, the report goes through each case one by one to provide details.

  • Devices: this section details how many total devices you have managed by your Cisco Prime Infrastructure, how many of them are supported by Cisco DNA Center, which ones require software upgrade for compatibility, and lastly the number of devices that are incompatible with Cisco DNA Center, which means they cannot be migrated.
  • Use Cases: this section goes through use cases that are in use, how many are supported by Cisco DNA Center, how many are not supported, and the roadmap.
  • Reports: That goes the same for the reports section.
  • Scale: The scale tells you what type & size of appliance your Cisco Prime Infrastructure is running on, and the recommended size of the Cisco DNA Center Appliance.

Customers who look at all the above details and realize that they had no idea about some of the features and functionalities they had in use. As you can see, this report summarizes everything configured in your Cisco Prime Infrastructure and performs health checks. The outcome is the analysis of where your environment stands and how ready it is to migrate to DNA Center. It highlights devices, reports and use cases that can be migrated, and what devices need to be upgrade first, as well as hardware that is incompatible with Cisco DNA Center for you to make an educated decision on the migration.

If today you don’t heavily leverage your Prime Infrastructure for your network operations, rather than going through Migration, you can opt for inventory discovery in Cisco DNA Center, bypassing the whole migration. If you fall into this category, you can still run the PDART report to understand the software and hardware matrix compatibility between the 2 solutions. Alternatively, you can head over to this Cisco DNA Center Supported Devices Resource.

More resources to consider for various releases:

The following 2 videos go over how to install the PDART UBF patch and the analysis of the generated report.

Part 1: Install and Run the PDART Script

Part 2: The PDART Report Analysis

Prime to DNAC Migration Tool

At this stage, you are ready for the Migration. Since the report helped you figure out what size of Cisco DNA Center appliance you need, you configured it and it is finally up and running. You also have made the decision on which wired/wireless devices that will be part of the migration effort.

You also have upgraded network devices (switches, routers, or Wireless LAN Controllers) that were on the “require software upgrade” list. You may have also refreshed some older devices not supported by Cisco DNA Center. And finally, based on what the report highlighted, you have concluded on doing a one-time vs gradual migration or vice versa.

So now let’s talk about the second and final phase, Migration.

In this phase, we have created a tool that helps with the migration (partial or full); the tool is called Coexistence Tool (to be changed to Migration Tool in the near future). Here is the link where you can get all details of the tool as well as requirements to make it work: Cisco Prime & DNAC Coexistence Tool. Please refer to the software compatibility matrix details to help you understand what version of Cisco Prime Infrastructure and Cisco DNA Center you must be on to run the Coexistence Tool.

A few things to note:

  • Both the PDART and Migration (Co-Existence) tools run on Prime Infrastructure and are non-intrusive.
  • During the migration, over the sharing channel, Cisco Prime Infrastructure will share with Cisco DNA Center the following items: Maps, Topology, Devices, Configurations and CLI Templates.
  • Gradual migration allows dynamic (incremental) changes made to Prime Infrastructure to be synchronized with Cisco DNA Center. Please note that this is a one way sync up. Changes made to Cisco DNA Center are not synchronized with Cisco Prime Infrastructure.
  • Cisco Prime Infrastructure doesn’t enforce the civic locations for location/site groups. When you migrate site/hierarchy without civic location information to Cisco DNA Center, the migration will fail
  • Please make sure to read important notes in the coexistence guide before you begin the migration process: migration requirements.

Cisco Prime Infrastructure to DNA Center Migration Tool

Next Steps

As you can see, migrating to DNA Center has been made very simple and you will benefit when more capabilities are added with new releases. More importantly, with DNA Center, you will be able address the continued growth in users, devices and applications. As your networks become more complex, you will be able to adopt to these changes with a comprehensive management platform that is based on Intent Based Networking and can tackle all these modern-day challenges.

Start easy: leverage the PDART tool to assess where your network environment stands today and how ready it is for Cisco DNA Center. Once you are ready, the coexistence tool will help migrate your data to DNA Center. Once on Cisco DNA Center, you can start leveraging industry winning features such as Assurance to help diagnose and isolate network issues quickly, automation to help you on board brownfield and greenfield networks in no time, and SWIM (Software Image Management) that allows you to designate a golden image across your network based on location or platform, and upgrade hundreds of devices in minutes. Those are just to name a few.

Please reach out to your Cisco Account team to help you get started.


For step by step instructions, screenshots and references on how to perform the migration, visit:

Migration made easy – Prime Infrastructure to Cisco DNA Center



[1] References

IoT: 2021 Cisco VNI: Global Fixed and Mobile Internet Traffic Forecasts
Multicloud: 2021 Gartner survey: Why choose multiple clouds
Security: John Burke 2021 Nemertes.
AIOps: IDC FutureScape Webcast: Worldwide Artificial Intelligence 2021 Predictions



Alphonsine Anderson

Technical Solutions Architect