For today’s IT teams, managing distributed users, devices, applications, and workloads is not an easy task—especially when these disparate elements often connect across multiple infrastructures, as well as across the IT stack. To overcome such complexity, organizations need to simplify their network operations, which can be achieved by taking a network platform approach, according to the IDC Analyst Connection, sponsored by Cisco, “How a Network Platform Approach Is Becoming an Imperative for IT and Business Agility.”
What is a network platform?
Many may think of a network platform as just the interface, portal, or dashboard used to manage a network, but it is so much more. According to the IDC Analyst Connection: “A network platform is an integrated system that combines hardware, software, policy, and open APIs with an intuitive user interface, advanced telemetry, and automation.”
A network platform’s foundation is based on integrated hardware and software that is designed to work together seamlessly. On top of that is a common policy structure that ensures consistent operations across the platform. Open APIs not only open the platform to third-party technical capabilities, but also enable quicker connection to adjacent platforms and increased automation.
An intuitive user interface is essential because it makes it easier to manage the network and gain end-to-end visibility, detailed analytics, and seamless control of the entire distributed network. Similar to end-to-end visibility, advanced telemetry gathers critical data and insight into performance and behavior of the network, which can then be augmented with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to identify correlations where operational efficiencies can be increased. This also helps IT professionals set policies to reduce user-introduced errors and drive further automation.
Automation and AI are intrinsically intertwined with all the other elements of a network platform. According to the IDC Analyst Connection: “Visibility telemetry should be fed into an analytics engine that can quickly identify network performance or security problems and help with guided or automatic remediation. This advanced visibility and automation also creates rich data pools that can use open APIs to integrate with third-party IT and network management systems.”
According to our own research, AI is 60% faster at identifying misconfigurations and 50% faster at remediating them. Similarly, we found that AI can provide a 50% reduction in the time it takes to configure and deploy network resources. This all adds up to more efficient operations, cost savings, and improved security.
AI-driven automation can also help organizations address the IT skills gap by taking over some tasks that would otherwise require a level of IT specialization, while also freeing up IT staff to focus on more strategic responsibilities.
“A unified network platform allows AI for IT operations (AIOps) automation tasks to be applied to multiple parts of the network,” according to IDC. “This approach enhances network and IT staff efficiency by applying AI-enhanced closed-loop automation across a wider part of the network and reduces the manual burden of managing complex, distributed networks.”
Enabling simplified operations
Cisco platforms for networking align to the principles outlined by the IDC Analyst Connection. These solutions combine the elements of a physical and virtual infrastructure via unified management, policy, data, and APIs to build a more complete and consistent platform. They simplify complex tasks through AI-driven automation, streamline provisioning and budgeting, offload day-to-day tasks, and enable teams to deliver greater business impact by shifting IT from manual execution to strategic development. The consolidation of capabilities makes it easier to provide a more unified experience to end users.
Because the capabilities reside on a platform, it is easier to update those capabilities and ensure consistency and configuration compliance as future needs evolve. And with APIs, a platform can continue to expand, providing a conduit for more complete and creative solutions that can transform an enterprise. As customer needs evolve, investing in a platform will extend use cases, integrate new technologies, and solve emerging customer needs.
At Cisco, our goal is to simplify operations through platforms that are aligned to domains and will over time converge into our Cisco Networking Cloud vision. The Cisco Networking Cloud is the “north star” of Cisco platforms, with a goal of evolving from disparate systems to a solution that is consumed and managed as a unified entity.
Converging and connecting network elements
We’ve made great strides in delivering network platform capabilities that can help organizations achieve operational simplicity, but there is more work still to be done. Stay tuned as we continue to evolve our network platform approach. In the meantime, watch our Simplify Network Operations with a Platform Approach webinar for a deeper dive into the topic, and be sure to check out our Transform Infrastructure page for more on the benefits of Cisco’s Networking Cloud vision.
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