Connecting a device to a shared network may be necessary but it’s not always a pleasurable experience for both the end-user and the network admin. Reasons range from being too complex, to an inability to manage devices, to a lack of security, to limited user control. The longer you talk about shared networks, the more you understand the frustration: it can be difficult to onboard devices, there’s no device privacy on the network, and limited user control (you can’t restrict access to your devices). These frustrations lead most people to wishing that they were still on their home network rather than on a shared network.

However, there are times when being on a shared network is a necessity such as when a student begins living at university and is away from home. In order to properly utilize their devices, they need to connect to a network that supports loads of other people and devices. And they won’t be able to have a lot of control over their wireless experience. That’s just part of the shared network experience.

Until now.

Cisco recently released a new solution orchestrated through Cisco DNA Center called Cisco User Defined Network (UDN), and it’s not unlike when peanut butter first met jelly. In other words, it took something that was pretty good and made it much better.

Available in the second half of 2020, User Defined Network allows both end-users and network admins a more controllable and secure experience. How? By dividing the current shared network into singular partitions that are assigned to each user. Once in their own partition, the user is the boss and can decide whether to allow people access to their network.

The way that it works is simple. For the network admin, their first job is to make sure that their network is running the most current versions of Cisco DNA Center and Cisco Identity Service Engine (ISE). Then they need to make sure that the controllers deployed are the Wi-Fi 6 enabled Catalyst 9800 and the access points are either the Wi-Fi 6 Catalyst 9100 APs or the Wi-Fi 5 Aironet APs.

Once the network is double-checked, the next step is for the network admin to log on to Cisco DNA Center and enable the solution. After that step is completed, the admin just needs to send out a communication to potential network end-users and let them know how to register their devices to the network. That’s pretty much the extent of the Network Administrator’s involvement.

For end-users, the experience is easy for them too. Once they receive the instructions on how to download the Cisco User Defined Network app from the Google Play or Apple Store, they can deploy the apps to their mobile device of choice. From there, they can go about registering the devices that they want to bring to their shared network from wherever they want. In other words, they don’t have to be on-campus to register their devices. It’s all done through the User Defined Network app. Once they get to campus, their devices will connect to the network and end-users can begin using their devices as soon as they want, getting a personal network experience in a shared network on campus. With the app, students will be able to send invites to friends to join their network partition.

Aside from device registration and inviting friends to connect to your network—both Cisco-only features—the app gives the end-user a 360-degree view of their partitioned network. They’ll be able to determine who’s on their network and what device they are connected with. They also have the ability to provide and to take away network access via the app with just a push of the button. None of our competitors can make that claim!

It’s not only just the end-user that gets a 360-degree view. With Cisco DNA Assurance, Network Admins get the opportunity to view the entire network solution through the User Defined Network Cloud dashboard.

What does this all mean? For Network Admins, it’s an end to seemingly endless help desk tickets requiring assistance in onboarding a device to the network. User Defined Network is so easy to use, that anyone can register their devices to the network without needing a lot of technical knowhow. And for the end-user, the frustration of not being able to onboard a device to the network is no longer an issue. The Cisco User Defined Network is a true win-win for everyone involved.

Get more information on the Cisco User Defined Network.

Watch the recording of our Network Insider Series Webinar, “New software-defined solutions for segmentation and control (58:37)


Byron Magrane

Product Manager, Marketing