For twelve years, I have been at Cisco in the field of helping customers meet their needs. Big customers, small customers and partners (that supply our solutions to customers) across all industries. The one constant in this sea of diversity, is that customers vote with their dollars.
This is especially true today in Cisco’s core Enterprise Networking (EN) business, which is more relevant than ever to how our customers execute their digital transformations. Since we introduced our Intent-based Networking solutions last June, the network and its role in their business has become a prominent discussion point in most customer conversations. This is fueling the growth and innovation of our EN portfolio. So far, our customers’ vote is that they like it!
Why are customers so excited and willing to invest in Intent-based Networking innovation? I recently had the opportunity to spend time with fifty of Cisco’s top customers from around the world. We spent a lot of time discussing why they are prioritizing the modernization of their network and starting their Intent-based Networking journey. Three key priorities emerged from these conversations: Security, Automation, and Analytics. I’ve summarized the conversations on each below.
- Security – is a top priority. The cost to your brand if a security breach takes place is significant. According to Cisco’s 2018 Annual Cybersecurity Report, 53% of all attacks sustained by businesses in 2017 resulted in damages of more than $500,000. With this kind of risk, it’s not surprising that businesses view security as a “defend at all costs” priority. Point security products alone won’t give an organization the peace of mind nor the security they need. Creating the right policy for users is a key element, as is reducing the attack surface to defend against threats through segmentation. This has traditionally been a major IT challenge as it has been a time consuming, manual process. With Cisco’s introduction of DNA Center and the continued evolution of the Identity Services Engine (ISE) solution, Cisco now provides organizations an automated way to set policy and segment the network. This delivers similar functionality seen in the data center with macro and micro segmentation, and makes segmentation for the access network a reality for customers. This automated segmentation is offered through Software-Defined Access; most of the top 500 customers I’ve spoken to said this is a transformational way of managing networks and network security, and they are either already engaged or will be engaging Cisco on this solution’
- Automation – The need to evolve the role of the modern IT professional is another top priority for IT executives. Today, IT teams spend over 40% of their time troubleshooting network issues and they often can’t get to the value added projects. How can leaders change this to drive more business impactful projects? Cisco’s innovations in Automation and Assurance can help customers realize significant time savings making IT operations more proactive, agile and automated. Once manual and time consuming, the automation of inventory device profiling and software image management can be completed in a fraction of the time using DNA Center. Wireless user issues that are reported weekly are hard to address and replicate and consume the most IT time. Cisco DNA Assurance provides customers visibility to the health of the network and real time issues. Administrators can also travel back in time to understand a reported issue without having to spend time trying to recreate it.
- Analytics – more and more customers are looking for actionable insights from their networks. IT currently spends 4X more time collecting data than they do analyzing and resolving the issue. Many times, customers leverage third party vendors to deliver these insights. Now, with DNA Assurance, customers get access to this detail with correlation work done in the background by DNA Center. This helps guide them and make adjustments to the network that will most benefit the business. Customers can also leverage Analytics for security using Encrypted Traffic Analytics. This feature allows customers to look at packet behavior to understand if the network is infected by malware, and take the appropriate action without decrypting the traffic – powerful stuff!
Once the customer makes the decision to start their Intent-based Networking journey, there are multiple paths they can take and many capabilities they can implement. The ultimate goal is to ensure they have a secure, intelligent platform from which to run their digital business. If this first year is any indication of what the future will bring, I am confident that more customers will embrace Intent-based Networking to drive the business outcomes that they are trying to achieve.