Guest Blogger: Jeffrey Lo, Principal Engineer, Enterprise Networking Group.


Jeff is a member of the founding engineering team that led the execution for IOS-XE and later evolved IOS-XE to enable a converged software stack across the routing, switching and wireless platforms in Cisco’s Enterprise Networking portfolio. He sets the technical direction and oversees execution for the evolved IOS-XE implementation in areas like data plane forwarding management, wireless and switching integration, various infrastructure components, manageability, programmability and analytics. Jeff has an MSEE from Stanford University and BSEE from Imperial College of London.

I was reading an article a few Saturdays ago, about how the automobile industry has evolved from the first steam-powered automobile capable of human transportation in the late 18th century to the futuristic self-driving cars that are now in trials. Humans are finally able to build an artificial intelligent system that is capable of visualizing and normalizing massive amount of input data, analyzing and reacting to fast changing and unpredictable traffic and environmental conditions and take the first steps towards truly self-driving technology.

Being a 20-year veteran in the computer networking industry, my natural instinct is to relate this evolution to the computer networks of tomorrow. The network will be intelligent, self-managed and provisioned with absolutely no human intervention other than having to connect the wires and specifying what the business outcome ought to be. Operational excellence and simplicity are as critical as the closed loop between device data, network visibility and learnt device behavior, as it will truly enable automated networks just as self-driving cars are able to make autonomous real-time decisions in an ever-changing landscape. In this blog, I discuss the aspects of the Evolved IOS-XE that enable such operational excellence.

As our customers continue to strive towards lowering operational expenses and delivering networking services with high quality, it is important that they are able to manage their entire network easily, at scale and with confidence. Cisco has taken on the challenges via its recently launched Digital Network Architecture (DNA) company-wide initiative to ensure that we partner our customers as they continue on their journey towards operational excellence with simplicity.

In evolved IOS-XE, we believe operational excellence can be achieved by focusing on the ease of network management at scale, richness in the set of programming interfaces akin to the customer chosen workflow, network operational consistency and network visibility.

Realizing the importance of operationalizing a Cisco evolved IOS-XE device right out of the box with zero touch, evolved IOS-XE supports zero touch provisioning via its open Plug and Play (PnP) bootstrap capability. PnP enables the initial configuration download, image upgrade, and licensing using a wide array of standard protocols.EvolvedXEProgrammingInterfaces

Massively scalable data center customers have unleashed the power of automation-at-scale for managing large numbers of servers. Automation tools such as Puppet and Chef are popular as the declarative, cadenced-based enforcement of the user intention enable large number of devices to be operationalized with ease. Cisco has similarly enabled this automation trend to extend to Evolved IOS-XE based enterprise gear through direct support of Puppet, Chef and Ansible automation interfaces. Leveraging Cisco DevNet and the power of the open community, thousands of Puppet/Chef resource types have been added. We are aligning our major OSes, Evolved IOS-XE, XR and NXOS to support the open resource types and to offer a consistent cross OS automation user experience.

The industry is moving towards the use of data model driven interfaces (DMI) for configuration and operational state accesses. Standard model based interfaces provide consistency, openness, structure and efficiency. Leading the way towards operational consistency and ease of use, evolved IOS-XE provides a full set of northbound programmatic interfaces based on IETF standard Yang models.

The diagram above highlights the wide array of programming interfaces available with evolved IOS-XE in addition to the traditional Cisco CLI and SNMP. Evolved IOS-XE Crimson database also offers a native set of model driven interfaces via its graph execution engine (Green) for remote database query and configuration. This offers the application maximum efficiency while keeping the overhead of model translation to a minimum.

For network operations to be able to manage, monitor and troubleshoot their network effectively, visibility into the network is very important. Looking to the future, we are taking steps to realize the power of model driven telemetry (MDT). This enables a wide range of auxiliary data handling capability including but not limited to filtering, cadence-based or event trigger data export, choice of encoding, transport and QOS treatment.

Taking a bold step towards operational excellence in the digital era, Evolved IOS-XE offers state-of-the art technologies that form the foundation towards offering our customers the foundation toward a “self-driving” network that offers a different level of operational simplicity and lower cost.

I urge you to learn more about evolved IOS-XE from Suresh’s recent blog and discover more about the Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) vision and strategy here.


Anand Oswal

No Longer with Cisco