ONE Enterprise Networks Architecture SumA few weeks ago, Cisco introduced our new vision for enterprise-wide network architecture based on the Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE) framework. This approach is not a radical departure from traditional networks, but a transformative architecture that brings unprecedented openness and programmability to enterprise-wide networks (not just data centers) to be ready for the Internet of Everything.  It transforms networks making them more agile, high-performing and application-centric, while making the best use of existing network resources (brownfield deployments).

The need for this architecture is predicated upon the increasing number of applications, the complexity of deploying them, and the fast changing business environments that they need to support. These environments include multiple mobile devices users are bringing into the network as well as the sensors and other connected devices we expect will make up the 50 billion networked devices Cisco and GE have predicted for 2020. They also include new cloud-based application deployment models. This complexity is impacting the networks that need to serve these environments.


To understand where we’re going, we should first look back. Four years ago, we introduced the new Integrated Services Routers, Generation 2 Series – ISR G2 – and with it, the Borderless Networks architecture.  In 2009, there were about 6B devices connected to networks worldwide. Now there are around 10B devices and this is predicted to reach 50B devices by 2020.

The Borderless Networks architecture enables organizations around the world to connect anyone, anywhere, using any device — securely, reliably and seamlessly. Its vision was to enable organizations to use single management and policy across the entire network infrastructure, and it delivered on its promise with Identity Services Engine (ISE) that provided one policy across the entire network, and Cisco PRIME – one network management solution for wired and wireless networks. The Cisco ONE Enterprise Networks Architecture is the evolution of our Borderless Networks architecture, adding openness, programmability and network-wide control services such as location- based capabilities.  Through this architectural evolution, we are helping our customers realize new business opportunities created by the exponential growth in connected devices and the easy access to cloud services.

The network is becoming an enabler of business transformation and IT organizations have to evolve the way they build and support these networks, as well as take a bigger role in business decisions.  The Cisco Global IT Impact Survey released at Interop Las Vegas 2013, surveyed 1300 IT professionals in 13 countries around the world and revealed that the number of business applications deployed is at an all-time high, but the majority of IT organizations are not always involved in the deployment of applications. As a result, the end-users’ applications experience is not optimal.  The survey also revealed that 78% of IT professionals – both network and applications IT people, believe that the network is the most critical element in delivering the expected application performance and user experience, but IT is still struggling to support the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) users and cloud deployments necessary to deliver a high quality user experience.

The Internet of Everything and Business Impact

Network infrastructures have traditionally been built using purpose-built components and solutions. These components and solutions were optimized for their intended performance – such as speed, bandwidth, handling threats, or enabling services – and were effective at providing the connectivity and network services necessary to run the business.

Today, however, with the emergence of the Internet of Everything (IoE) there is a huge projected increase in the number of devices, clouds, and things that will be connecting to the network. For example, the Cisco VNI forecast predicts that by the end of 2013 the number of mobile connected devices alone will surpass the human population, and that number is predicted to grow to 10 billion mobile-connected devices by 2017.  Cisco also predicts that the currently 10B internet-connected devices (overall) will increase to 50B devices by 2020. While not all of these devices will run on enterprise networks, the rate of growth of the data traffic generated hints at the potential scaling necessary within the enterprise network infrastructure to capture the new business opportunities that now become possible.

The enormity of this challenge is evident when you add in the infrastructure required to enable these devices, and the services and business-critical applications needed to enable various user experiences and business opportunities.

If enterprises hope to overcome the impending complexity and drive business growth, they need to start simplifying their network infrastructure now. The delivery and orchestration of network services has to work at a larger scale and still be simplified enough for enterprises to rapidly deploy.   The traditional rollout of enterprise applications needs to change significantly to respond rapidly to capture the new business opportunities enabled by the Internet of Everything.

The Need for IT Business Strategy and Simplification

Business leaders are coming up with extremely creative ways to capitalize on our connected way of living, defining new creative business opportunities that rely on their customers’ mobile devices and the various forms of cloud services. However, this flood of new initiatives is overwhelming many IT organizations, as evidenced by the Cisco Global IT Impact Survey, are not being included in applications deployments until the last minute. Line of business owners expect these new applications to simply “just work”, putting tremendous pressure on the network to be agile enough to keep up with the rapid pace of business growth.

As a result, savvy business leaders and enterprise wide IT organizations are frequently at odds.  To give just one example of this, when considering the rollout of business critical applications, 76% of IT professionals interviewed in the Cisco Global IT Impact Survey noted that others in their organization – business leaders or non-IT teams – have rolled out applications without their knowledge.  Similarly, 38% said they’d been brought into the application deployment either the day before or even during rollout.

Connecting people and devices is the first step in realizing new business growth; however, the focus is now shifting toward enabling a network infrastructure that can rapidly deploy services and applications. The growing complexity is challenging the way IT is approaching the provisioning of network infrastructure. The current way of operating the enterprise network infrastructure on a device by device basis needs to scale. IT has to change to a more automated provisioning model that looks at the entire network as single entity and rapidly respond to diverse new growth opportunities in the era of IoE.

Transforming Enterprise Networks, Again

To enable organizations to be agile in capturing new business opportunities enabled by the Internet of Everything, the network infrastructure must evolve. A new architecture for automated provisioning and rapid deployment of network services and applications is necessary.  Building on the Borderless Networks Architecture Cisco introduced the Cisco ONE Enterprise Networks Architecture. This architecture brings unprecedented openness and programmability to enterprise networks through open APIs. Even though this sounds a lot like SDN, and it utilizes some of the key concepts, it goes beyond SDN by offering a much wider and larger scale approach to network programmability for enterprise-wide networks. These open APIs enable a rich ecosystem of application and services that can be created and rapidly provisioned allowing enterprises to respond quickly and capture the new business opportunities made possible by the IoE.

  • The Network-Aware Application Layer uses open APIs that allow applications to be developed by Cisco, third parties, or our customers with the network in mind. This is what we refer to as – Network-Aware Applications, which optimizes application performance, enables innovation and enhances user experience.  The Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE), Cisco Prime management solutions and Cisco Cloud Connectors are great examples of open APIs that deliver consistent policy and management across the entire Cisco network – wired and wireless – for the rapid deployment of cloud services.
  • The Control Layer provisions network services consistently across all network devices, instead of device-by-device. It creates a multi-layer abstraction for the enterprise network itself, improving enterprise agility and accelerating service deployment. And it optimally provisions services such as QoS and PfR (Performance Routing), at the appropriate device or control layer.  In a world where high performance is a top business priority, the ability to deliver a network architecture that optimizes agility, efficiency and performance is critical.  This architecture also ensures consistent and relevant deployment of services across wired-wireless and the data-center.
  • The Network Elements Layer provides the industry’s broadest and richest set of devices across wired and wireless networks with service-rich IOS and open APIs. The open APIs are both industry standard (OpenFlow) and Cisco extensions that expose greater network information (onePK) supporting a broad set of network services such as indoor location, application visibility and control, Medianet and more.  It supports CLI as an API, which allows both Greenfield and Brownfield deployments to take advantage of new applications and services, enabling Cisco customers to add new capabilities to their existing networks, extending the use of them.  A majority of Cisco network devices deployed today will benefit from this architecture and the control services on top through existing APIs.  This layer also builds on the capabilities of Cisco’s ongoing ASIC development and extends Cisco’s hardware performance and deployment flexibility.

This new architecture with open APIs and programmability is based on 28 years of Cisco’s networking DNA. This architecture allows networks and applications to be mutually aware that ensures high performance of applications and services. Enterprise networks can be rapidly provisioned to respond quickly to new business opportunities making IT the catalyst for enabling business growth.ONE Enterprise Networks Architecture GameChanger

What’s next?

In the coming weeks, we’ll expand on this new architectural vision and cover its various aspects, as well as how the Cisco One Enterprise Networks Architecture can positively impact enterprise networks and businesses.  Thank you for reading and please send us feedback on this significant event in Cisco’s enterprise networking history.


Inbar Lasser-Raab

No Longer with Cisco