If you’re not familiar with Johnsonville Sausage, you’re either a vegetarian or from another planet. Johnsonville is as ubiquitous in grocery store refrigerators as pigs are on farms.  The company provides consumers with great-tasting, high-quality sausage while staying committed to the well-being of animals and the environment. And as the world’s largest manufacture of sausage, the business of sausage making goes beyond the factory floor, into the very network that enables the company to operate and compete globally.

Today, enterprise networks are under tremendous pressure to meet the challenges of the digital age and Johnsonville Sausage is no different. The main role of the network architect team at Johnsonville is to drive business outcomes. This includes ensuring their corporate WAN and data center fabric, edge, and perimeter security network are at their optimal performance so the network can move at the speed of business. Their choice to help with the challenge: Cisco DNA Center with AI Network Analytics.

We recently spoke with the Johnsonville network team about their use of Cisco solutions, specifically around AI Network Analytics, Cisco’s latest addition to the DNA family. AI Network Analytics does many things but as the name infers, it uses AI and ML to drive actionable data to network practitioners. Using a sophisticated engine, the solution weeds through alerts to provide only the most relevant information, often times reducing alerts by 80 percent or more. And it does a lot more, read on to see how Johnsonville has been using the solution.

Introducing Alfred, Johnsonville’s Fourth Architect

Say hello to my little friend! Okay, it’s not that little, but you get the idea. Gone are the times where network engineers were sent offsite for days to troubleshoot issues, AI Network Analytics provides centralized management and control enabling teams like Johnsonville’s to accomplish tasks and solve issues in minutes. The three-member network architecture team at Johnsonville was so impressed with Cisco AI Network Analytics, they now consider it the fourth member of the team; they even came up with an endearing name for it, “Alfred”!

According to the Cisco DNA website, Assurance gives visibility into everything on the network.  Guided remediation then automates resolution to keep the network at its optimal performance and improve the user experience, all without relying on complex and time-consuming troubleshooting work. With AI Network Analytics, a baseline is created so it learns the network and then alerts are sent out that are more relevant. This sounds great but check out what Johnsonville had to say:

“The quality of alerts went up 10 fold while the quantity was drastically reduced. The difference is night and day.” says Eric Vendermause, Senior Global Network Architect at Johnsonville Sausage, referring to Alfred.  “Normally, the network team gets to a point where they’re reviewing numerous logs and are receiving so many alerts that they start ignoring them. With AI Network Analytics (Alfred), alerts are narrowed down to the top four actionable items.” That’s a huge benefit!

Eric went on to state that in the past, the network was managed as various technology silos. “When you’re talking automation and assurance in ‘operationalizing’ the network through one pane of glass, aggregating the data to a single Assurance set becomes more infinitely powerful and useful to the network architecture team.”

“It is a paradigm shift!”  Says Anthony Wild, Global Network Operations Manager at Johnsonville Sausage. “And if you’re piping that upstream into a service management tool through the Cisco DNA Center platform utility, it is a quality of life shift. It allows us more free time and independence with a higher level of assurance in the network.”

For Johnsonville, life before Cisco DNA Center entailed correlating various system logs and individual frantic activities.  “Now, we’ll be able to automate and evolve based on our business needs. Things are more human readable.”  says Zone Vang, Principle Network and Collaboration Engineer at Johnsonville Sausage. He also added they leverage SD-Access which allows for setting network access in minutes for any user device, and or application without compromising on security. He also mentioned that Johnsonville is using SD-WAN running on Cisco ISRs which provides visibility across the WAN, connectivity for end-users, and security to protect the network.

Zone concluded with something all network engineers can relate to “We have more time for ourselves to focus on other things. We’re not putting out fires on a daily basis.”

Lastly, we heard from Alfred. He’s a “man” of action not words. Here’s what he says, “01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01000001 01101100 01100110 01110010 01100101 01100100 00001101 00001010!”


Check out the webinar with the Johnsonville team to hear the full story and learn more about Cisco DNA and Network Analytics.


Brett Shore

Product Marketing Manager

Enterprise Product Marketing