Cisco Software-Enabled Services Help Transform Network Operations

Imagine that you’re a network operations director for a large company. You’re pleased that your management has invested millions of dollars in Cisco equipment to provide a world-class network on which to drive the company’s business. Now, your company is counting on you to keep it running smoothly and reliably – around the clock and around the world.

But you have a network operations problem. In fact, chances are you have several problems in meeting management’s expectations:

  • Your network device inventory information is inaccurate and out of date.
  • Many of your devices lack service coverage.
  • You can’t easily identify equipment facing end of life or end of service.
  • Security alerts are often overlooked.
  • Overseeing stacks of service contracts is distracting your staff from strategic business technology tasks.
  • To manage these and other issues with your installed base of network equipment, you have to rely on a time-consuming, error-prone manual process.

As organizations undergo digital transformation, IT priorities are broadening to focus more and more on operational challenges. How do you keep up with these and emerging operational problems?

A Single Source of Network Truth: Cisco Smart Services

The answer is Cisco smart services. Simply put, “smart services” enables operational best practices. It provides actionable insights gained from detailed visibility into a company’s network. Data is gathered automatically and correlated with 30 years of unmatched Cisco network knowledge in servicing over 50 million network devices. Reports are then generated that help diagnose real or potential network problems. Management can then take proactive steps to resolve them – often before they even occur. As a result, enterprises can operate their networks more cost-effectively, minimize network risk and assure business continuity.

Analysts at International Data Corporation (IDC), an industry leading research firm, describe today’s IT digital business transformation well, “Services as we know them will move from an equipment-centric to a solution-centric environment. This process is, at a high level, characterized by taking labor-intensive processes and distance out of the services model and replacing these elements with software.”

Two examples of a Cisco smart service as defined by IDC are Smart Net Total Care (SNTC) and Cisco Partner Support Service (PSS). These software-enabled services provide a single installed base management solution that includes service contract management, foundational technical services, and device diagnostics – plus security and other alert notifications for thousands of Cisco products … and the product list is growing daily. Both software offers make previously invisible network device problems visible so customers can take steps to avoid them altogether.

While the sophisticated software automation provided by Cisco smart services is impressive, what really resonates with users is the value they receive once deployed. By answering a few simple questions they can quickly assess the value missing in their current installed base management process. For example, “How do you track your network equipment inventory today? How long does it take you? How many people do you require? Do you know what devices on your network are facing end of life or end of support? How do you ensure that all devices have service coverage?” Based on their answers to these and other questions, the path to adopting smart services can be very short.

Neotel, a major South African telecommunications service provider, found the answers to these questions and more when they choose Cisco smart services. With 8,500 devices on their network carrying subscriber traffic, downtime wasn’t an option. In fact, Neotel’s service level agreements with their customers demand 99.999 percent uptime. With smart services in place, this level of quality is possible 24 X 7. Not only is the use of smart services helping its current customers dramatically reduce network downtime, but it is also providing Neotel with a key competitive differentiation to attract new customers. The service provider has reduced network risks, proactively identified issues before they happen and resolved issues faster when they do occur. As an added bonus, proactive support means that Neotel can hold less replacement products in inventory, freeing up budget to invest in new IT projects.

Smart Services Help Neotel Achieve 99.999% Customer Uptime

Smart Services Position Cisco Partners to Add Even Greater Customer Value

For many enterprises, the change to more automated operational solutions may be a difficult and complex transition. Fortunately, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are prepared to help their clients using smart solutions, whether it’s Smart Net Total Care or Cisco Partner Support Service . Both solutions include Applications Programming Interfaces (APIs) that let partners fully integrate them into their own branded service offerings. Studies have shown that service firms that consult and guide customers have the opportunity to increase their customers’ network effectiveness and create customer loyalty, while also improving both the MSPs’ top and bottom lines.

Cisco Partners are using smart services APIs in numerous ways. The APIs take data collected by the Partner from the customer, so the information is correlated directly to the known inventory. With the data collected, Partners can then add further customer value through branded services that might include sophisticated inventory lifecycle management, tracking of security alerts, determining service contract coverage and pinpointing both hardware and software end-of-life status. Use of the smart services’ APIs is an ideal way to help differentiate Partners when consulting with companies on how to better operate their networks. Additionally, Cisco Support APIs can also be used to help Partners reduce costs and improve efficiency through automating access to Cisco support services, such as case information, EoX status and bug searches. Many partners have begun using these APIs to seamlessly deliver managed services solutions to their customers.

In fact, Cisco can further contribute to that value when Partners provide their customers’ IB data to Cisco for analysis. Fully secure, Cisco can then take the data and apply its sophisticated analytics tools and 30 years of network intellectual capital to assist Partners in understanding their customer networks in ways that may be impossible on their own or without considerable work. Shameless plug: For those Cisco Partners attending this year’s Partner Summit on Monday, February 29 in San Diego, we are hosting an Automation and Analytics Showcase at the Hilton Hotel between 6-8 p.m. at which we’ll demo our smart services software options. I hope you’ll join us. Please check the hotel monitor the day of the event for details.

The Proof is in the Numbers: Smart Services Create Enterprise Value

Eighty-eight percent of customers using Smart Net Total Care service for contract and inventory management say it meets or exceeds their expectations. Customer descriptions of their experience with this Cisco smart service reveal the value they see. For example, John Burke, Director of IT at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), explains it this way, “Using Smart Net Total Care extensively on installed base management will help us achieve savings on current and planned CapEx (capital expenditures). But more importantly, it will give us an accurate inventory of our network infrastructure, which we didn’t have before.”

For QNCC and thousands of other companies using Cisco smart services, they are quickly transforming their network operations from reactive to proactive management. It’s a smarter business model on which to address the complex network challenges they face today, by building the services foundation for tomorrow.

How are you managing your installed base lifecycle management? Where does automation fit into your plans?


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Subu Subramanian

Vice President and General Manager

Smart Services Installed Base (SSIB) Solutions Group