As networks evolve to keep up with the requirements of a distributed hybrid workforce and the need for new B2B and B2C cloud applications, an increasingly complex workload for IT is an inevitable byproduct. Remote workers, collaborative applications, and smart building IoT devices have all added management challenges to the hybrid workplace network. IT teams, already responsible for network device onboarding, availability, and resilience, are taking on AIOps responsibilities for ensuring high application experience. They’re also picking up SecOps oversight for monitoring various endpoints for spoofing threats and malware intrusions. With this growing load of responsibilities, how is IT going to scale and not break?

The answer lies in the past as well as in the future. Twenty years ago, Cisco developed one of the first machine-learning toolsets to analyze vast quantities of telemetry collected from switches, routers, and access points to assist in technical problem resolution. The system, created by the Cisco Advanced Services team, was called Network Profile (NP). Built on top of one of the first network-specific data lakes, NP helped customers understand the current state of their networks and enabled Cisco technicians to quickly troubleshoot network issues.

Since then, Cisco has worked diligently to augment the intelligence inherent in the network. Today, the continuously evolving NP is an integral part of the Cisco CX Cloud and is tightly integrated with Cisco DNA Center. Cisco DNA Center Analytics, like NP and Site Analytics, and automations like the Machine Reasoning Engine, make network pros more effective by offloading repetitive, complex, and time-sensitive tasks that do not directly add new value to the organization.

A key value of applying Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence engines in conjunction with volumes of operational telemetry is to do simple things simply well and thus enable less experienced NetOps technicians to handle a broader range of maintenance tasks.

Automating Compliance Checks

A great example of this intelligent automation lies in the area of compliance. Cisco DNA Center automates configuration checks of settings—such as certificates and SNMP—across hundreds of controllers. What is usually a time-consuming and tedious task is greatly simplified. Guided automations recommend fixes that IT can quickly implement with a single click. And since this scanning is always on, in real-time, technicians don’t need to remember to set aside time every week to run a network compliance scan. That’s simplification!

Simplifying Device Maintenance

Similarly, when managing thousands of networking devices across campuses, branches, and remote offices, what IT doesn’t know about lingering security issues forces technicians to be reactive rather than proactive. It takes time and expertise to keep up with PSIRT vulnerabilities and patches to network software on thousands of access points and switches.

Cisco DNA Center provides preventative measures for device maintenance. By connecting Cisco DNA Center to Cisco CX Cloud, fixes for known PSIRTs and software patches that IT can identify by existing TAC cases are shared automatically through a Cisco DNA Center dashboard with IT teams operating with relevant infrastructures. The granularity of these notifications extends from controller OS images down to specific device configurations, so only features in use are included in notifications. As a result, instead of discovering that an issue causes a network problem with a known resolution, Cisco DNA Center proactively recommends an appropriate resolution even before a problem occurs. And if a configuration is not using any of the affected features, the controllers will bypass installing unnecessary patches. The result is complexity simplified.

Moving From Reactive to Preventative

Predictive analytics with DNA Center’s Trends and Insights dashboard is an AIOps tool for monitoring the network for changes and anomalies that, while not causing an immediate issue, could become a problem in the future. For example, early warning alerts for events like a gradual increase in wireless interference, a sudden increase in the number of devices connected to the same Access Point, or an IoT device that is pulling 20% more power from a switch can help IT take preventative actions before issues impact workforce performance or network availability. By identifying the signs of looming network problems, Cisco DNA Center keeps NetOps teams ahead of issues instead of constantly chasing them—the empowerment of being proactive versus reactive.

Out of complexity, simplicity with Cisco DNA Center AI/ML and Cisco Knowledgebase.
Figure 1. Out of complexity, simplicity with Cisco DNA Center AI/ML and Cisco Knowledgebase.

Optimizing the Network Fabric for Application Performance

Reducing complexity with AI/ML processes that assist IT in optimizing the network enables the best application experience for the workforce and customers. Increasingly this is even more critical as applications are literally everywhere, and so are the people who rely on them to keep operations rolling and interact with the business. Gaining visibility into application usage everywhere in the distributed network enables IT to prioritize network resources for business-critical applications and deprioritize irrelevant business applications.

Quote from Cisco Future of Technology Survey

Take, for example, the fast-growing use of collaboration applications incorporating audio and video, screen sharing, recording, and translation. Cisco DNA Center AIOps features enable IT to proactively manage Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx performance. The Applications Dashboard in Cisco DNA Center displays the audio, video, and application share quality of experience for individual or team sessions for both platforms, enabling IT to quickly determine if a problem is inside or outside the network. The dashboard also provides remediation suggestions, such as increasing Wi-Fi coverage in specific areas—before operations are affected. Suppose the problem is outside the enterprise network. In that case, IT can activate Cisco ThousandEyes WAN Insights directly from the dashboard to determine the internet bottleneck or provider causing the issue, along with alternate routing suggestions to fix the performance degradation.

Simplify Networks with a Foundation of Automation and Analytics

We are weaving AI and ML capabilities throughout Cisco software, controllers, and network fabrics to simplify the management of complex networks, including innovations like AI Network Analytics, Machine Reasoning Engine Workflows, Networking Chatbots, AI Spoofing Detection, Group-Based Policy Analytics, and Trust Analytics. These solutions assist IT in directing talent to more innovative projects that add value to the organization, such as securing the remote workforce, managing multi-cloud applications, and implementing a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) for holistic security across the enterprise.

Cisco DNA Center enables IT to hide complexity and operate massive networks at scale, securely, and with agility. The value of AI/ML in Cisco DNA Center is in the ability of the network to enable an excellent experience for IT personas, which in turn provides an optimal experience for the workforce, along with trust in knowing the network is always watching and self-adjusting.

Want to learn more about AIOps in Cisco DNA Center? I’ve compiled a list of resources below for you to continue researching what Cisco AI/ML Network Analytics can do for your IT teams.


Additional Resources:

AI and Machine Learning

What Is Network Analytics?

AI and Machine Learning: A White Paper for Technical Decision Makers

*The Future of Technology Survey is a global survey of 39,880 CIOs, IT Decision Makers, and corporate workforce respondents in 34 international markets, commissioned by Cisco and deployed by Censuswide in August 2021 to uncover evolving perceptions around the future of work, connectivity, and the secure modern enterprise.


Greg Dorai

Senior Vice President & General Manager, Cisco Networking Experiences - Campus Connectivity

Networking Experiences