Today, Cisco announced its latest innovation – Cisco Crosswork Network Automation – a new network automation portfolio for Service Providers.  We are very excited about creating the industry’s most comprehensive closed-loop, mass-scale automation solution that embraces multi-vendor networks.  We are more excited about the transformations we are seeing inside of our Service Provider customers and how this can help them accelerate their journey to a fully self-healing infrastructure.

Cisco Crosswork is a huge leap forward for our industry. Through a multi-part blog series, we will be going into more detail with you about our five new automation solutions that are designed to help solve our customers’ challenges in planning, designing, implementing, operating, and optimizing their networks:

  • Cisco Crosswork Change Automation: Automated operations application that enables large-scale change and closed-loop control
  • Cisco Crosswork Health Insights: Smart sensors, smart alerts and smart remediation to monitor and optimize networks
  • Cisco Crosswork Data Platform: Featuring both an OpenSource and commercial-class data analytics platform
  • Cisco Crosswork Network Insights: Cloud-based analytics solution for solving large-scale routing issues
  • Cisco Crosswork Situation Manager: Machine Learning-based event correlation with social operations

This new portfolio is built on the proven foundation of open APIs in Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) and Cisco’s WAN Automation Engine (WAE), Cisco Crosswork Network Automation now incorporates advanced data consolidation, machine learning, event correlation, and closed-loop change automation.

The opportunity that I have to meet with leading Service Providers around the world is one of the best parts of my role at Cisco.  In talking to business leaders about their operational challenges, it is apparent that while no two Service Providers are the same, the challenges they face are very similar.

This notion of a custom network automation solution mapped to a specific set of OPEX-driven business goals is central to the Cisco Crosswork approach.  You have to take the time to dissect the problem and the desired business outcome before prescribing a solution mixed with professional services, a large dose of automation software, and numerous other operational changes. There is a reason why we refer to automation as a journey that we want to be on with our customers.

Intuitive Networks are not new to Cisco, but mass-scale, multi-vendor networks require a unique approach to automation that leverages a common foundation with analytics and machine learning that evolves over time. Since each provider’s needs are unique, we’ve developed seven solution entry points that fulfill a key objective and can be expanded over time to fulfill your long-term goals for closed-loop automation and a self-healing infrastructure.

The beginning of each journey is built to address a particular challenge:

  • Human driven network changes are error prone, time consuming, and lack comprehensive validation
  • Data silos make network data impossible to analyze and correlate
  • Customer experience suffers when variations in network quality go unnoticed
  • The time needed to manually identify network problems results in significant business impacts when outages occur
  • Remediating network problems is a slow and manual process
  • Global Routing Scale errors can cause dramatic outages
  • Networks are not continually optimized for business and service needs

Let’s look at the first challenge – “Human driven network changes are error prone, time consuming, and lack comprehensive validation.”  No mincing of words.  In the past, a problem statement like this would have led us to some incremental changes that achieved modest results.  With the service growth that we have seen over the past two years and the growth that’s expected with 5G, it’s time to get serious about major transformations across the service deployment workflow.

Our industry has experienced some high profile outages within the past year.  Many of those can be traced back to human error.  In fact, most of the customers I speak with state that network outages are caused by humans over 50 percent of the time. The way  we managed networks in the past with direct device level commands can be automated out of the workflow by using intent-driven configurations communicated by data models.  Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) is a proven tool for this automation task and can transform network changes into intent-driven deployments with automatic validation. It has been successfully deployed in this capacity by more than 100 service providers around the world. If you haven’t started your journey with NSO, you are missing a critical step.

It’s imperative that we move to an operational model where people interact with software, as software translates service intent into data models and then communicates that intent over model-driven telemetry into the devices.  Cisco NSO is the clear industry leader in achieving this business objective for service providers.  Let’s be clear, this intent-driven strategy applies to more than just routed networks.  It’s also intended for Cable, Mobility and Optical use cases, just to name a few.

With seven different starting points the journey can be customized. Below is just one example of how a journey might unfold. In the figure below, the journey starts with Cisco NSO.  

From this point forward, you have options and decisions to make on how to progress in your automation journey.  Steps 2 through 4 in this example show a common approach for adding network optimization with Cisco WAN Automation Engine (WAE) and then moving into a self-healing network automation environment with Cisco Crosswork.

Cisco Crosswork Change Automation is unique in its ability to construct and execute custom plays for large-scale network change.  This application leverages Ansible plays and extends that capability with a YAML orchestration engine that’s custom, stateful and vastly superior to stock Ansible parsing.  The result is a powerful tool for building a closed-loop Change Automation solution that drives consistent service intent.

Cisco Crosswork Health Insights has been purpose built to deliver smart alerts, smart sensors and smart remediation to accurately measure network health.  But anomaly detection isn’t enough.  The sheer service volume and the level of network change is demanding more intelligent baselining for smart thresholds and the use of machine learning.  One of our demos at Mobile World Congress (MWC) is focused on drilling down into the details of the KPIs that can be built with Health Insights.  I’d strongly encourage you to set up an appointment with your account team to see this demo!

This is just one example of a potential journey. These steps aren’t on a prescribed timeline and they don’t reflect an obligation to buy every piece of software from Cisco. Our Cisco Crosswork automation approach is a platform which includes Open APIs for 3rd party applications support.  As I stated in my last blog, building a path to autonomous networking is a journey that every service provider should embrace.  It can create performance and productivity opportunities that transform business and operating models.

In the next blogs, we’ll cover different elements of the Cisco Crosswork solutions that address the top Service Provider challenges. By the end of this series, I think you’ll see that Cisco Crosswork is the flexible automation solution that’s multi-vendor, mass scale, closed-loop, and the automation answer for Service Providers.

If you’re in Barcelona for MWC, stop by our booth and I’ll show you just how great Cisco Crosswork is!



Jonathan Davidson

EVP and General Manager

Cisco Networking