It has been almost a year since I rejoined Cisco. The one question I have been asked hundreds of times by co-workers, former co-workers, employees, reporters and others is: “Why did you go back?”
By way of background, I spent 15 formative years at Cisco, starting in Tech Support and moving through Solution Engineering and Product Management. I then spent seven years at Juniper in product management and general management, leaving the company a year ago as EVP and General Manager of Product, Engineering and Strategy.
One thing that continues to drive me is my constant desire to help our SP customers transform and solve their most fundamental challenges. The crux of the problem is that Service Providers have flat CAPEX while customer demand for bandwidth is insatiable and forcing each SP to grow their infrastructure by 30-50% annually. Every Service Provider now needs to purchase 30-50% more bandwidth at the same annual budget.
Imagine if your Gas and Electric bill were to grow at 50% a year. Imagine this happening for 20+ years straight. It would not be too long before you were looking for innovative ways to solve this conundrum.
Adding to this dynamic is the fact that most Service Providers are spending 3-4 times more operating their networks (OPEX) than they do purchasing their equipment (CAPEX). We at Cisco continue to dramatically drive down the cost in moving each bit through continuous leadership in building innovative systems to help solve the CAPEX challenge. There is a fundamental need as well to assist providers of critical infrastructure in transforming their operations, enabling them to lower their cost to manage, while optimizing infrastructure, and enhancing the end user experience.
Building a path to self-healing autonomous networking is the key. A self-healing infrastructure can create productivity opportunities that can transform business outcomes and dramatically improve existing operating models.
We all know, however, that every company has silos in which they operate. These silos are generally needed to enable the resolution of large complex tasks by separating functional areas that individual humans and teams can tackle. Traditionally in networking, this has meant focusing on the key phases of Planning, Design, Implementation, Operation and Optimization (PDIOO). These focus areas have often mapped into specific organizational structures of Planning, Architecture/Design, Implementation and Operations. But there is something missing from PDIOO….you may be hard pressed to find an optimization team in most Service Providers. I often joke that the teams are often too tired operating the infrastructure, and there is simply no energy left to optimize.
If you map the full PDIOO lifecycle to the different layers of infrastructure, you truly have a complex problem that automation and advanced software are ideal to solve.
We are all familiar with point-and-click element and network management systems. NMS/EMS systems solves many problems of workflow management, visibility and full FCAPS support. The challenge is that these EMS/NMS systems are often single-vendor and/or single purpose. None of the current NMS/EMS systems of today are going to be able to deliver a truly self-healing multi-vendor infrastructure for your critical infrastructure and services.
Cisco has been leading the way for years in the pioneering aspects of intent-driven service deployment with its Network Services Orchestrator (NSO from Tail-F) solution. In fact, a report by Analysys Mason showed that Cisco had the highest ranking by customers in preferred SDN Orchestration vendors (60%). Deployed by many of the leading Tier 1 providers globally, NSO is truly a unique and extensible platform for operational transformation.
NSO is phenomenal for solving intent-based networking, using data models to reduce human errors. However, there are additional planning and operational elements that still need to be addressed in the path towards self-healing autonomous networking.
As market energy and demands continue to accelerate, autonomous networking will have a huge impact. It is a journey that every Service Provider needs to embrace.
Stay tuned as we dive deeper into this topic through a series of blogs over the coming weeks that will codify the challenges – and the solutions – in automating the future.
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