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Cisco: Network intuitive puts us several years ahead of the competition

Cisco claims it's one to two years ahead of competitors after unveiling its encrypted traffic analytics, programmable switches, and DNA-Center, the last of which it says will improve business return on investment by 402 percent.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Cisco has claimed that it is several years ahead of its networking competitors on the key functions unveiled as part of its new network intuitive, primarily on identifying malware without decrypting secure communications.

"We believe that we are one to two years ahead on many of the key elements that we unveiled," Ruba Borno, Cisco VP of Growth Initiatives and chief of staff to CEO Chuck Robbins, told ZDNet.

"From a security perspective, the encrypted threat analytics, we are absolutely the leader on this."

Speaking during Cisco Live Las Vegas this week, Borno said the company's customers were "blown away" when Cisco told them it would be able to detect malware in encrypted threat traffic while maintaining privacy without decrypting the data -- something that "absolutely no one else can do today" for two primary reasons.

"One is [because] it leverages our massive scale, so we actually can do that because we see so much traffic; and then two, this was developed by one of our Cisco fellows ... he worked with the broader Cisco team to not only leverage the intelligence we have on our security teams, but also the network teams, to deliver this technology," Borno explained to ZDNet.

"So we believe we are several years ahead of the competition in several of the key functions that we discussed on the new launch."

Being that far ahead, however, means there will be a learning curve in adopting the technology, with Borno conceding that customers will need assistance from Cisco and its channel partners.

"This is leapfrog innovation that is going to require quite a bit of support in adoption, so that's why our services team members are ready to help our customers adopt the technology -- because there are things that we are able to do now automatically that they never thought they could do automatically," she said.

"It provides them with pretty large savings from an operational expense perspective, from a reduction in security breaches impact, from a reduction in time to resolve issues; there's so many different business benefits that our customers get.

"The return on investment of deploying DNA-Center is 402 percent, so the business benefit is massive, but we have to help our customers along on that journey, us and our channel partners as well."

According to Cisco SVP of Networking and Security David Goeckeler, Cisco's new "network intuitive", unveiled last week, will decrease customer provisioning time by 67 percent; issue resolution by 80 percent; security breach impact by 48 percent; and opex by 61 percent.

The network intuitive comprises three parts: Encrypted traffic analytics; the DNA-Center, which is the command centre and analytics platform of the new network; and a series of programmable IoT-, cloud-, and mobile-ready switches called the Catalyst 9000 series.

According to Robbins, Cisco had to modernise its internetwork operating system (IOS) in order to develop its DNA-Center.

"We had to rewrite IOS to a modern data model, API-structured operating system," Robbins explained.

"That then allowed us to launch DNA-Center, which is fundamentally the command centre for the network ... it also is a major analytics platform."

Borno said Cisco also had to "reinvent software-defined networking" with open APIs, programmability, and modular designs to enable machine learning at massive scale.

Cisco has 75 early field trial customers using the technology already, including NASA, Accenture, Wipro, DB, and Royal Caribbean Cruises, with SVP of Networking and Security David Goeckeler telling ZDNet that tests are going well and the feedback will inform the final release of the products.

"It's been a really good process, we've had a lot of really good marquee customers as part of the process, and we've just gotten incredible feedback," Goeckeler told ZDNet.

Scentsy network architect Kevin Tompkins said his candle-production company has been trialling SD Access, a policy solution part of DNA-Center, for seven months, and the Catalyst 9000 switch for three months.

"This does signify a pretty fundamental change in how we're going to treat the network, how we're going to manage and design it, and how we're going to look at it in terms of what it can do for security," Tompkins said during the technology keynote on Tuesday morning.

"We've been spending a lot of time lately eking out a policy ... I think we're going to have some cool and unique new challenges as we're adapting to this new philosophy."

The global launch of intuitive network will see the DNA-Center commercially available in early August, encrypted traffic analytics to ship in September, and DNA-Center network analytics available in October, while several switches in the Catalyst 9000 series are available now.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Las Vegas as a guest of Cisco

Updated at 9.30am PST, June 28: Cisco had to modernise its own IOS.

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