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Cisco opens DNA to developers in campus networking push

Cisco wants to turn its DNA Center campus networking platform into a platform for software development. The goal is to work with the data the system collects.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cisco has opened up its DNA Center to developers and partners, encouraging them to build applications that work with data collected in the software console for campus network management and orchestration.

Cisco announced Tuesday at the Cisco Live conference its plans for turning Digital Network Architecture Center into a platform for software development. To do that, Cisco said it would roll out in the summer APIs and a software development kit (SDK) for building applications that can integrate the network into business processes.

Cisco is aiming the tools at customers that want to integrate DNA Center campus networking analytics into line-of-business applications. Partners are also a target and Cisco announced that 15 of them had already built software on top of DNA Center.

ServiceNow, which provides cloud-based service management software, is one Cisco partner in the process of integrating its products with DNA Center, said Scott Harrell, the general manager of Cisco's enterprise networking business, in an interview with TechTarget. Cisco and consulting firm Accenture are helping with the integration work.

The idea is to forward network problems detected in DNA Center's analytics engine to the ServiceNow console, along with suggestions for remediation, Harrell said. If a campus networking engineer accepted one of the fixes, then he could instruct DNA Center to apply it without leaving the ServiceNow console.

Making it easier for companies to track performance

Harrell described the ServiceNow integration as producing a "dramatic simplification in operations [that's] directly in the customer's workflow." Cisco would prefer to have DNA Center run under the covers when integrated with ServiceNow or other third-party applications.

"We want to limit the amount of time [the user] has to flip screens," Harrell said. "So, we want to build as much into the workflow of ServiceNow as possible because that's the system of record for operations."

The amount of information gathered by DNA Center is enormous, providing Cisco partners with lots of options for use in their applications, Harrell said. In an average network, the system's analytics database takes in about 60,000 entries per second, which amounts to 72 billion over 14 days, which is the limit before data is overwritten or stored elsewhere.

"We have a wealth of information that could be useful for a huge array of business processes," Harrell said.

Another Cisco partner, according to Harrell, wrote a power management app for data centers. The information fed from DNA Center to the app comes from devices attached to the network's Power over Ethernet switch ports.

A developer also has written a mobile app for DNA Center, which could use it to send alerts to IT staff when there's network trouble. "That one, we actually may do something with as well," Harrell said. "I actually saw that one, and it looks pretty good."

Early days of intent-based networking for the campus

DNA Center is a central management console for the wired and wireless LAN. The campus networking software requires the use of Cisco's Catalyst 9000 switches, which Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins has called "the fastest ramping product in the history of Cisco."

The company has sold more than 5,800 Catalyst 9000s since their introduction a year ago, according to Cisco. However, the vendor acknowledges only a small percentage of customers are using DNA Center with the switches. DNA Center configures hardware based on policies set by the network operator.

"A much smaller number have actually deployed the architecture at this point, so we're really in the early days of intent-based networking getting rolled out in these big campus networks," David Goeckeler, general manager of Cisco's networking and security business, told reporters during a meeting at Cisco Live.

In other conference news, the company said its DevNet developer community had topped 500,000 registered members. Cisco also announced three developer initiatives.

The first is DevNet DNA Developer Center, which provides resources, capabilities, use cases and learning materials for building applications and integrations on DNA Center. Next is an online portal, called DevNet Ecosystem Exchange, which developers can use to share or search for apps built for any of Cisco's platforms and products.

Finally, DevNet Code Exchange provides a curated list of sample code, adaptors, tools and SDKs written by Cisco and the DevNet community.

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