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Cisco releases plans for Networking Cloud

Cisco's introduction of Networking Cloud lacked technical details and delivery dates for the high-level console for accessing all the company's network management platforms.

LAS VEGAS -- Cisco unveiled on Tuesday plans to develop a high-level software console that provides access to all its on-premises and cloud-based network management platforms while also delivering predictive analytics and visibility across network domains.

Cisco introduced its "vision" for the Networking Cloud at its Cisco Live customer and partner conference. In pre-show materials sent to the media, Cisco promised a half-dozen critical capabilities in the console, including the following:

  • Predictive analytics powered by AI and machine learning algorithms to automate network operations and perform network troubleshooting across domains, including campus, branch and data center.
  • Multi-domain topology and workflow.
  • Common policies across security and networks.
  • A single user-interface design for networking and security.
  • Single sign-on (SSO) for accessing the management platform for each network domain.
  • A navigator for switching between management software.
  • An API key exchange that makes the use of data through APIs more consistent across platforms.

"Cisco networking cloud is our vision -- commitment -- to simplify IT, everywhere, at every scale," said Jonathan Davidson, general manager of Cisco networking, in an advanced copy of a blog post.

In an email, a Cisco spokesperson described the Cloud Networking roadmap as a "multi-year journey" involving customer input. By the end of October, Cisco plans to release the SSO feature and "other initial platform components."

Challenges facing Networking Cloud

To succeed, Networking Cloud must span hardware running at least three Cisco network operating systems -- IOS-XE, IOS-XR and NX-OS -- and provide secure access to multiple network management consoles. The latter includes the Meraki dashboard for wired and wireless LANs, the DNA Center console for campus and branch network management, the Nexus Dashboard Fabric Controller for Nexus data center switches, and the Viptela software-defined WAN controller.

"Whether Cisco will deliver on the promise of Networking Cloud is hard to say because the details are so vague right now," said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.

Unifying the various management platforms won't be easy and won't streamline all network operations, he added.

"It won't make Cisco products cheaper, [and] it won't remove much of the complexity associated with having two or three different operating systems," he said.

Centralized management across network domains is a capability many enterprises want. A 2023 survey of 339 IT and networking pros by TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) found that 68% rated end-to-end network management as very important. An equal number gave the same rating to end-to-end network visibility, which Cisco plans to provide through its ThousandEyes network visualization software.

Cisco's chances for success are helped by having products with a typical life span of 10 years or more, except for Wi-Fi gear that is often replaced sooner because of evolving standards, ESG analyst Bob Laliberte said. Also, Cisco has a loyal customer base of network administrators and engineers certified in its gear.

Nevertheless, customers will want Cisco to provide regular progress updates and education and training on network management changes, Laliberte said.

Other Cisco Live announcements

At Cisco Live, the company introduced a licensing option and rebranded some products. The new licensing combines hardware and software into a single subscription for a Catalyst switch. The rebranding changed the name of the Viptela SD-WAN to Cisco Catalyst SD-WAN and DNA Center to Catalyst Center.

Whether Cisco will deliver on the promise of Networking Cloud is hard to say because the details are so vague right now.
Shamus McGillicuddyAnalyst, Enterprise Management Associates

The company unveiled improvements to ThousandEyes, which maps and monitors infrastructure across the internet to troubleshoot problems reaching applications running on the WAN.

The latest ThousandEyes features include monitoring Cisco's Meraki MX security appliances and conference room devices running Cisco's Webex RoomOS. The ThousandEyes update also has automated event detection and improved troubleshooting for AWS connections.

Cisco also introduced Meraki and Nexus dashboard enhancements.

The Meraki dashboard update includes support for advanced troubleshooting, image management and a CLI view of Catalyst switches. The update provides beta tools for managing Catalyst 9300 access switches.

The latest Nexus Dashboard includes real-time and historical measurements for power consumption for all IT equipment in the data center.

Finally, Cisco launched a validated network design for meeting the requirements and traffic patterns of AI and machine learning workloads. The plan covers capabilities that include deterministic load balancing, line-rate transmission and congestion management. Cisco's Nexus 9000 Series switches running the NX-OS software would provide the network infrastructure for the AI/ML workloads.

Antone Gonsalves is networking news director for TechTarget Editorial. He has deep and wide experience in tech journalism. Since the mid-1990s, he has worked for UBM's InformationWeek, TechWeb and Computer Reseller News. He has also written for Ziff Davis' PC Week, IDG's CSOonline and IBTMedia's CruxialCIO and rounded all of that out by covering startups for Bloomberg News. He started his journalism career at United Press International, working as a reporter and editor in California, Texas, Kansas and Florida. Have a news tip? Please drop him an email.

Tech News This Week 06-09-2023

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