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With the advent of the Internet of Things, increasing reliance on the cloud, and an exponential rise in mobile data consumption worldwide, there is a consensus that data centres and the networks they operate on will need to adapt considerably to keep apace. 

Having dominated IP networking for more than 25 years, it's no surprise that Cisco has been working hard on new network switches, architecture and consultancy services that will support campus networks and business IT infrastructure as they become digital-ready. 

To the growing number of network buzz-phrases Cisco has added the Internet of Everything” (IoE) - the name it has given to this networked connection of people, processes, data, and things. It believes it will add $19 trillion dollars of value in the public and private sectors. 

To take advantage of the coming opportunities, there's a strong sense among business leaders that action must be taken  indeed, 67% of believe legacy network infrastructure is a bottleneck in Enterprise IT.  

In June 2017 Cisco presented its revised networking blueprint, what it refers to as "intent-based networking" or an "intuitive network". In its vision, the San Francisco-based network giant placed an emphasis on software, programmability, security and centralised management. 

Self-learning, responsive networks 

The intention is to build self-learning networks that can adapt as required, and that can respond to security threats and other eventualities on the fly. 

The evaluation of Cisco's network evolution among channel partners is well underway. Value may be perceived in the firm's Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Centre management console, and the network automation promised by Software-Defined Access. Benefits of being able to identify malware in encrypted traffic  through Cisco's Encrypted Traffic Analysis technology  may also be evident to many, especially given the exponential increase in threats likely to emerge in the coming years. 

Add to this an updated analytics platform and a range of new Catalyst switches, and channel partners have a good deal to evaluate. 

Since the summer, channel partners have initiated training programs to ensure staff are ready to handle sales and field engineering, and to deliver associated professional services. 

Short term, Cisco’s Software-Defined Access may prove beneficial in a number of arenas, including the Internet of Things and payment card industry compliance – driven by Cisco's work surrounding segmentation, security and policy. 

Cisco claims network provisioning time and the impact of security breaches will both be reduced thanks to the automated policy enforcement and network segmentation made possible by its Software-Defined Access. 

Icon representing cyber security
Internet of Things security 

Proponents of Cisco's approach suggest the Internet of Things could benefit from Software-Defined Access thanks to its ability to pin-point new devices attaching to a network, then isolate and scan them for threats 

Cisco's network-as-sensor and network-as-enforcer concepts have been developed to tackle security problems moving forward. Tighter security is also the aim of Cisco’s development of machine learning systems, which have been designed to identify malware contained in network packets. 

For broader uses, Cisco's networking platform and automation features may be of key interest. The network giant proffers mobility as a use-case for Software-Defined Access. 

Nexus 9000 Series  

In terms of its new generation of switches, the Catalyst 9000 Series is being pushed as "mobile-ready" by Cisco, able as it is to host a wireless controller  as well as able to handle 802.11ax, one of the newer wireless standards. 

The Nexus 9000 Series may be advantageous in dealing with huge data increases due to its multispeed ports (1/10/25/40/50/100 Gbps) and scalable line-rate encryption. 

Improved security and real-time visibility of application performance are also suggested as benefits of the 9000 family, thanks to its built-in support for Cisco Tetration Analytics and Cisco Nexus Data Broker. Lost customers following cyber-attacks are a key consideration for many organisations. 

And through swifter deployment and streamlined management, facilitated by Cisco Data Center Network Manager (DCNM), enhanced ROI is proffered as another reason to consider take-up. 

Digital Network Readiness Model 

In support of its new approach to network architecture and its new hardware, and to help organisations affect a successful digital transformation, Cisco has developed its "Digital Network Readiness Model". 

The model runs from the patchy service quality of the Best-Effort stage though Manual, Semi-automated, Automated and concluding at the zenith of the Self-Driving model - the latter able to deliver continuous service alignment, while being closed-loop, automated, and offering service assurance, self-protection, and full cloud enablement. 

Cisco's innovation in network accessories and support services will be closely watched by rivals HPE/Aruba, Juniper, Huawei, Arista and others. The success or failure of Cisco's evolutionary approach to data centre infrastructure will doubtless impact its continued dominance over the next 25 years.

photo of Craig Hindmarsh
Craig Hindmarsh
is the head technology writer at Punchy Content, and has over 10 years’ experience writing in the technology sector. We have commissioned Craig to write a series of thought-provoking blogs on a variety of subjects for us in 2018.