I just returned from Cisco Live US 2017 in Las Vegas. It was yet again, another fun event for me. This was my 3rd Cisco Live and in my opinion, probably the most interesting one. I believe I said last year that Cisco is changing its direction. This year, that direction is very clear. Security takes most of Cisco’s efforts; the portfolio is growing larger and is better integrated. Software-Defined Networking and Software-Defined WAN is turning into Software-Defined everything. The Programmable Network-Device is the new direction.
In the past four years, Cisco has made a tremendous effort in security products and practices. This year, Cisco announced Talos Security Intelligent and Research Group, the mastermind that fuels the entire Cisco Security Portfolio. All security acquisitions have finally matured and have been integrated with one another. Cisco Umbrella (formerly known as OpenDNS), Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE), Advance Malware Protection (AMP), ASA and Firepower Firewall, and Lancope Stealthwatch are probably the most well-known and widely-used products in its security portfolio.
Although smaller companies may not utilize all of these components, Cisco Umbrella and AMP are both integrated into the Meraki firewalls, and both services are working very well. With the way that Cisco is cross-integrating its products, I am looking forward to more security features from the partnership between Cisco and Meraki.
Cisco Digital Network Architecture
Announced at Cisco Live 2016, Cisco has a very clear message for its Cisco Digital Network Architecture. Cisco DNA is the centralized management, analytics, assurance and security solution for customers who use Cisco products. For the longest time, Cisco product portfolios were all independent from each other, from the look and feel, to the underlining operating system. Monitoring and performing analytics on Cisco equipment has always been a third party’s responsibility.
While it’s unreasonable for Cisco to re-create all of its products, the company has created Cisco DNA Center, to act as a centralized management and analytics tool for current and future Cisco products, ranging from routers and switches, to wireless and security devices. If customers do not want to buy Meraki products to leverage the dashboard, Cisco DNA Center will be a good tool for them to utilize.
Software-Defined Access – Catalyst 9000 Switches
Back in 2014, Cisco announced Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) as its Software-Defined Networking (SDN) solution. In 2016, it announced Cisco Intelligent WAN (iWAN) as its SD-WAN solution. SDN is aimed at data center traffic, whereas SD-WAN is aimed towards WAN/internet traffic. While the industry is still concentrating on these two areas, Cisco has turned its attention to traffic among typical enterprise networks, including computers, phones, wireless devices, which it calls access layer devices.
At Cisco Live 2017, Cisco announced its Catalyst 9000 switch series. These new switches can now support VXLAN encapsulation, which means Software-Defined Networking is extended from data center to access layer devices, hence why Cisco is calling the Catalyst 9000 series SD-Access. The Catalyst 9000 is a direct replacement for Catalyst 3850, Catalyst 4500-X and Catalyst 4500 chassis. They support a wide range of automation features and provide robust open APIs over NETCONF using YANG data models for external tools, both off-the-shelf and custom-built, to automatically provision network resources. Licensing models on Catalyst 9000 have also changed to much simpler packages: Network Essentials and Network Advantage, versus the 4 to 5 different license packages it had before.
For Zumasys, Catalyst 9000 series will probably join Nexus 9000 series and Meraki switches to be the go-to solutions for our customers.
Programmability and DevNet
At Cisco Live 2015, Cisco created DevNet community. This community has grown from a small group of engineers, who are interested in programming and automation for networking devices, into a leading technology community that is behind all software-defined and automation-driven Cisco products, creating full analytics and management, on top of automation for the entire infrastructure. Cisco has put a lot of effort into this community, and I can see it growing into a mainstream branch of Cisco’s brand very soon.
At this stage of DevNet and the automation tool, smaller sized companies may have a difficult time leveraging these tools. For Zumasys, I’m looking to fully utilize these programming tools to manage our network infrastructure at both SUPERNAP and CenturyLink data centers.
And finally…. Cisco Meraki
Meraki is still going strong. There was no big announcement surrounding Meraki this year at Cisco Live; however, I talked to more companies that are using Meraki at Cisco Live this year than ever before.