Submission By: Anand Nuggihalli


Building Skills for Digital Transformation: Cisco DNA

Digitization is absolutely changing the world—you can picture consumers using virtual resources for shopping and ordering cabs; everyone from toddlers on up generally being glued to their smart devices; and all kinds of businesses, political parties, cities, and countries going digital to have an edge on their competition.


You’ve probably read all kinds of business experts predicting that a big chunk of today’s leading businesses will be displaced by competitors disrupting the market with new approaches. Cisco’s own research corroborates this—that number could be as much as 40 percent. The message is clear: digitization is a disrupter. Embrace it, and you have access to unprecedented opportunities possible from a highly interconnected world of real-time information and choice. Ignore it, and the very survival of your business is at risk.


The Need for IT Skills


For those in IT, moving to digitization requires that you adopt rapidly evolving technologies in the areas of software-defined networking (SDN), mobility, enhanced security, and flexible access, while taking full advantage of cloud deployment models. One technology affects others. For example, you can’t deploy cloud and enhanced access without a clear understanding of the security behind it.


In addition, job functions are evolving from device-level, platform-specific configuration to policy-based service deployment, enabled by the abstraction and automation within controller-based architectures.


Cisco DNAThe Architecture for Digitization

It’s probably no surprise to you that digital trends like mobility, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, and analytics are being driven by an infrastructure that can respond faster to change.


For that reason, Cisco is announcing the Cisco Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA), which provides a programmable, virtualized, and software-driven architecture. Cisco DNA provides the infrastructure foundation as you recalibrate your business, operations and technology strategies to embrace digitization.


  • Your network becomes adaptive and operates at digital speed.

  • You can mine business data from your network, and monetize it.

  • Automation drives more productivity for your technical staff.

  • The network expands your ability to quickly identify security threats.


Cisco DNA and IT Job Roles

Cisco DNA offers IT engineers across multiple disciplines the tools to facilitate the transformation to digitization. Your entire IT team can expand its skills and collectively operate effectively to fully exploit the power of the next generation of technologies.


Developing Digital Services: Application developers and network/cloud/security engineers can take advantage of network-wide deep visibility into user, application and device information exposed through open APIs. Example: Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) Cloud services provide customer insight and personalized engagement.


Virtualizing and Automating Network Services: Network/cloud/network programmability engineers and administrators can provision, orchestrate, adapt, and manage with simplicity and scale, taking advantage of Cisco DNA capabilities like operating systems designed with rich, model-driven, programmable APIs, controller-based management, application hosting, and virtualization. Examples: Day zero automation lowers costs by 79 percent with Cisco Plug and Play; branch agility delivers flexibility to run network functions with Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization (NFV); and differentiated application experience is enabled through EasyQoS.


Mitigating Threats with Security Services: Security and network engineers and administrators can leverage the Cisco network as an enforcer solution. This provides continuous security across their routing, switching and wireless infrastructure, including extending security from the client to the cloud. Examples: StealthWatch, Identity Services Engine (ISE), and NetFlow enable the network as a sensor.


How Cisco Digital Network Architecture Enables Job Roles


Cisco DNA Element

Job Role

Skills Enabled

Open and Programmable

Digital services application developers, network programmability developers

Write network-enabled applications for collaboration, mobility, IoT, and security, using open APIs

Abstraction and Policy Control from Core to Edge

Network engineers, network programmability engineers

Simplify network configuration/management tasks via controllers that deliver full network abstraction and automation

Enterprise Service Automation

Network engineers, cloud engineers

Virtualize network services and cloud-enable, as part of private/hybrid cloud orchestration and management

Rapid Threat Detection

Network engineers, security engineers

Detect and respond to threats


Next Steps: Cisco DNA Training and Certification Resources

Take advantage of new training related to Cisco DNA capabilities—start with the following resources:

  • Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC EM)
  • APIC-EM Plug and Play (PnP)
  • APIC-EM Intelligent WAN (IWAN) app
  • NFV
  • Network programmability
  • CMX Cloud
  • Network as a Sensor
  • Lancope StealthWatch
  • ISE
  • Technical resources from Cisco Live (may require login)
    • Introduction to APIC EM: BRKNMS-1036 - SDN Led IT Operations Management with APIC-EM and Prime Infrastructure (2015 San Diego)
    • APIC-EM deeper dive: BRKNMS-2031 - APIC-EM: The evolution from traditional management to SDN-led, policy-based automation (2016 Berlin)
    • APIC EM advanced session: BRKARC-3004 - APIC-EM: Controller Workflow and Use Cases (2015 San Diego)
    • APIC EM IWAN app: PSOSDN-2003 - IWAN management via APIC-EM (SDN Controller) (2015 San Diego)
    • APIC EM PnP: BRKNMS-2038 - APIC-EM: Branch Deployment Automation (2016 Berlin)
    • APIC EM EasyQoS: BRKSDN-2046 - SDN Enabled QoS-A Deep Dive (2016 Berlin)
    • CMX and CMX Cloud: BRKEWN-2025 - Deliver Intelligent Mobility Experiences through Cloud Solutions : CMX and EMSP (2015 San Diego)
    • NFV: BRKNMS-2035 - Operation & Management transition with the adoption of an SDN architecture and NFV concepts (2016 Berlin)
    • NFV deeper dive: BRKCRS-3090 - Implementing Network Automation - Power Tools for Enterprise Switching (2015 Melbourne)
    • NFV deep dive: BRKCRS-3447 - Network Function Virtualization for Enterprise Networks (2015 San Diego)
    • Network as a Sensor/Network as an Enforcer introduction: BRKCRS-1449 - Threat Defense for Enterprise Networks with Unified Access (2015 San Diego)
    • Network as a Sensor/Network as an Enforcer deeper dive: BRKSEC-2026 - Network as a Sensor and Enforcer (2015 San Diego)


You can then take advantage of Cisco certifications and related training to build your skills to fully exploit the power of multiple Cisco technologies that are relevant for your job function. As the network shifts toward digitization, you will be ready to manage this transition and stay up to date with new network tools and approaches.


Cisco Certifications and Training for Individuals Who Need to Be Skilled in Cisco Digital Network Architecture


Cisco Certification

Job Roles and Skills Enabled

Cisco Network Programmability Developer Specialist

For software programmers who focus on the development of the network applications layer, which can live in any of the Cisco provided programmable components, and will enable service provider, campus, and data center use cases. This certification and course develop the foundation skills needed to develop network applications in programmable environments. Unlike SDN courses that focus on network theory, this certification adds to your practical networking understanding and utilizes Cisco's experience in WAN, data center and campus environments to provide you with the skills you will need to become a network developer. Prerequisite: Ability to program in Python, C, or other languages.

Cisco Network Programmability Engineer Specialist

For engineers who deploy network applications into a programmable environment and make them operational. Key skills covered with this certification include implementing and troubleshooting an open network infrastructure designed by network designers and architects. Unlike other SDN training, candidates who successfully complete this certification will understand and practice deploying, installing, and troubleshooting network infrastructures and applications.

Cisco CCIE Certifications

For expert engineers who design/deploy network, data center, collaboration and security technologies in enterprise and service provider environments, Cisco is introducing a new framework into the CCIE certifications, focusing on the skills required by industries to meet the demand for emerging technology and business insights. While IT professionals still require depth in their area of expertise, today they also need a breadth of understanding of interrelated technologies and how they impact business outcomes. Accordingly, topics such as IoT, cloud, business transformation, and network programmability are being incorporated into CCIE certifications (the blueprint has been announced).

Cisco CCNA, CCNP, and Specialist Certifications

For network engineers: Topics such as virtualization, cloud, and network programmability will be introduced at the next revision for Routing and Switching and other Cisco Career Certifications.


For security engineers: Future revisions of Security career certifications will incorporate deployment of virtual security appliances; the Network as a Sensor functions of StealthWatch and ISE; FirePOWER Next-Generation Intrusion-Prevention System (NGIPS); Advanced Malware Protection; and next-generation firewalls.


For cloud engineers who design, implement, and manage private and hybrid clouds, CCNA and CCNP Cloud certifications include learning domains such as cloud infrastructure, virtualization, orchestration, automation, and management (the curriculum is available now).


These certifications will prepare you to design and deploy industry-leading Cisco DNA solutions, no matter whether you are focused on security at the access or core of the infrastructure, deployed on-premises or through a cloud model. Certification will allow you to prove your ability within your organization or establish your credentials with hiring managers.


For more on digital transformation, see Gary Pfitzer’s blog.


Anand Nuggihalli has more than 25 years of experience (17 at Cisco) as a product manager, managing technology, services, solutions and education portfolios. His current mandate is to create and manage training and industry certifications for Cloud and Network Programmability that provide IT professionals and Cisco partners with practical job-related skills and validation in these critical areas. Anand has a Bachelor's in Technology from IIT Madras and a Master's in Business Administration from IIM Calcutta, and has received the Cisco Innovator Award for pioneering the use of total cost of ownership to illuminate the true value of services.