Submission By: Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn and Rob Soderbery
Since it was announced last month, Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA) has been generating a great deal of enthusiasm in the networking community. What Cisco DNA represents is an opportunity for the network to harness the full power of digital transformation that is driving all industries forward today. With Cisco DNA, we are building on our evolution of networking software to more fully embrace virtualization, automation, analytics, cloud service management, and the ability of our network architecture to be open and extensible.
Network automation, in particular, makes this an exciting time to be involved in IT networking as it brings much greater speed, simplicity, and insight to your role as a networking professional. As Rob shares here, automation is opening up a new world of innovation for network engineers and developers, who are already energetically digging into the tools that form part of the Cisco DNA architecture.
Learning@Cisco is committed to providing you with the skills you need to take advantage of the network design and development possibilities inherent in Cisco’s new architecture. As Rob further explains below, we are updating our training and certifications to get you ready. As a network professional, you will be more vital than ever in the digital era.
After reading Rob’s blog, I invite you to visit our new Cisco DNA site here on the Cisco Learning Network, where you can hear more from Rob and me about what the new architecture is all about and what it means for your growth in IT.
When we announced our Cisco Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA) a few weeks ago, press and analysts asked me if automation in enterprise networking means that network professionals will disappear in IT. In response, I asked if systems administrators or the Linux prompt have disappeared in computing. The answer is a simple no. Experts will always pick the most powerful tool to tailor a system to the exact requirements of the enterprise. At the same time, there is no need to manually configure every instance of that system whenever and wherever it is required in the enterprise–that is where automation comes in to greatly accelerate the deployment of the systems that are part of an enterprise architecture.
Automation is exciting because it helps you further leverage the network as a strategic asset to your company. Imagine if you could do for your network what the cloud can do for workloads. What happens when you make a change on your network today? Is it automatically pushed to a repository? How is the change managed? Is it diff’d with a single source of truth? Where is the change record stored? What if this change could automatically kick off a process to perform automated testing with results automatically sent to an analytics engine? Would you (and your network) be able to operate more efficiently by adopting some of these practices?
One thing is clear to me: network professionals are very eager to get started with Cisco DNA Automation, as evidenced by the thousands of downloads of APIC-EM (Cisco’s enterprise controller for supporting a full range of automation services) over the last few months. I think it’s safe to assume that most of those who download APIC-EM will install it and want to use at least one of the included automation applications. This means network professionals are already learning and benefitting from automation, without having to code–unless they want to.
But what about programming, which enables network professionals to write custom-tailored automation apps for their particular enterprise? To be clear, programming is not mandatory to take advantage of SDN. Just like in the application world, many enterprises will simply consume ready-to-use applications provided by software vendors. But if you want to become a developer, the journey to programming is a personal one, clearly depending on existing knowledge. The good news is that as part of Cisco DNA, we have teamed up with DevNet and Learning@Cisco to make becoming a network developer as intuitive and easy as possible.
Cisco DevNet is our online community for people who are using Cisco APIs to write software. By leveraging DevNet, aspiring network developers are walked through the installation of Python and Git. DevNet Learning Labs then provides the fundamentals of the APIC-EM APIs, and the APIC-EM Sandbox provides an always-on APIC-EM that network professionals can use to test their solutions and gain familiarity without the need to download the product.
In addition, Learning@Cisco has been updating its training and certifications program to prepare you to design and deploy Cisco DNA solutions. Topics such as virtualization, cloud, network programmability, IoT, and business transformation are steadily being introduced to our concentration tracks. In addition, Specialist certifications focused on network programmability design, engineering, and development are already here.
So let us work together on making network automation a reality: I would like to encourage everybody to join DevNet (it’s free), and play with Learning Labs and the APIC-EM Sandbox. And while you’re there, don’t forget to download APIC-EM. We want to continue to learn from you and will evolve and improve the network automation tools based on your feedback.
To quote Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Let us all get involved in the journey towards a Cisco Digital Network Architecture that delivers on the needs of digital business.
Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn is Vice President and General Manager of the Business Enablement and Strategy team within Cisco Services. In this role, she leads Learning@Cisco, Technical Services strategy and operations, and the Center of Excellence for innovation, globalization, and commercialization. For more information about Jeanne, click here.
Rob Soderbery is Senior Vice President, Enterprise Segment, at Cisco. In this role, Rob leads enterprise strategy, solutions, products, and go-to-market for Cisco’s Development organization. He and his team identify customer needs, define solutions to address them, and determine the best ways to make those solutions accessible to customers. Rob is also responsible for two Cisco teams: the Internet of Things group and the Cloud Networking group.