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Earlier this spring, Cisco announced their Digital Network Architecture (DNA). Cisco describes DNA as, "a new strategy, vision, and roadmap for enterprise networking in the digital era."

If you frequent network technology websites, you see references to everything digital: digital transformation, digital enterprise, digital business, and of course, the easy-to-pronounce "digitization."

So what's going on here? What's new, and what does network infrastructure have to do with digital business?

Redefining 'digital'

First of all, let's tackle the word "digital."

When I hear digital, I think of the binary numbering system (0's and 1's) used by computers and cameras to store information. But in this context, it refers to any technology that connects people and machines to each other, or with information.

For years, companies have depended on technology to innovate and improve productivity. While individual devices on their own often provide convenience and efficiency to users of those devices, when people, machines, and things in general are connected to each other and have the capability and capacity to interact, the overall value of the individual devices is increased exponentially.

As we continue to create and enhance human-to-human, human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions the ability to quickly and efficiently realize events and trends is foundational for creating exciting new business opportunities.

So back to DNA, defined by Cisco as an open, software-driven platform that integrates critical innovations in networking software, such as virtualization, automation, analytics and cloud into one architecture.

The three components of DNA

Cisco's DNA architecture is based on the use of an SDN controller (APIC-EM), or networking software, to manage your current install base and leverage network applications running from the controller to simplify and accelerate deployments and change.

APIC-EM is software that runs on an x86 server. It has some built-in applications that facilitate network discovery, inventory and topology, but the real power of APIC-EM are the add-on application modules that automate advanced and often difficult configuration tasks such as Plug and Play (zero touch deployment), configuring network-wide Quality of Service (QoS) and deployment of the features on a Cisco ISR router that constitute Intelligent WAN.

New applications, whether custom or general use, can be written by Cisco, third parties or by customers themselves. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow additional integration into other systems or software programs, which makes this network controller even more powerful.

A second aspect of DNA is virtualization. Companies will have the opportunity to deploy network services as virtual instances running on x86 platforms to reduce hardware costs and increase the speed and flexibility of deployments.

This is a different modality than the hardware based deployment described in the paragraph above. In this scenario, utilizing Cisco's Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure Software (NFVIS), the network functions, such as firewall, application acceleration, intrusion prevention and even routing itself are run as virtual instances on a x86 server located in a branch or remote site.

The server runs NFVIS natively, and the virtual functions, run as virtual machines within NFVIS are connected back to the physical network. Server hosts can also be located within NFVIS to provide even more flexibility. There are several big advantages to using a virtualized services mode: speed of deployment, flexibility of services offered and the reduction of hardware platforms used for branch deployments. And within NFVIS, there are again the northbound APIs that allow complete automation and orchestration of the deployment and management process.=

The third part of DNA is the ability to capture and perform cloud based analytics and location information derived from your network allowing you to connect and engage with your customers like never before.

Cisco's Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) speaks more to understanding how your business operates and how customers interact with your business. Think of a retail scenario. Being able to detect and analyze the behavior of visitors, track assets, and most importantly, engage customers at a personal level can heighten their experience.

Cloud-based CMX provides this capability to more businesses in that the infrastructure needed to support the analytical function is a subscription to a cloud service. While larger enterprises may wish to host this capability in their own data center, small- or medium-sized companies can now afford to access these cloud services.

What digitization means for business

With services that are easy to consume, Cisco's DNA defines a network and infrastructural roadmap to digitization that will help enable lines of business and IT to innovate faster, reduce costs and lower risk.

Digitization gives organizations the agility they need to quickly react to market transitions and opportunities; create value from the analysis of data collected from their own business or a community; and perhaps most importantly, it puts them in a position where they're willing to disrupt their own business to grow faster and become more profitable. Digital businesses create an amazing customer experience, deliver frictionless security and can scale for growth.

So… are you ready to change your DNA?

Contact us to learn more about Cisco's DNA or to start your digitization journey today.