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Contributed by Tim Householder, Paul Didier and Vivek Bhargava

It's no secret that many enterprises struggle with managing the environment across the IT/ OT chasm. As a result, a surprisingly large number of companies manage their complex OT environments predominantly by spreadsheet and manual actions, often lacking consistent configuration and visibility. To increase speed to delivery, uptime and agility, organizations need to adopt platforms and tools that provide functionality through automation and telemetry of the environment.

Cisco DNA Center is the central platform for intent-based network infrastructure in the enterprise—and when extended from enterprise to industrial infrastructure, Cisco DNA Center can significantly improve and streamline your IT/OT environment by enabling you to discover and monitor network infrastructure end-devices, and to proactively identify issues using advanced AI/ML. With DNA Center, you can also automatically provision, configure and maintain network infrastructure consistently and at scale, and maintain compliance of configuration and software images.

Cisco DNA Center provides: 

  • Network Automation through zero-touch provisioning, software image management and machine reasoning workflows.
  • Predictive Maintenance with constant monitoring of network and devices for up-to-date visibility and correlated insights with telemetry data to pinpoint root cause.
  • Compliance Checks with audit logging to track changes (including who, what and when), Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team alerts and "Golden Image" confirmation for all network devices.

In short, it extends infrastructure management, real-time visibility, and reporting to your OT teams, with the automation and troubleshooting tools IT teams have been using to keep their environments running.

All that being said, the true genius of Cisco DNA Center is that it is designed to deliver infrastructure operations consistency, and efficient change management to IT and OT teams. The IT and OT teams supporting Industrial environments have differing needs and outcomes. DNA Center can provide the views and functions needed to provide value for both teams.

How Cisco DNA Center benefits both OT and IT

The OT team is focused on time and cost, and since the network is crucial to production uptime, it is one of their top priorities. The tools the DNA Center provides allow you to maximize uptime, by enabling you to do maintenance in an automated, scalable fashion. The platform automates once-cumbersome tasks such as installing new or managing the lifecycle of existing network infrastructure, giving you the ability to do complex tasks with consistent, scalable processes—reducing the risk and time to connect to each device through a single platform. In addition, a telemetry streaming model with modern infrastructure platforms provides continuous monitoring without impacting real-time performance.

OT professionals will also appreciate Cisco DNA Center's ease-of-use as well as its faster time to connectivity enabled by zero-touch provisioning and expanded infrastructure options that meet varying connection needs, at reduced time and cost. You can also enjoy confidence and peace of mind from its established industry certifications.

IT, in contrast to OT, usually cares most about visibility and security. Simply by expanding the footprint of Cisco DNA Center into their plants, IT can visualize, manage and control end points across the company—all while enhancing security. This reduces risk from unintended downtime, as DNA Center puts rigor and process into place to ensure that third parties are not allowed into your internal devices—and because it allows you to schedule out upgrades, zero provisions and plays into new workflows. You will also benefit from faster deployments and decreasing risk of unintended associated consequences. 

Other benefits include visibility enabled by DNA Center's extending application hosting, wireless, sensors, routing and switching into challenging environments like outdoors and industrial compliance areas. In short, you ​​get a quick view into what your environment is doing wherever you need it.

Beyond security and visibility, IT gains significant value from having a manageable toolset providing scalable, consistent, automated intelligence. By adopting DNA Center for both IT and OT, IT reduces the number of tools they need, which lowers cost and decreases complexity. DNA Center also drives consistency through its command set, feature parity, design validation and partner ecosystem.

Use cases

Cisco DNA Center provides value in a myriad of situations across multiple industries, but it can be especially impactful in the following use cases:

Manufacturers who need to extend their capabilities 

Cisco DNA Center can help tremendously for manufacturing companies that need to get new plants or factories up to speed faster, as well as for organizations that experience waves of production capacity or need to bring on new production capacity quickly.

Companies with lifecycle issues that need to swap out technical debt

Numerous companies have kicked the can down the street on modernizing their infrastructure. High-profile situations like Southwest Airlines' recent meltdown have shone the light on the danger of technical debt, making it a priority for boards of directors, and consequently enabling companies to suddenly find the money they need to address their issues. Examples like this provide you with an opportunity to upgrade your infrastructure and resolve your technical debt.

Organizations struggling with workforce/labor shortages 

Cisco DNA Center can provide great impact for lean IT and OT organizations that need to scale and stay on track to accomplish board-level initiatives and meet requirements on time. 

How we can help

Our partnership with Cisco is rooted in our shared goal of driving value for our customers while helping them solve complex IT and business problems.

The process will take you through the following steps:

  1. Try out Cisco DNA Center in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) so you can experience it first-hand.
  2. Identify the current state of DNA Center installation, infrastructure footprint and potential OT expansion footprint.
  3. Assess the current scale of Cisco DNA Center and provide licensing and architectural recommendations to support existing and new environments.
  4. Build a roadmap, level of effort and scope to deliver the benefits of DNA Center into your environment.
  5. Deploy the (expanded) solution.
  6. Ensure you have the appropriate training to keep your team's skills updated.

By following these steps, you can be confident you get the most value from extending Cisco DNA Center to your OT environment—and change the game entirely.

WWT Manufacturing
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