Cisco brings intent-based networking to third parties as DNA Center opens up

Sachin Gupta, senior vice president of product management for enterprise networking at Cisco

Sachin Gupta, senior vice president of product management for enterprise networking at Cisco

ORLANDO — Cisco Systems will open the DNA Center software at the center of its intent-based networking strategy to a variety of connectors, APIs and SDKs, a move that will take Cisco’s software strategy in a number of new directions, including managing third-party hardware.

DNA Center serves as the primary hub for intent-based networking, a concept that aims to allow businesses to define what they want from their networks in business terms, and translates that into the network policy details of all devices on the network. Until now, it has managed that functionality for Cisco hardware. But now, the company is aiming to make the software “an open platform” for network innovation, said Sachin Gupta, senior vice president of product management for enterprise networking at Cisco. 

“We’re going to open the platform up, and expose all the APIs so an entire new ecosystem cna build on top of the network.” Gupta said.

That programmability and connectivity story includes the company’s partners. Of the 15 companies offering integrations or applications on top of DNA Center at launch, there are a bunch of familiar Cisco channel names, including Dimension Data, World Wide Technology, Wipro, Presidio, and Logicalis. 

Once integrations are in place, Gupta suggested DNA Center would open much more of the networking stack everywhere to be managed in business terms, effectively making the top levels of network management accessible to “people without complete networking knowledge.” And the same goes for writing applications that analyze, monitor, or pull data from the network, a critical part of Cisco’s strategy for making the network more programmable, and as its DevNet developer community transforms from a rising star within the organization to a critical element for the success of its strategy.

“We’re making it easier for those who don’t understand the details of the network to write their applications for the network by just stating their intentions,” Gupta said.

Paul Giblin, senior solutions architect at Cisco partner Presidio, said the opening up of DNA Center makes it easier for partners to do things like validate a whole network deployment for a customer.

“You could have done an application like this in the past, but it would have taken a lot of custom code and fidgeting, and it probably wouldn’t be very secure or stable,” Giblin said. “Now, with a single set of APIs to write to, it makes it much easier.”

Beyond that, Giblin said that as a network architect, it’s great to be able to do something new and exercise creativity” instead of the routine of going around the network to make changes on multitudes of devices as needed.

“Cisco has made it very easy for network engineers who are used to rote tasks to become creative,” he said.

One space to watch should Cisco’s vision of DNA Center as a software hub for the network is what the new role of the software means for third-party monitoring and management tools. On one hand, RMM tools may be less valuable if more networking gear can be managed directly in DNA Center. But on the other hand, Gupta points out, those tools can themselves be enhanced by connecting to or integrating into DNA Center, getting access to more network analytics and potentially helping them become more consumable in business language instructions.

“Hopefully, it accelerates the usefulness and innovation for them as well,” Gupta said.