Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Monday, November 20, 2017
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Cisco Rolls Software-Driven Net Framework 

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) rolled out its new network architecture this week designed to make it easier to deploy software-defined platforms, virtualization, analytics and other digital enterprise capabilities.

The strategy aims to make promising but as-yet underperforming approaches like software-defined networking ready for primetime in the enterprise by automating deployment and management.

Cisco also stressed that its software-driven network architecture seeks to go beyond connectivity to offer orchestration and automation capabilities along with greater security. These capabilities could be used to speed adoption and deployment of emerging network-based tools such as network function virtualization (NFV), open APIs, cloud management and overlay networks that are deployed in datacenters.

The software-defined networking push also is intended to complement Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure designed to automate IT tasks and accelerate datacenter application deployments.

Rob Soderbery, Cisco's senior vice president for enterprise products, explained the networking giant's design principle in a blog post, starting with, "Virtualize everything…." That, Soderbery argued, allows users to run services independent of platform, whether physical or virtual, cloud or on-premise. "We've taken our network operating system and really made it virtual," the Cisco executive said. "That means you can run on physical, or virtual or cloud-hosted infrastructure, [along with] merchant, x86 or custom ASICs."

That flexibility was achieved by making network functions programmable via open APIs, Soderbery explained.

He also stressed automation tools designed to ease network deployment and management as well as greater use of analytics to monitor the performance of networks and other IT infrastructure. Cisco and other network providers make the case that networks generate unique data sets that can be used for business intelligence.

Among the emerging network requirements are analyzing "information about the data that you can pull off the edge of the network," Soderbery noted. The networking giant said it is targeting three layers of analytics in its new architecture: pulling actionable data off of networked devices; aggregating big data extracted from its network "to make it consumable"; and analytics applications to utilize data while meeting security and compliance requirements.

"We've designed [into the new architecture] pervasive analytics in all three of those layers," Soderbery noted.

The new network architecture also is intended to deliver service management via the cloud as a way to unify IT policies and orchestration across enterprise networks. The hybrid approach would combine cloud agility with on-premise security, the company stressed.

Cisco also makes the case that network infrastructure must be the focus of security efforts as well as a way to automate costly compliance with data regulations. Hence, it is touting the new architecture's security features like real-time threat defense.

The company announced a package of automation, cloud management and virtualization capabilities in support of its new architecture. These range from a network controller platform to a virtualized network operating system. The latter includes an enterprise NFV function that "decouples hardware from software."

The NFV capability is scheduled for release during the first half of this year. Other network capabilities are available now, Cisco said.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 25 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as Executive Editor for Electronic Engineering Times.

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