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Intent-Based Networking: A View from the Cisco Partner Stage

What does it mean to “Own IT” for customers? As we prepare for 2018, here are four critical success factors.

November 15, 2017

4 Min Read
Network Intelligence

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Dana Matsunaga

By Dana Matsunaga, Executive VP and COO, LiveAction

I was one of four partners participating in a media roundtable just a few weeks ago, when Cisco held its 2017 Partner Summit. The topic was The Network. Intuitive., Cisco’s version of intent-based networking. Later the panel reflected on what it means to “Own IT.” As we prepare for 2018, four critical success factors emerged:

  1. Understanding the role of the network in supporting business objectives.

  2. Getting deeper insights into the network.

  3. Balancing man and machine

  4. Optimizing the infrastructure

Understanding the role of the network in supporting business objectives: By now, everybody got the memo on intent based-networking being the path forward for the industry (if you didn’t, Channel Partners offers a free report on the topic). As a refresher, here’s Cisco’s definition, as unveiled at Cisco Live US in June: “Intent-based networking describes a network that has the intelligence and automation necessary to set and modify its configurations to meet the organization’s business needs. An intent-based network can continuously align itself to required service levels, security, and IT compliance policies.”

The ubiquity of the network and increasing amounts of time online have led all of us to expect faster and more enriching online experiences. From an enterprise POV, this includes employees getting their jobs done in the fastest, most efficient way possible. From a customer perspective, it means no holdups at the PoS system in retail or in getting accurate MRI results delivered securely to their physicians, for example. Business intent is all about living up to user expectations.

Getting deeper insights into the network: We all know the masses of data generated by people, things, apps and devices will continue to grow exponentially. From a networking perspective, one of the biggest challenges in the rise of big data is the ability to separate the thousands of signals from the noise.

An intuitive network is not just one that alerts you to potential issues, it’s one that helps you identify and make sense of those alerts. What are they telling you – or not telling you – about the health of your network, and how it will impact the business? For machine learning and AI to be relevant to the network of the future requires balancing man and machine. Keeping a “human-in-the-loop” – someone who incorporates the expertise and understanding of network engineers and takes advantage of machine learning and predictive analytics – ensures continuous learning, automation of routine networking tasks and optimized digital experiences for people and IoT-enabled assets.

Bringing this all together – business intent, deeper insights, and balancing man and machine in the network – results in a fully optimized network infrastructure. What exactly does that look like?

This is no way to start a Monday.

Picture this – a CEO of a well-known energy company …

… hosts a weekly staff call with representatives from across the globe using a popular web conferencing tool. During the status call, the head of sales taps into reports located in the cloud. Manufacturing uses a bandwidth-intensive application to upload and share product designs for a new plant. Finance reports on the state of the business using their preferred application, while marketing shares their latest campaigns using yet another tool.

You can see how all the vital and sensitive information being shared could be overwhelming for the network. In this case, it was.

The meeting abruptly ended when the network connection failed. Was the failure due to the web conferencing tool? The sales application? Or was it marketing’s campaign mock-ups that broke the connection? Without full visibility across the network and a way to proactively identify and address potential failures before they halt business, there wasn’t an immediate answer. More to the point, the team didn’t “Own IT.”

In an intuitive network, one that weaves together business intent, machine learning and human intellect to optimize the user’s experience, that global meeting would have gone on without a hitch, because behind the scenes, the network would have learned to anticipate the weekly call, adjust bandwidth accordingly, and spot and fix points of failure without the users ever knowing. Partners who can help make this happen will have fewer expensive support calls and happier customers. What’s not to like?

Dana Matsunaga is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of LiveAction. Mr. Matsunaga has more than 25 years of experience in networking communications industry. During his career, he has led corporate, product/solutions marketing, sales, business development and engineering initiatives.

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