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Fact or Science Fiction: One Cisco Admin Managing One Million Devices?

Today’s typical network engineer can personally manage hundreds of devices. But a single admin will be expected to manage one million devices by 2020, Cisco Systems predicted this week.

For the typical MSP, IT service desk technician or network admin, that’s an astronomical figure. It can be difficult to imagine exactly how much a million is. There is a children’s book that tackles this question, and it states that if you were to count to a million, it would take you 23 days. Expecting network engineers to be able to manage a million devices would be a huge ask, that would be more devices than the entire population of San Francisco, Calif. With new advances in technology, though, perhaps it could be possible.

Managing One Million Devices: How?

Cisco is trying to make that kind of scalability a reality by reinventing corporate networking. This week the company claims they have created a new intuitive network that can constantly learn, adapt, automate and protect, to optimize network operations and defend against today’s evolving threat landscape.

The new network is powered by intent and informed by context:

  • Intent: Intent-based networking allows IT to move from repetitive traditional processes to automating intent.
  • Context: Interpreting data in context is what enables the network to provide new insights. Instead of focusing on just the actual data, it is important to understand the context of the data such as the who, what, when, where and how.
  • Intuition: Cisco is using the vast data that flows through its networks around the world, with machine learning built in, and utilizing that data to provide actionable, predictive insights.

Management of a million devices: The Tech

Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA) provides customers with a portfolio of hardware and software to usher in this new era of networking, the company claims. This new suite of Cisco DNA technologies and services are designed to work together as a single system and empower customers to move at digital speed the company claims.

  • DNA Center Allows IT to centralize management of all network functions.
  • Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) Automates day-to-day tasks such as configuration, provisioning, and troubleshooting, reducing the time it takes to adapt the network, improve issue resolution, and reduce security breach impact.
  • Network Data Platform and Assurance Categorizes and correlates the vast amount of data running on the network and uses machine learning to turn it into predictive analytics, business intelligence and actionable insights delivered through the DNA Center Assurance service.
  • Encrypted Traffic Analytics Utilizes Cisco’s Talos cyber intelligence and machine learning to analyze metadata traffic patterns, the network can identify the fingerprints of known threats even in encrypted traffic, without decrypting it and impacting data privacy.
  • Catalyst 9000 Switching Portfolio A new family of switches built from the ground up for the new realities of the digital era, centered on the demands of mobility, cloud, IoT and security.
  • Software Subscription. Cisco ONE software provides businesses with access to ongoing innovation, budget predictability, and a more agile way to consume the technology. Customers will access the DNA software capabilities by subscription, either via pre-bundled Cisco ONE software suites or a-la-carte components.
  • DNA Services Optimization, implementation, advisory and technical services to assist customers looking to transform their entire network or just parts of it. Cisco channel partners can also resell these services and build networking practices that incorporate software, security, automation and analytics for their customers.
  • DevNet DNA Developer Center Resources to help developers and IT professionals create network-powered applications and integrate them with their IT systems and workflows. This includes new learning tracks, sandboxes, and developer support resources for using APIs and building skills.

Worth Waiting For?

While the full portfolio of products and services are not currently available to all businesses, 75 leading global enterprises and organizations are conducting early field trials with these next-generation networking solutions, including DB Systel GmbH, Jade University of Applied Sciences, NASA, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Scentsy, UZ Leuven and Wipro.

Several of these companies are reporting improvements in their network performance, and provisioning. It will be interesting to see if it has the kind of scaling capability it promises.

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