Cisco simplifies intent-based networking and certifications

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Cisco simplifies intent-based networking and certifications

Cisco Systems has said it will make its intent-based networking portfolio simpler, smarter and more secure, and will overhaul the certifications and programs it offers the channel to reflect the fact that networks are now driven by developers.

At its Cisco Live 2019 mega-conference in the USA, the company said the original premise behind intent-based networking involved focusing the network on what the business wants to achieve. Cisco has been achieving this through network automation and boosting security across the entire network. But now, the network has grown even more complex and nearly impossible to manage.  

"Network management has exceeded human capacity. Now, IT is getting so many alerts that they aren't able to keep up at the pace that the business wants them to," said Prashanth Shenoy, vice president of marketing for enterprise networks, IoT and developer platform for Cisco.

Networking's next stage requires machine learning, Shenoy said. "Machine learning is going to help us augment our mental capabilities so we can process information faster when there's information overload," he said.

Cisco has been working hard to harness machine learning to help drastically simplify network operations and provide more intelligent and insightful operations, Shenoy said. To that end, Cisco is using AI and machine learning to offer more granular, customised visibility.

"Every network is a snowflake, so yours is going to be very different from a very similar customer. We want to provide deep visibility that is personalised for customer's environment," he said.  

Cisco also is using machine learning to correlate the diverse set of data coming from its global networks and large customer base against a customer's individualised network norms to uncover the issues that will have the greatest impact on the network.

"We're constantly learning, so we put that intelligence back into the network so we can be even more predictive in the future," Shenoy said. 

The latest updates are completely software-based. Customers that want to take advantage of the new updates, or partners managing networks on behalf of customers, won't need to upgrade any hardware but must enable telemetrics on their existing products.  

For partners, Cisco has made its platform open and extensible. These features can be integrated into other IT processes or applications, Shenoy said.

"This provides partners more value-added software practices they can build on top of our network stack," he said. 

Cisco is also leaning on machine learning to connect once-separate parts of the network, such as WANs or cloud environments, so they can seamlessly and consistently operate for end customers.

"Bringing together these networks creates consistency in the way [partners and customers] can provide security end to end, from the users to the applications," he said.

Certification changes

Cisco also announced it will change its certification schemes to recognise partners and customers that focus on software development.

Also at Cisco Lve the company unveiled an evolved certification and training program, complete with a dedicated DevNet certification track.

DevNet was billed as a first-of-its kind certification that software developers can use to demonstrate programmability expertise and software skills, especially as infrastructure engineering and software development are coming together, Mike Adams, vice president of Cisco's learning division, told CRN USA.

"The feedback we've gotten is that there is no one bringing software skills around DevNet with the infrastructure skills to create a single certification program at the size and scale Cisco is doing today," Adams said. 

The new Cisco certification track, integrated with Cisco's existing infrastructure certification program, includes a Cisco DevNet Certification for developing software skills and features a DevNet Associate level specialisation, a DevNet Specialist level specialisation and a DevNet Professional level specialisation.

"This is really a nod to those partners out there who are looking for those integrated skills," he said.  

Designed for network professionals and software developers, the new certifications will let the IT teams of the future who are creating applications for the "new network" to have more choice over the technology skills they want to develop, said Mandy Whaley, senior director of developer experience for Cisco's DevNet division.  

The new courses are rolling out this month and exams will available in February 2020.

Cisco also wants to make certification achievement easier for more partners and end customers. The company said that it is "radically decreasing" the amount of time and investment it takes to achieve certain certification levels. In addition, education will be available at all levels and exam prerequisites to advance to the next level with be eliminated so that IT professionals can focus on skill-building instead of test-taking, Cisco said.

"We want to put the learner in the driver's seat in terms of where their choices lie, and we want to be mindful of both our technologists and learners, how they were having to invest, but also for partners and customers, having to send people to training is a pretty big investment on their part," Adams said.  

Cisco said it is streamlining and consolidating several of its certification tracks, including the CCNA entry-level certification, CCNP, Cisco Certified Specialist focused on engineering topics, and Cisco Certified Internetwork Engineer track.

To address network automation, one of the biggest challenges for IT teams today, the tech giant took to Cisco Live to unveil the DevNet Automation Exchange. The Exchange is a new community that can be tapped by developers, end users and channel partners and provides shared code that can solve specific network automation use cases, such as SD-WAN policy automation. The code is developed by the DeVNet community and is curated by Cisco on an ongoing basis, the company said.

"We really think this is the best of both worlds—it's created by the community and curated by Cisco. We think it will bring network automation in a very concrete, tangible way, to more partners and end customers," Whaley said.

The DevNet Automation Exchange will be launched initially with code for 50 use cases, Whaley said.

 Cisco Systems is making its intent-based networking portfolio simpler, smarter and more secure, the tech giant said. That means bringing in more artificial intelligence and machine learning and stitching together disparate parts of the network.

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