It turns out that the network really is the computer.
That famous phrase, coined by the legendary Sun Microsystems computer scientist John Gage, gets proven every day. Certainly, that is the way
(ticker: CSCO) thinks about things. The networking giant continues to add new computing power to its flagship Cisco DNA software, as networks get smarter in the face of impossibly large and diverse traffic, imposing demands for reliability, and an increasing array of threats.
At the Cisco Live trade show in San Diego Monday morning, Cisco unveiled a new version of its flagship Cisco DNA corporate networking software, adding new artificial intelligence and machine learning capability to managing networks. That’s important for a few reasons.
For starters, it is the latest step in Cisco’s goal of shifting revenue to software from hardware. In 2017, Cisco generated 22% of its revenue from hardware, and set a goal of reaching 30% by 2020. For customers, the need for better, smarter, automated tools for managing networks grows every day, as complexity increases and new threats emerge.
“A few years ago, people would connect laptops, desktops and printers to the networks, applications would run in the data center and each device on the network would be managed, box by box,” Cisco senior vice president Sachin Gupta explained in an interview with Barron’s. “Now, there are multiple, mobile devices on the network, apps are running in the cloud someplace and the complexity is hard to manage box by box the old way. The old ways will not work. We need the network to operate as one system.”
Cisco says adding AI and iterative machine learning to its network software will help IT departments cope with a data-management burden that grows every day even if their budgets don’t rise correspondingly. “Bridging the gap between the needs of a business and the resources available requires innovative network automation and analytic tools, powered by data and underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Cisco said in its announcement.
With the Cisco DNA update, the software continuously monitors network performance data, using machine learning techniques to uncover emerging issues, ideally before network users realize there is a problem. It then uses machine reasoning techniques to troubleshoot and suggest ways to address the problem, or simply fixes it automatically.
“Customers will get more relevant, personalized visibility into their environment,” Gupta says. Information on the performance of various network nodes was a lot harder to manage previously. It was difficult to get a full picture of current network status and emerging issues.
“We’re now continuously recording and correlating the data,” he says. Cisco collects anonymized data from its network customers to fine-tune its models, and to give customers better information on how their network is performing versus comparable businesses.
The goal, Gupta says, is “a better user experience, better performance, better reliability, and lower operational cost—to get the best performance out of your network for your unique environment.”
The new AI and machine learning features, which are included in subscriptions to the company’s DNA software, will be rolled out in August.
Cisco stock was up 57 cents, or 1%, to $56.50.
Write to Eric J. Savitz at [email protected]