Cisco boosts enterprise IT with new machine learning and AI software features

Cisco announces new AI and machine learning capabilities for enterprise networks on the first day of Cisco Live in San Diego. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. —Cisco Live — In order to help IT teams focus on innovation, Cisco announced new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to help IT teams work at machine speed and scale their work through personalized network insights.

With the transition to digital technologies, IT teams are struggling to keep up with increased workloads without adding to their headcounts. According to a survey by 451 Research, more than two-thirds of IT teams have increased their workload, but only one-third are planning on increasing their IT headcount in the next year.

Cisco is selling the new AI and ML software on a subscription basis, which brings re-occurring revenues to its bottom line as it moves beyond being a hardware vendor while also allowing customers access to ongoing innovation.   

Cisco AI Network Analytics will be a standard piece of Cisco DNA Center Assurance, and will be available in the next version of Cisco DNA Center, which is slated for release this summer. Cisco said AI Network Analytics will be included in the Cisco DNA Advantage licensing tier.

"As the pace of change and diversity of the environment continues to rapidly evolve, Cisco is committed to continually simplifying our solutions," said Scott Harrell, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Networking Business, in a statement. "Artificial intelligence and machine learning can enable businesses to efficiently discern which issues to prioritize, becoming more nimble and proactive. This will have a profound effect on network operations and the IT teams that run them. At Cisco, we’re future proofing our networks and the workforce through automation and intelligence."

While IT teams and the telco industry have been able to collect vast amounts of network data in the past, finding meaningful ways to benefit from all of that information has been a challenge. Cisco said it collects the most context-rich telemetry data sets in the IT industry. Cisco is leveraging new software capabilities designed to utilize de-identified and aggregated data, which results in more intelligent solutions that allow IT teams to operate more effectively.

In order to provide more visibility into networks, the AI and ML software collects the relevant data from local networks and correlates it against the aggregate deidentified data set to create highly individualized network baselines. Those baselines constantly learn and adapt as the number of devices, users and applications evolves, and as environments change.

To improve insights into networks, Cisco uses machine learning to correlate the amount of data coming from the network against the individualized network baselines to uncover potential issues that will have the greatest impact on the network, which helps the IT teams find the issues that matter the most.  

Cisco also uses machine reasoning algorithms and automated workflows to perform  logical troubleshooting steps that an engineer would execute to resolve a problem. Cisco said this helps IT detect issues and vulnerabilities, analyze the root cause and execute corrective actions at a faster rate.

As part of its intent-based networking initiative, Cisco also announced new optimized solutions across various domains of an enterprise network, including campus, branch, WAN, IoT, data center, and cloud.

For network segmentation, Cisco's Software-Defined (SD) Access is integrated with its SD-WAN and software-defined networking-based Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) in order to make easier for IT teams to authorize, on-board and segment users and devices across branch, data center and cloud networks, even as the users and applications change. Segmentation has been a feature for several SD-WAN vendors for some time, but Cisco' brings breadth and depth to its capabilities.

Cisco now automatically conveys application requirements between the data center and the WAN, allowing the network to pick the best path and prioritize traffic even if applications move or change. With this feature, IT teams can dynamically elevate application performance across the enterprise and branch, according to Cisco.

Based on its deep security portfolio, Cisco extended the ability to detect threats in encrypted traffic across public clouds. By protecting the branch and WAN against threats, Cisco is also providing end-to-end security to its customers.  

The new features and software are the end result of Cisco's intent-based networking (IBN) initiative. Cisco introduced intent-based networking with the launch of its DNA Center in 2017 before its Cisco Live event.

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During Cisco's third-quarter earnings call last month, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said his company has rebuilt its entire access portfolio with IBN in mind across wired and wireless. Over the past several years, Cisco has also been working to integrate IBN into its enterprise access portfolio "to help our customers manage more users, devices, and things connecting to their networks," Robbins said.