Cisco's gone soft: Networking giant tries to wean IT bods off boxes

Selling crates of gear is so 1999

Cisco Partner Summit Cisco is continuing in its efforts to escape the world of the network appliance with a trio of tools aimed at managing virtualized systems and cloud services.

The networking giant said that it would be bolstering its application policy infrastructure controller (APIC) platform with a new set of automation tools dubbed APIC-EM, along with the launch of a cloud network analytics service and an orchestration tool to manage virtualized instances of both servers and network appliances.

The products are part of Cisco's new Digital Network Architecture (DNA) platform, an effort to separate network management tools from specific hardware appliances.

APIC-EM will bring a series of automation tools for the APIC policy. The new offerings include tools and APIs for plug-and-play policy installation, allowing companies to instantly apply permissions and policies on new network appliances such as controllers. This, Cisco believes, will help the company cut costs on staging and configuring new appliances.

The enterprise network function virtualization (NFV) tools will, as their name suggests, help streamline the process of deploying virtualized network appliances. Cisco said that NFV will allow appliances – including WAN controllers, firewalls and virtual routers – to run on either Cisco's own UCS hardware or on third-party x86 boxes.

On the cloud front, Cisco is releasing its CMX analytics tool as a cloud service. The CMX tool is able to monitor local Wi-Fi device activity such as foot traffic and digital signage locations for use with analytics tools. Previously an on-premise application, Cisco is hoping that making CMX a cloud service will help expand business use.

The move from hardware to software-defined networking is nothing new – Cisco and its competitors have been beating the drum for years about the transition – but Cisco director for enterprise networks Prashanth Shenoy told The Register that the company has recently sought to take things a step further by changing its own internal views of how to best manage networks.

"We are going to virtualize everything. 30 years of networking innovation that we have done is going to be virtualized," Shenoy said. "This is a bold statement from Cisco. Hardware still matters, but the value is driven through software." ®

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