Cisco hops on machine learning bandwagon with new switches

Switchzilla wants to make 'intuitive' switches that charge you by the month

Cisco is once again making a push to tie its networking hardware deeper into the compute space, this time with "intuitive" boxes that are better able to analyze and control network traffic.

The new Catalyst 9000 series switches introduce a new management platform called "DNA Center," and the aim is to make the switches better able to apply security policies and controls for devices on a network.

The control center will be able to manage access policies and privileges for devices and apply specific security controls via the Talos security tools. Cisco says the tools will be able to analyze traffic and recognize things like malware infections based on the way they move packets over the network.

Meanwhile, Cisco claims machine learning components in DNA Center will let the switches change policies to recognize devices and users. This, Switchzilla hopes, will let the new system be able to go deeper into IT management, letting the network hardware handle things like managing cloud apps and maintaining access policies for mobile devices and guest connections.

"What we believe we can do for our customers is translate their business intent into the network," said CEO Chuck Robbins. "We can understand what our customers are trying to do."

The switches are based on custom ASICs from Cisco that will be customizable and reprogrammable to use with private clouds or specific applications and stacks. The 9000 series comes in three models for enterprises: the 9300, 9400, and 9500. The smaller 9300 and 9500 switches are shipping this month, while the larger 9400 switches will be making their way to customers in July.

The 9000 series also introduces what Cisco hopes is a lucrative new revenue model: subscription services. Cisco says that from now on, customers will have to agree to a package of either pre-bundled Cisco ONE software tools or a-la-carte packages with the DNA Center software.

This is the logical conclusion in Cisco's campaign to remake itself from a network hardware slinger into an IT management vendor.

With revenues declining as sales slip in areas like data center networking, Cisco is hoping that getting itself deeper into the cloud and security markets will compensate. ®

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