Q: Why did the Cisco cross the network? A: To automate what's on the other side

Switchzilla wants telcos to let it drive all their kit, regardless of who made it

Cisco has extended its Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) and WAN Automation Engine in the hope that service providers will see them as a way to achieve automated management of all the kit in their networks, regardless of who made it.

As explained to El Reg by Cisco's senior veep and general manager of Service Provider Networking Jonathan Davidson, Switchzilla believes carriers are tired of operating multiple management silos across different kit from different vendors because it slows down both remediation and innovation. Enter Cisco with tools that can find whatever APIs are on offer from across a carrier's fleet of kit and wrap the lot in the warm embrace of policy.

The new stuff glories in the name "Crosswork". NSO provides Crosswork with its configuration smarts (with Cisco's strategically-imperative “intent-driven” buzzwords), while WAN Automation is the optimisation piece.

The new products comprise:

  • Crosswork Change Automation – regular readers know that one fat thumb can down huge networks, so Cisco's “automated operations application” is designed for “large scale change and closed loop control”;
  • Crosswork Health Insights – telemetry (sensors and alerts) and network remediation;
  • Crosswork Data Platform – analytics that can run on either open source or “commercial-class” platforms;
  • Crosswork Network Insights – analytics in the cloud to handle “large-scale routing issues” (like black-holing an entire country because of a BGP advertisement); and
  • Crosswork Situation Manager – you wouldn't be doing 2018 right without some machine learning. In Situation Manager, the ML provides event correlation, and chat tools help net admins solve problems.

The Crosswork products will be sold with licences and consumed on-premises, with the exception of Crosswork Network Insights which will be SaaS.

The long Tail-f

Crosswork looks to be the fruit of Cisco's 2014 acquisition of network orchestration outfit Tail-f.

The $175 million Tail-f acquisition gave Cisco a Network Function Virtualization Management and Orchestration (NFV-MANO) solution that mapped into its own Network Services Orchestrator, a migration kicked off in December 2015. As well as NFV-MANO, Tail-f brought with it the Python-based APIs it developed for network hardware integration mentioned above.

Crosswork is also, said Davidson, a part of Cisco's response to events like big telcos like AT&T pulling proprietary iron out of their networks as fast as they can. Davidson told us that Cisco sees the value in open networking, understands that carriers do too, but believes telcos will want turnkey products rather than having to learn how to glue everything together

Also on display is Cisco's desire to move into software whenever possible, as part of its years-long strategy to make subscriptions rather than tin its core business. ®

- With Simon Sharwood

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