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Cisco promises to unify its net management silos in the next three to five years

Stop us if you've heard this one before

Cisco is again talking up a strategy to unify its diverse network management tools into a "Cisco Networking Cloud" within three to five years.

Announced at the Cisco Live event today, the Cisco Networking Cloud will "create a simpler network management platform experience to help customers easily access and navigate its platforms to manage all Cisco networking products from one place."

For years, Cisco's shtick has been that digital everything means networks are now utterly mission critical so deserve excellent, responsive, and simple management. But even as it advanced that thinking, Cisco's various product lines kept shipping their dedicated management tools. Which is why net admins who work with Cisco are very familiar with ALT-TAB.

The Cisco Networking Cloud (CNW) will mean those admins can just log on to a cloudy portal and manage all their Cisco appliances – be they on-prem, physical, virtual, cloudy, or hosted – in one place, and then apply policy across all those environments.

Sometime in the next three to five years, we're told.

The Register asked Carl Solder, Cisco's chief technology officer for Australia and New Zealand, why customers should wait that long for tools Cisco says are needed today, especially as software-defined networking vendors will clamor for the chance to implement the kind of unified management Cisco has promised could debut after the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.

Solder asserted his belief that Cisco is ideally placed to develop unified management for its products so users will come along for the ride.

"Customers could go on the journey to unify it," he said. "I believe customers will be better served by letting Cisco do it for them."

Cisco's ride has started to move – slowly. One element of CNW is the "magnetic" design language that Cisco has already applied to improve the user interface of some products and pledged to bring to all its products in coming years. Magnetic matters to CNW because it's the UI that will become omnipresent.

At Cisco Live, the networking giant also announced a new Full Stack Observability (FSO) platform, based on OpenTelemetry and capable of handling MELT data – metrics, events, logs, and traces.

More information on Cisco boxes' sustainability footprint will be piped into users eyeballs. An API key exchange/repository is coming too.

Simplified licenses for Cisco's catalyst are also in the works, with one deal to cover hardware and software.

All of these little things are, apparently, steps on the road to CNW.

A security cloud too

When Cisco's not talking about networks it's often talking about security – and its forthcoming Cisco Security Cloud (CSC).

Like the networking cloud, this is more a concept than a product. Cisco has promised it will use a "generative AI-powered Policy Assistant that enables Security and IT administrators to describe granular security policies and evaluate how to best implement them across different aspects of their security infrastructure."

The first expression of this plan is an AI analysis tool that will consider firewall rules, which often proliferate and then become too complex to address, to detect which ones are surplus to requirements.

By late 2023, Cisco will deliver an AI-driven Security Operations Center assistant that describes incidents in detail, drawing info from multiple sources. Further features for the assistant will emerge in the first half of 2024.

Another announcement from the event is the renaming of Cisco's DNA Center network automation tool as "Catalyst Center."

Cisco's Digital Network Architecture (DNA) was launched in 2016 and billed as "a solution that integrates the critical innovations in networking software… into an architecture that can achieve these promises in an integrated and easy to consume manner." And here we are in 2023 with Cisco again promising integrated and easy to consume network management, this time across hardware and software – and with cross-cloud capabilities that look like a network-centric subset of its Intersight cloud infrastructure manager.

Enjoy the next three to five years, Cisco customers. ®

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