Cisco Digital Network Architecture Solution Overview

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Transform Your Network for the Digital Age

Cisco® Digital Network Architecture is an open and extensible, software-driven architecture that accelerates and simplifies your enterprise network operations. The programmable architecture frees your IT staff from time-consuming, repetitive network configuration tasks so they can focus instead on innovation that positively transforms your business. You finally have the flexibility to turn up network functions with a few clicks and to serve customers in engaging new ways as soon as you think of them. All while lowering costs and reducing your risk.

Going forward, network connectivity will be easy. Just like the World Wide Web hid the Internet’s complexities and made it usable by nearly anyone, corporate networking is shifting to an open and extensible model. That means you can finally turn things around fast. The architectural components deliver the network insights, automation, and security you need to move ahead at digital speed as you work to:

   Make customers happy now

   Stop security threats in their tracks

   Help employees do their jobs better

   Equip a new branch today and open it tomorrow

   Enable a network that keeps pace with new digital business needs

Cisco Digital Network Architecture lets you do that with controller-based automation, rich contextual analytics, network functions virtualization (NFV), and the limitless scalability of the cloud. Most Cisco routers, switches, and wireless systems shipping today support this architecture now or with a software update. And with Cisco ONE Software, you can continue to protect your investments and benefit from new architecture innovations that can be activated through software.

Digital Possibilities

How does an open, software-driven network help you in business terms? It delivers network-based insights, automates processes, and protects against threats. For example, in the digital age, you can mine network analytics that reveal users’ locations and behaviors. Analytics can tell you how customers move through your store or venue and how that’s reflected in what they consume.

And network devices can detect and shut down a pipeline spill automatically. Or track energy usage in your manufacturing plant.

What makes all this possible is a fundamental transformation occurring in how networks are built and run:

   Closed and hardware-centric models are giving way to open, programmable, and software-centric ones.

   Manual, repetitive command-line-interface-driven management is being largely superseded by policy-based automation.

   Perimeter-based, reactive security has been supplanted by network-embedded, context-based security that reaches from the cloud to enterprise edge.

   IT-centric analytics are morphing into business-centric analytics.

The Cisco Digital Network Architecture reflects all these changes. With this architecture, business and IT can become far more nimble and respond to business conditions quicker and more intelligently.

Speed and Simplicity to Meet Growing Demands

Traditional networks continue to face box-by-box deployment and management challenges. Provisioning, monitoring, and troubleshooting services are a painstakingly manual process. While compute cycles can be delivered in seconds, networking functions and services traditionally require weeks and sometimes months to deploy.

It’s time for that situation to change. Cisco has reimagined our network architecture with the following characteristics:

   Virtualization – Network virtualization through the decoupling of hardware from software gives you the freedom to run services on any platform and to run third-party applications over the network.

   Automation – Controllers simplify the network through abstraction and automation and provide a platform for consistent policy enforcement. This speeds up application and service rollouts while reducing risk. IT staff gain the time to focus on business strategy instead of operations.

   Analytics – A digital-ready network can reveal rich contextual insights into users, applications, devices, and threats to help the business and IT make better decisions.

   Cloud – Cloud-based services provide fast service adoption with on-demand scale and support a broad partner ecosystem.

We’ve applied these characteristics to Cisco Digital Network Architecture technologies so you can move forward with building an open, extensible, and agile enterprise network. Table 1 lists and describes many of the architecture innovations, and Figure 1 depicts the architecture graphically.

Table 1.       Cisco Digital Network Architecture Components and Innovations




Enhanced Cisco IOS®-XE Software

Enhanced operating system software for Cisco devices that supports programmability, controller-based automation, and serviceability.

Provides IT flexibility through programmability, network functions virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN)-based automation.

Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC‑EM)

Software controller that works with your existing network infrastructure to support a software-defined network (SDN).

Automates tasks, orchestrates workflows and policies, and simplifies operations.

Cisco Intelligent WAN App

Simplifies deployment of WAN services using APIC-EM.

Lets you build a rich and highly secure corporate WAN and deliver a great user experience.

Cisco Path Trace

An application that visually displays every element of the network path from your source to your destination using APIC-EM.

Can enable faster troubleshooting and reduces network downtime.

Cisco Plug and Play for day-0 automation

Automatically sends a device’s location to the APIC-EM. The controller then auto-configures the device to start communicating with the network.

Accelerates deployments and lowers costs (up to 79 percent).

Cisco Easy Quality of Service (EasyQoS) for dynamic application prioritization

An app that provisions application priority instantly (in 250 ms or less) with APIC-EM.

Delivers optimal application experience without the cost of manually tuning of the network for applications performance.

Cisco Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)

Decouples software services, such as routing, switching, firewall, WAN acceleration, and others, from underlying proprietary hardware. Multiple functions can instead be hosted as virtual appliances on a Cisco Integrated Services Router, Cisco UCS® server, or x86 server platform.

Lets you start up software instances of network functions wherever you need them in the network quickly, without having to buy, deploy, and test proprietary hardware appliances.

Cisco Network as a Sensor and Enforcer with Cisco Identity Services Engine and StealthWatch

The Digital Network Architecture-ready infrastructure turns the network into an end-to-end sensor and enforcer that detects and stops sophisticated security threats.

The network detects and stops threats faster across all segments to better protect business assets.

Cisco CMX Cloud

Collects analytics on user behavior; sets up a captive Wi‑Fi portal for guest onboarding.

Gives you user insights so you can better engage and serve customers.

Cisco Digital Network Architecture services will be delivered through Cisco ONE Software, which provides simplified, high-value solutions with license portability and flexibility. You can start your journey today on our current portfolio of network equipment and then continue to adopt network innovations in the months and years ahead through the power of software.

Figure 1.      Cisco Digital Network Architecture

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Faster Airport Service Rollout for IBM Aviation


   Rollout of services to multiple airports was too slow

   Increased labor cost and complexity

   Inconsistent services delivered across different airports

Digital Network Architecture Services Used

   APIC-EM with IWAN App

Business Outcomes

   40 percent customer satisfaction increase

   Accelerated remote branch configuration from weeks to days

   Provided local IT with limited ability to implement dynamic network change


Security and Compliance for Major Healthcare Organization


   Exposed network and compliance issues

   Protect patient and healthcare data from breaches

   Reduce time to detect and remediate attacks

Digital Network Architecture Services Used

   Network as a Sensor with StealthWatch NetFlow analysis

   Network as an Enforcer with Cisco Identity Services Engine policy control and Cisco TrustSec® software-defined segmentation technology

   Cisco Firepower Next-Generation Intrusion Prevention System (NGIPS) and firewall, Cisco Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), email and web security

Business Outcomes

   Security and risk compliance assurance

   Faster time to remediation


Creating Personalized Mobile Experiences for Hyatt Guests


   Low guest satisfaction ratings

   Lack of modern services, such as poor guest Wi-Fi coverage

   Limited visibility into guest preferences and behavior

Digital Network Architecture Services Used

   802.11ac Wi-Fi with Cisco Aironet® 3700 Series Access Points

   Cisco Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) and Hyperlocation services

Business Outcomes

   20 percent increase in non-room revenue

   65-point increase in customer satisfaction

   25 to 40 percent increase in lobby bar spend

Why Cisco?

Software is at the heart of the network’s transformation to the digital age. Cisco is a leader in software development, participating in major initiatives such as the OpenConfig Customer Forum and IETF. We have the broadest ecosystem, with more than 300 partners in software development. And we’ve innovated with solutions such as the APIC-EM and enhanced IOS-XE Software, both purpose-built for the networks of the digital age.

Going digital takes thought and experience. Piecemeal, non-integrated solutions defeat the objective of end-to-end digitization. With our deep understanding of technology and relationships with IT, Cisco can help bring IT and the boardroom together to work effectively toward a joint solution. Using our Digital Network Architecture, we can help you:

   Define your digital opportunities

   Visualize and develop a holistic approach

   Plan for the security vulnerabilities that arise with the multitude of people and devices now connected to the network

The depth of our network and IT experience can help you create revenue opportunities, lower costs, reduce risks, and ensure compliance. And we can help you simplify your network and accelerate its response time to business needs.

Next Steps

For more information, visit our Digital Network Architecture website at