Cisco’s Prashanth Shenoy, Director of Enterprise Networks, brought me up to date on Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture recently. The discussion reminded me of presentations and meetings I enjoyed while working in Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) Network and Communications Group (NAC). In short it was a blast from the past.
Cisco believes that enterprises need to work with an architecture when designing and implementing network-based workloads. So, the company is launching its own Cisco Digital Network Architecture (C-DNA). While I applaud the effort and am a strong believer in starting with an architecture and working out from there rather than starting with a product or an individual vendor and then trying to cobble together a long-lasting set of enterprise solutions.
5 Principles of C-DNA
Cisco developed an architecture and is planing to reform its product development strategy to conform with the principles of C-DNA. Here’s how the company describes it:
- Virtualize everything to give organizations freedom of choice to run any service anywhere, independent of the underlying platform – physical or virtual, on premise or in the cloud.
- Designed for automation to make networks and services on those networks easy to deploy, manage and maintain – fundamentally changing the approach to network management.
- Pervasive analytics to provide insights on the operation of the network, IT infrastructure and the business – information that only the network can provide.
- Service management delivered from the cloud to unify policy and orchestration across the network – enabling the agility of cloud with the security and control of on premises solutions.
- Open, extensible and programmable at every layer – Integrating Cisco and 3rd party technology, open API’s and a developer platform, to support a rich ecosystem of network-enabled applications.
Three new platforms or services
During the announcement, Cisco launched DNA-Virtualization, Cisco Intelligent WAN Automation Services, DNA Virtualization, and DNA Cloud Service Management.
Recalling Digital Equipment Corporation’s network architecture
What was so interesting about the call was that it sounded very much like Cisco had taken elements of presentations I developed years ago while serving as a member of Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) Network and Communications Group (NAC). If I rummage around a bit in my files, I’m sure I could find the 35mm slide deck with many of the same concepts.
NAC, by the way, created DEC’s Digital Network Architecture (DNA), its networking software, its networking products and worked closely with the groups responsible for systems, operating systems, networking and storage devices. This technology pre-dated today’s TCP/IP and was made available under the name DECnet.
DEC almost always designed a comprehensive, exhaustive architecture before writing a single line of code or sketching out a development plan for hardware. The goals always were to future-proof the customer’s environment, make the environment reliable, provide as high of performance as was reasonably possible, make it manageable and make it secure. The main problem was that DEC thought DNA was one of its crown jewels and tried to protect it and keep it an exclusive feature rather than making it available to everyone and driving it to be a cross-vendor, cross-platform standard.
Cisco appears to be trying to avoid the problems DEC’s DNA presented – it is designed to help other suppliers provide products and services that fit within the architecture and Cisco’s DNA appears to put customer requirements first and the academic interests of architects second.
It is not at all clear that competitors will adopt C-DNA rather than building their own architecture. Cisco customers, on the other hand, are likely to happily adopt this approach and effectively put Cisco in the position of being their network czar.