Carrier WiFi

Cisco WiFi Gets a Dose of the 'Network Intuitive'

Cisco is bringing subscription software packages to its latest enterprise WiFi access points, as it starts to separate "intent-based networking" software licensing from 802.11 hardware sales.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) first introduced intent-based networking in its Catalyst 9000 switches last summer, referring to the combination as the "network intuitive." A different form of IBN is found in the ACI portfolio. (See Cisco's 'Network Intuitive': A Risky Transition, Cisco Makes 'Intuitive' Bet to Reconquer Networks and Cisco's ACI Stretches Tendrils Into Other Data Centers.)

Now it's spreading to enterprise WiFi. Cisco is initially selling three packages that offer varying levels of security and network monitoring, based around intent-based networking. Dan Lohmeyer, vice president of strategy and product management at Cisco, notes this means that the network manager can do things like set up pre-determined access rules for guests on the network, rather than manually white-listing them.

The software packages operate with Cisco's latest wireless access points -- the 802.11ac Wave 2 APs -- and controllers. "These have been on the market for 18 months," says Greg Dorai, vice president of product management and strategy for the enterprise infrastructure and solutions group.

Here's a breakdown of the three packages, which resemble the offerings for Cisco's IBN switches:

  • The DNA Essentials package covers the basics: security, automation, and monitoring, in addition to access point license and Cisco Software Support.

  • DNA Advantage set adds innovation and simplifies operations with policy-based automation and analytics, network health monitoring and flexible network segmentation and security.

  • The Cisco ONE Advantage suite includes security, automation and analytics capabilities, including "network-as-a-sensor," location-based analytics and encrypted traffic analytics, along with Cisco software support.

"Most customers opt for that top offer," Lohmeyer said.

The network-as-a-sensor software can examine packets and quarantine suspicious-looking packets. Lohmeyer compared the system to credit card security that flags up purchases that look like they are out of the norm for the credit card holder.

The location piece is aimed at retail or industrial applications, where the network manager wants to know where shoppers go in a store, or workers move around in a factory.

Lohmeyer said that the subscription packages will further build Cisco's software revenue. "Half of Cisco's software revenue is subscription-based," he said.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 10/27/2017 | 4:14:17 PM
iPhone-ification of Cisco? Selling a software bundle that includes useful security and monitoring updates and only works on the latest APs? Makes me wonder if we'll get to a situation where you end having to buy new hardware on the regular to get the latest software features. Enterprises are notoriously slow to refresh WiFi hardware...
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