At Cisco Live, Cisco highlighted public announcement of "Network. Intuitive" and the extension of the Cisco-Apple partnership. Those of us who see many announcements and press releases nod our heads and say, “Ok…they are extending Cisco DNA, we see new Catalyst, a bit more analytics, and more closeness with Apple. Oh, it’s interesting that Tim Cook is talking at the keynote." What’s really happening is actually a more fundamental change.
These changes are at the heart of changing how networks operate. The notion of intent-based networks is building upon what was done with Cisco ACI and its concept of operating networks based on declarative intent (including a related open source project), and rolling that out to the edge (enterprise campus) and to the service providers. I don’t know if this is a unified technical approach but the idea of a box-by-box approach to networking is being replaced by Cisco to operate and secure them via centralized control. It's based on previously announced DNA, but it's a lot more comprehensive.
The Catalyst news is interesting, but more importantly Cisco has revamped their IOS to support this concept across many devices. That is a big task that was done under the covers.
The Apple partnership seemed like traditional handshaking and backslapping on stage, but it underscored something deeper, which is providing a deep understanding of what’s happening on Apple iOS devices (oh...the confusion of Cisco IOS and Apple iOS). This is critical, since from the point of view of the network managers, these mobile devices are no longer are just opaque IP-based devices attaching to the enterprise Wi-Fi network. I previously wrote about the difficulty of having good Wi-Fi calling experiences from mobile phones. Once the systems have deep integration, you will know precisely what’s happening, or control the security configuration of these devices, and perhaps Wi-Fi calling will get a whole lot better and I will feel a lot safer when connecting to the enterprise networks.
So perhaps it was just my mind underplaying these announcements when I first learned about it, but Cisco’s intent (pun intended) is to tee up something larger than the individual announcements. Once these concepts permeate service providers, WAN, mobile, and other areas, we may see Cisco based networks operated in a very different way than we do today.