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Cisco DNA Center harmonizes wired, wireless LAN management

The latest iteration of the Cisco DNA Center offers a single software console for managing the wired and wireless LAN. The latest technology is sold by subscription.

Cisco has unified wired and wireless LAN management within its software-based network architecture, which the company...

sells on a subscription basis.

The company introduced this week the option of using the Cisco DNA Center software console for distributing policy-based configurations across both networking environments. Cisco is selling the wireless LAN (WLAN) option under a three-tier subscription model.

The three-, five- or seven-year subscription is for the DNA management console. The Aironet access points and WLAN controller are sold separately.

The latest network architecture does not support Cisco's Meraki WLAN portfolio, which operators manage through a cloud-based software console. Cisco DNA Center software and hardware are for on-premises deployment.

Several years ago, Cisco embarked on a strategy of selling products through a subscription model that results in a more steady and predictable flow of revenue. Investors often favor companies with successful recurring revenue models.

Cisco has set a target of having recurring revenue account for 37% of annual sales by 2020. A significant portion of that is expected to come from DNA Center. At the end of July, 31% of sales were recurring.

Cisco's latest announcement "further extends this [revenue] model for the campus network and signals that Cisco is moving ahead with transforming how its legacy campus networking technology is consumed," said Nolan Greene, an IDC analyst.

Managing the WLAN in Cisco DNA Center

In June, Cisco introduced the Digital Network Architecture (DNA) Center as the central management console for a new line of campus switches, called the Catalyst 9000s. "With the importance of wireless networking in enterprises, it was inevitable that Cisco would eventually bring its WLAN portfolio into the fold," said Mark Hung, a Gartner analyst.

A wireless controller running on a network appliance is the actual management application. The Cisco DNA Center, which runs on a separate appliance, is the front end that provides access to the controller's user interface.

Based on policies set by the network operator, the controller configures the access points and provides visibility to traffic and hardware performance. It also delivers reporting and analytics based on telemetry data taken from network devices.

Cisco offers three different controller models: the 3504, 5520 and 8540. The higher-number models deliver more performance and throughput.

Differences within WLAN subscription models

The three levels within Cisco's WLAN subscription model differ in security. The lowest level, DNA Essentials, has only baseline features, such as wireless intrusion detection to catch hackers trying to get to the corporate network through an access point. Essentials also has limited automation and monitoring capabilities.

The second level, DNA Advantage, includes the ability to segment a wireless network to prevent, for example, a hacked wireless video camera from trying to access corporate computers. Advantage also has policy-based automation and analytics.

The highest level, which is aimed at large enterprises, is called the Cisco ONE Advantage. The package includes the Cisco Identity Services Engine, which enforces security and access policies across the wired and wireless LAN.

Enterprises are spending more on the WLAN to provide employees with easier access to the corporate network. In the second quarter of this year, companies spent $1.5 billion on the WLAN -- roughly 9% more than the same period a year ago, according to IDC.

Next Steps

Advice for channel partners deploying Cisco DNA

Cutting through the hype of intent-based networking

Separating truth from fiction in network automation scripts

Dig Deeper on LANs (Local Area Networks)

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