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Cisco DNA: How should partners deploy it?

CHICAGO — Cisco DNA, the company’s software-based digital network architecture, kicked off in March 2016 at the Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego. A year later, Cisco has some advice for channel partners hoping to market DNA to customers: take it one step at a time.

To quickly recap, Cisco DNA aims to provide a platform for digital business and a foundation for customers’ digital transformation projects. The platform is built on virtualization, automation, analytics and a cloud-based service management layer. Representative Cisco products and technologies include Cisco’s APIC-Enterprise Module, which includes the company’s Plug and Play automation software; Meraki location analytics; and DNA Virtualization and Enterprise Network Functions Virtualization. Security is also part of the package, with Cisco Firepower firewalls and Meraki security appliances in the mix. The architectural components may be sold via the Cisco ONE software model.

It’s potentially quite a handful for partners to sell and customers to deploy. And Cisco acknowledges that most customers aren’t going to take on the breadth of Cisco DNA at one go.

“This is the right path … but it’s going to be a phased approach,” said Prashanth Shenoy, vice president of marketing, enterprise networking and mobility, at Cisco. “This is not going to happen overnight.”

Shenoy, who presented recently at the Cisco Marketing Velocity conference, said Cisco DNA establishes a vision. But to make that vision a reality, partners and customers should take a crawl-walk-run approach rather than attempt to digest the architecture in its entirety.

Shenoy pointed to the Plug and Play software within Cisco DNA’s automation layer as an example of how a step-wise approach could work in actual practice. According to Cisco, Plug and Play agent software resides on the company’s routers and switches, communicating directly with the network controller. The approach, Cisco said, speeds up deployment time and eliminates staging for pre-configuration and truck rollouts to remote offices.

“Plug and Play is a killer app in a new branch office,” Shenoy said.

He suggested partners get a customer familiar with Plug and Play in that initial branch office and then discuss extending that automation to other branches or campus environments. Those discussions could eventually lead to a conversation around SD-WAN deployment.

In summary, start with a basic use case and a small deployment and then grow from there.

Cisco has rolled out tools and incentives to encourage channel partners to embark on the Cisco DNA journey. The DNA Advisor tool, which helps gauge a customer’s readiness for the architecture, provides an opportunity for partners to have a 45-minute discussion or conduct a half-day workshop with clients, Shenoy said. As for incentives, Cisco has been offering a $7,500 voucher for partners who land DNA deals and activate one or more software assets included in Cisco ONE.