Here's the problem with supporting a network: by the time someone comes to you and tells you they couldn't connect at, say, 7pm on a Friday evening, it's 10.30 on Monday morning. Sure, you could wade through thousands of lines of log text from your switches, access points or authentication server, but in the meantime the problem has resolved itself, and your team has more important things to do.
Now imagine two things: first that you've an intelligent central console, pulling in data from all the key components of the network, performing analysis on it. and revealing the full picture of its performance. Second, that this console stores historical data.
Welcome to the ability to see back in time. Pull up that user, look at their devices, and travel back with them to 7pm on Friday. What were the network conditions? Was the Wi-Fi overloaded? Maybe the authentication server was being restarted? Now you know exactly what was at the root of the problem. Instead of shrugging your shoulders and thinking maybe you'll catch the issue next time, you can pinpoint it and take any steps you need to stop it recurring.
But we all want to know what's in the future, too. Say you have a big meeting next week, where your UK-wide staff are going to be converging on a conference area that's currently served by two access points. You know most of your colleagues have a smartphone and laptop - is the network going to cope?
Imagine you can mock it all up in your console: you drop 200 Wi-Fi users into the floor plan and run some projections. Now you're looking forward in time, getting a forecast of the network experience everyone's going to get, and gaining key insight on whether you'll need to add in some rules or extra hardware to keep everything running smoothly.
In a sense, this ability to look backwards at specific events, and see ahead to upcoming ones is a form of network time travel, but it's an ability that - thanks to Cisco's DNA Centre - is now becoming a reality. Instead of trawling through the network, querying devices and building our own picture of what might be going on, we can now ask the network questions. Instead of laboriously planning, specifying and configuring everything ourselves, we come to the network with an intent, and it does the rest.
My colleague Rich Harvey already touched on this in his report from Cisco Live. It's more his department, really, but both of us can see its potential, for provisioning, for troubleshooting, and for 'what if' scenarios ahead of network or usage changes. It's the future of networking - and where we're going, we don't need lines of text.
Discover the future of networking, and let your network sing with Cisco DNA Centre and software-defined access.