Cisco DNA Center Overview

Cisco's DNA Center is at the forefront of network assurance and automation and is a key element of Cisco's SD Access eco system. Interested to get some first insights in to DNA Center? Here's our quick overview!

Cisco DNA Center First Look

What is Cisco DNA Center?

Cisco DNA Center allows network administrators to receive advanced insights into network performance. No more guesswork as to the root cause of slow downs, or issues - DNA provides analytics to troubleshoot as the network environment changes.

The concept of a network Health Score allows DNA to provide a useful answer to alarm blight.

When you get hit with thousands of alarms, it's almost impossible to determine a root cause. DNA does something different - it determines which issues actually impact the end user experience and reports on those.

So, what it DNA Center? It is typically first deployed to monitor your network. You move to automation mode, where you can start to deploy configuration's and finally full SDA Fabric mode, where DNA Center is used to fully configure the network.


Cisco DNA Center - Deployment Models

Cisco DNA Center is deployed with an odd number of nodes (eg 1, 3, 5, 7) in order that the system will take a majority vote for any issues that are seen. This allows the system to be geographically spread and if a link fails the remaining DNA Center appliances can continue to operate.

DNAC Enablement


At the time of writing this blog, DNA Center is recommended to run on version 1.2.6 - in order to run the new in-built hyperlocation series access points (Cisco 4800 series), the WLC code version required is version 8.8 DNA can run centralised, Flex or with Mobility Express image Access Points. There are three main areas to consider in DNA Center:

Design: How the devices should look once they are configured

Provision: How DNA will configure these devices

Policy: What policy is applied in the configuration of devices




Cisco DNA and Cisco Prime

Prime and DNA will not achieve feature parity, simply because they don't need to - DNA works in a fundamentally different way from Prime.

For the next twelve months or so, until around end 2019, DNA will be in Assurance Mode, gradually transitioning to Automation mode, at which stage the full Intent Based Networking methodology will be available.

Features are being added to DNA and it takes time until it is complete enough to fully take over from Prime.

In the next 12 months or so, we are likely to see a dual mode, where both Prime and DNA co-exist and customers begin the migration.


Cisco DNA Migration 

For the migration, the maps in Prime will be exported to DNA Center and the current Prime templates converted to intent based networking templates on DNA Center.

DNA Center Beginners Guide

DNA migration will operate with the following three steps:

Convert Config to Intent: The configuration will be learnt from the devices being managed, and will be added to DNA Center in order to be able to automate future deployments

Import Maps and AP Location: Simplified import of Prime maps and AP locations to DNA Services

Migration: Migrate the services surrounding Prime to DNA - including CMX and Cisco ISE

Cisco ISE integrates quite tightly with Cisco DNA Center - so you can pull information from ISE to show why and how a client has failed to authenticate (no more fishing around through AAA logs - DNA Center does all the hard work and correlates this for you).

Once you've migrated you can start to get to grips with things like DNA Assurance (this is the 'monitoring' mode) and advanced topics, such as network machine learning and AI.


Cisco DNA Center Overview: Summary

Cisco DNA Center 5 Ways Banner-1DNA Center is the future of managing your Cisco network. DNAC is the direct replacement for Cisco Prime, which a large number of customers have installed - the migration is going to take a little while.

In this overview, we've given a few first impressions of what DNAC is, how it compares to Prime and how you can migrate.

The whole point of that migration though is to improve the way in which you manage, maintain - and deploy - your network.



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