What is Cisco DNA Center?

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Cisco DNA (Digital Network Architecture) Center, also known as Cisco DNA-C is a Network Management and Automation tool by Cisco. It is a web-based hardware appliance (Server), that we can access via browser.

It is an upgrade from the Cisco APIC-EM (Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module) tool, which is End of Sale since 15th Feb 2019. Hence, Cisco DNA-C includes most of the functionality of the APIC-EM but adds much more Analytics and Policy functionalities to it.

What does it do?

Cisco DNA Center has four different functionalities (actual options when we login), which can broadly be classified into two feature categories for our understanding:

  1. Automation – There are three functionalities that can be classified under this category :
    1. Design – This option allows us to create a geographical site diagram. We can add physical site names on an inbuilt map, and categorize them in region names as per our choice. The inbuilt default site is named as “Global“, under which more regions or sites can be added. Using the map, Cisco is able to map the coordinates of our site. We need to provide “Device CLI Credentials” and “SNMP Community Strings” in this step and start Cisco DNA as a Syslog and SNMP server to connect to the devices and for data collection.
    2. Provision – This includes the network discovery using CDP, LLDP, or an IP address range. It also allows us to assign devices to the sites configured in Design steps. Various methods through which data is collected include – SNMP, Netflow, ISE, IPAM, etc. It creates a basic topology automatically.
    3. Policy – This option allows us to provide configuration policies for device compliance for devices in a segment. Once properly configured, it allows plug-and-play (or, the automatic basic configuration of a newly connected device) feature.
  2. Analytics – There is one distinct feature in DNA Center that uses analytics to help with network management:
    1. Assurance – This is the option where all the collected data is analyzed, is shown on a front end in a user-friendly chart, for network administrators to identify any issues faster. We can see in which region the problem lies, on which devices, and it will also suggest possible remediation steps. Cisco has integrated data analytics behind the assurance web page, to show us the most relevant data, and most relevant fix for out issues. It can show historical data of 15 days for each device. It shows “Network Health” for all the devices using defined KPIs and “System 360” for detailed information about unhealthy devices. We can also view the “Physical Network Topology” of a device. It also shows health for “Client” devices and “Applications”.
Is it a hardware or a Virtual Machine?

It is a hardware appliance (Server), which is not available to run on a Virtualized Environment. For standalone setup, a single Server can be purchased, however, for redundancy, 3 Servers are required.

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