Cisco DNA Center Review

Good security and analytics, easy to manage, and scalable across buildings and campuses

What is our primary use case?

We are an educational environment that is similar to a university, but we only teach management and leadership. We have a variety of visitors every day, more than 2,000 of them, and they are unknown to us. This makes it very difficult to centrally manage using a traditional network.

We are currently in the second round of the implementation phase for this solution. We have two buildings with the solution implemented now, and we are working on other buildings. We are on the same campus but we are doing the work in four phases. Now that two are complete, we have two more that we are about to finish.

Everything is secure in our environment, so we are using the overlay of the DNA Center to separate the visitors and the employees and the trainers. We are using a multi-segmented network, so DNA was a very good solution for us to deal with this type of environment.

How has it helped my organization?

Prior to implementing DNA Center, it was very difficult for us to create a large number of VLANs for our switches. This has made it possible for us to meet the need of maintaining connections when people move between buildings on the campus or travel to another campus.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the DNA analytics, which is very good for us.

It is very important for everyone to be able to see everything that is happening in the network from one location. It is simple to manage and it is all done from a single dashboard.

We set up the identity service and it is amazing for us to have an identity for each user. All of the network policies are set according to one's identity.

The ability to trace attacks if they occur is very good in terms of security. The security is part of the network layer. Generally, security has been improving with Cisco solutions because it was not as good in the past.

If a device is lost then it is very easy to replace. I just drag and drop the configuration from the old device to the new one and after a few seconds, the new device is working with the same configuration that we had before. It does not have to be configured manually.

What needs improvement?

The network, data center, and SD-WAN are all being treated as different services, but I would like to have only one solution to manage all of them. Data is traveling from the inside to the outside layer, and I want to be able to fully control all of the data going in and out. It should not be set up as multi-service, but rather a single one.

If you have old Cisco hardware such as switches or access points, or they are from another vendor, then they will not work with this solution. The hardware will still function but you will not be able to control it with DNA.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Cisco DNA Center for two months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This solution has been stable since it was installed two months ago.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is one of the reasons that we chose Cisco DNA. We have ten buildings within the same campus and when we implemented the PoC, Cisco said that scalability is very important for us.

We have had about 3,000 people using this solution to this point, but we are not yet at full capacity. We expect to have more than 4,000 concurrent users.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have not been in contact with technical support.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Prior to using Cisco DNA Center, we had a traditional network. We had switches and routers from Cisco, HP, and Dell. We switched because we are joining all of the buildings together and given their size, the number of visitors, and the scalability that we need, we had to switch to DNA.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is straightforward except for the issue that this solution is incompatible with switches or access points from other vendors. That is very bad.

It takes us about two weeks to deploy this solution in one of our buildings. This includes installing the hardware, software, access points, and everything.

What about the implementation team?

We have a technician from Cisco to do the implementation for us.

During deployment, there were eight people from our staff and five people from Cisco.

For maintenance, for each building, we have two or three technicians at various levels. We have other administrators as well, although they are responsible for different solutions such as SAP and ERP. The same person is responsible for multiple technologies.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Our licensing agreement is for three years.

What other advice do I have?

The Cisco Digital Network Architecture is the first solution with these types of capabilities that I have used. It allows me to monitor everything in the network, including end-to-end packet travel and tracking the specific packets.

This solution is really stable and scalable.

My advice for anybody who is considering this solution is to consider the size of the environment. If there are a very large number of switches or visitor access points then I recommend DNA. However, if there are a small number of switches and access points then I would recommend the Cisco Meraki because it is fine for small and medium-sized networks.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from working with this solution is that this technology is much easier now. I think it's a revolution in networking and wireless communication where it is becoming easier and nothing like traditional networking. It is now an overlay and an underlay network. All of the people working in this field have to be up to date with the technology. It is very new and there are many capabilities when it comes to network control, analytics, and security compliance. IT people have to adapt to new technologies.

I have not yet tested the IoT for our smart building because we don't use it in our current location.

I would rate this solution a nine out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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