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by Martin Beverley

Published on 12/14/2022
Last updated on 02/05/2024

Network Profile at 20 Years: How Do You Build Innovative, Enduring Services?

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Cisco engineers are frequently building and using tools that make them more effective at their jobs. Typically these solutions give way in a few years to new tools as the needs of Cisco and its customers shift. It's remarkable for a tool to last longer, even decades, but that's exactly what Network Profile has accomplished, leaving an ongoing legacy and model for foundational and enduring innovation. 2022 marks 20 years since the launch of Network Profile (NP) in Advanced Services. NP ingests data collected from customer networks and processes it through rules and engines to reveal intelligence about current or potential network issues. The tool generates reports that are very valuable for customers as they look to minimize risks, streamline costs, and scale efficiently, enabling billions of dollars of CX Services revenue and customer productivity along the way. NP was a gamechanger for Advanced Services. Within 24 hours, the tool made it possible for Cisco consultants to identify a best practice, apply it as a rule across millions of devices for thousands of customers, and proactively notify those customers where they had a risk or optimization opportunity. NP's impact has expanded beyond Business Critical Services by accelerating additional CX Service offers like SmartNet Total Care and Success Tracks, as well as many internal adoption and readiness initiatives.

A plan for improvement from the start

As someone who was part of the development of NP from the start, I had the privilege of working with hundreds of brilliant engineers who had the forethought to build a tool that would be flexible and adaptable to future customer and business needs. Recently I met with colleagues who were involved with NP in its earliest days to reflect together on what made NP so impactful and what innovators can take away from our experience:
  • Continuous data collection and analysis with the intent of providing proactive, trustworthy insights about potential risks. This work helped us to design effective telemetry for new generations of cloud connected products.
  • Capturing expert knowledge in rules, policies, and Intellectual Capital (IC), which was necessary to scale consistent service delivery to tens of thousands of users around the world.
  • A low code environment that empowers experts to build a library of rules, recommendations, and insights without needing to be a developer.
  • Independent IC libraries that increased agility, making it possible for new customer insights to be added to the system at any time without relying on a product release schedule.
  • Visibility of the customer's whole network so that service delivery teams could make informed decisions about related cross-architecture solutions and projects.
  • Global data sharing that enabled collaboration on identifying common experiences, issues, and codify patterns of customer success. This big data set also opens AI/ML approaches to making products smarter.
  • Modular engines that could easily be horizontally scaled, independently innovated, rearranged, and reused in other solutions as needed.
“What was visionary at the time was turning ad hoc network data collection into a continuous telemetry feed for multiple engines in parallel that could summarize key changes and identify problems," says Sumit Nandy, Director of Software Engineering, one of the tool's founders. As one of the patent holders for the tool, Sumit validates the importance of protecting our Intellectual Property for our creations at Cisco. "It's satisfying to see a patent heavily used and generating revenue for Cisco for years," he says. "We sought to create tools by engineers, for engineers," says Brett Dunstan, Principal Architect, a key innovator of NP applications. "As consulting engineers, advocating for customers on a daily basis, we had the clearest view of their needs and the opportunity to provide the most value." "What consistently motivated me was knowing that every contribution would immediately have an impact across all customers," says Chris Camplejohn. "Being a trusted advisor requires that insights are high quality, accurate, and actionable, every time. NP made it possible to sustain that credibility with living sources of truth that customers could trust for years."
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A model for ripple-effect innovation

Network Profile became one of the most impactful tools in CX as Cisco innovators reused the code and built on top of the platform:
  • Code re-use: Abstraction into engines like Install Base Enrichment Service, Feature Identification Service, Product Classification Engine, and Product Alert Service (for End of Life, Field Notice and PSIRT Security Advisory notifications).
  • Data consumption: APIs enabled foundational NP data to be combined with data from multiple sources for advanced applications in benchmarking, AI/ML risk prediction, policy conformance, automated fault management, and network simulation.
  • Key capabilities:
    • Inventory (Hardware/Software/Feature)
    • Global Profile, Global Search
    • Policy & Groups
    • Configuration Best Practices
    • Hardware End of Life
    • Software Strategy / Conformance
    • Syslog Analysis
    • Custom Configuration Analysis
    • Field Notices
    • Security Advisories
    • Unidentified Inventory
    • Key Performance Indicators
20_year_Impact This graphic shows the growing customer impact of Network Profile technology (green) and Service Offers (blue) in the 20 years since its launch.

Looking ahead

Industry thought leaders, including the TSIA, predict that our future will be guided by simplifying digital customer experiences. With this in mind, the lifecycle capabilities we built for NP have been adapted to break down barriers between organizations and offers, enable new self-service options for customers in CX Cloud (Assets, Advisories & Insights), and integrate with products like Cisco DNA Center. As I work on building the next great service technologies, I ask myself how I and my colleagues can replicate the impact of Network Profile. How can we engage the ecosystem of experts or citizen developers to help us solve customer challenges? How can we build capabilities in a flexible, modular way that is ready for multiple consumption models? These questions will only become more essential as products, services, and customer success become more seamlessly integrated with our customers’ business processes.
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