Leading by Example: Managing Our Internal Network with the Same Cisco Tools We Offer Clients

CISCO

How do you spot and resolve IT issues? What are the steps and the tools you need to troubleshoot, maintain, and secure your network? These are the kinds of questions that keep network administrators and IT managers up at night.


Wrestling with infrastructure can be a nightmare for IT professionals. Ensuring network visibility and availability, updating and upgrading components, and dealing with technical issues can be time-intensive and take attention away from the big picture. 

Helping Our Customers Achieve More with Less

Today’s IT professionals have to do more with shrinking budgets, and their roles are changing, too. Rather than just maintaining infrastructure, they’re adding value through IT services, contributing to their employers’ bottom line, and helping companies embrace and expand their vision. 

Today’s #IT professionals do much more than maintain infrastructure. They add value through IT services, contribute to the bottom line, and help companies embrace and expand their vision.


To deal with evolving technologies and the ever-shifting needs of their employers, many IT managers seek external assistance. It’s often helpful to get a second opinion or have a third party assess your network infrastructure. That’s where we come in. 


SpotIT is a Belgian managed service provider and a trusted advisor for its customers. SpotIT helps companies secure their business and reduce the cybersecurity risk with a broad portfolio of managed services, such as proactive 24/7 NOC service and SpotIT's innovative SOC, combining state-of-the-art technology with high-end expertise of security specialists. 


SpotIT collaborates with customers on innovative security and networking architectures that bring significant strategic advantages and insights. Our 100 (and counting) security and network specialists serve customers in different sectors each facing their own challenges in cybersecurity. We work with medium-sized to larger companies across more than 85 countries and our client base is growing every day.  

Filling the Gap Between Customers and Vendors

We see our role as filling the gap between our customers and IT equipment vendors and as such, we’re a proud Cisco partner with advanced certifications in networking and security. We help businesses ask the right questions so they can choose appropriate products. By focusing on their needs, understanding their challenges, and respecting their budgets, SpotIT crafts managed-service solutions that propel businesses forward. 

Understanding #technology is not the same as understanding your customers.


Our customers’ needs are always changing, which keeps us on our toes. In recent months, for example, we’ve seen an increase in remote working. Many organizations struggled to make the sudden and complete shift to working from home. As a trusted advisor, we’ve helped our clients deal with all the security and network challenges that came along with it: namely remote access VPN and cybersecurity in general.

Our Network Management Solution of Choice

SpotIT was one of the first partners to implement Cisco DNA Center to provision and manage our customers’ wired and wireless networks. But our commitment to the platform goes beyond offering it as a managed solution. We also use it internally to manage SpotIT’s network across our three locations.


Cisco DNA Center is a dashboard-based network management and provisioning platform. It provides instant remediation features that simplify IT troubleshooting; automate device configuration and updates; leverage AI to assess a network and assure its performance; and generate analytics that help to better manage IT assets. 


It is especially powerful in mixed environments, providing far more visibility into wired and wireless infrastructure than traditional network management tools. When we’re dealing with an outage, the failure is often at the switch, router, or network device level. Cisco DNA Center can alert us to the specific component at fault and allows us to remediate most issues remotely. 

Technical Issues vs. User Expectations

Thanks to Cisco DNA Center, we can shift our focus from dealing with issues at the component level to dealing with the expectations of our customers and their users. For example, we can look at the health score for a specific type of network function such as onboarding, authentication, or roaming, and proactively enhance network parameters before they become a problem. 


We can also use Cisco DNA Center to determine network coverage and performance gaps. When a customer complains about reduced network speed or insufficient bandwidth, we can pinpoint the applications, operations, and network segments that are causing the slowdowns. We can then optimize or add components to achieve the needed gains.


By using Cisco DNA Center, we can react to an issue and offer a solution that is timely, targeted, and budget-friendly.

Integrating Cisco DNA Center with ServiceNow

SpotIT began migrating to Cisco DNA Center to manage our internal network in 2018. At the time, we rebuilt our infrastructure using a software-defined architecture for our wired and wireless campus environment. We connected our three offices to an enterprise-wide SD-Access and installed new wireless access points at each of our locations. 


Our previous network was based on a centralized solution with virtualized controllers in the data centers. When Cisco launched the Catalyst 9000 series switches and Cisco DNA Center, we moved to a decentralized solution based on the SD-Access eWLC solution. By combining it with Cisco DNA Center automation, it became more flexible and easier to use. With the Assurance part of DNA, we can easily detect user and network issues—even proactively. This is not easy if you are using a traditional solution.


In mid-2019, we took the next step and integrated Cisco DNA Center with our ticketing system, ServiceNow. This IT system management (ITSM) integration took both of these tools to the next level. 


When Cisco DNA Center encounters an issue, it creates an event in ServiceNow. Whether it’s a client or a network issue, Cisco DNA Center records incident information—including the affected component and neighboring devices—assigns a priority, and routes a ticket to our operations team, who can then deal with the problem. 


We also integrated Cisco DNA Center’s software image management functionality into ServiceNow, creating a closed-loop automation sequence. Cisco DNA Center can trigger a change request in ServiceNow when an image is outdated. After approval of this request, the distribution and activation of the new image is scheduled automatically in Cisco DNA Center. In addition, it further automates the process by performing pre- and post-checks to ensure the deployment of the correct image and the successful completion of the update. This reduces human error and provides additional assurance that our network is performing as it should.  


We pushed this integration even further by adding Cisco Webex to the mix. If Cisco DNA Center triggers a ServiceNow incident at night or on a weekend, standby ops team members can communicate through Webex and work on the issue. This capability is an exciting development for our internal IT management needs, but it’s even more significant when it comes to supporting our clients. The trifecta of Cisco DNA Center, Webex, and ServiceNow gives us more avenues to address our customers’ issues. 

Taking Cisco DNA Center and ServiceNow to Our Customers

We currently are running a 'Proof of Value' (PoV) with one of our biggest clients. We are convinced that the integration with Cisco DNA Center will deliver a higher added value in comparison to classic network monitoring tools. Once this PoV is finalized, we are aiming to bring this integration to other customers as for us innovation is the absolute key. 


Once our internal transition is complete, we’ll truly be leading by example. When we demo Cisco DNA Center to our customers, we start by explaining the platform’s value proposition. We show how it combines network management and provisioning, IT troubleshooting, automated device updates and configuration, as well as assurance and analytics in a single tool. We then highlight the added value of our expertise. 

Find the right solution, then figure out how and where it fits.


As a managed services provider, we don’t just sell solutions like Cisco DNA Center, we actually embrace them. Our ultimate goal is to redesign our customers’ networks so they, in turn, can provide a superlative experience to their end users. 


Finding the right technology solutions is just the beginning. Our job is to figure out how and where those technologies fit within the parameters of our customers’ specific businesses. That’s what it means to be a true partner, and Cisco helps us deliver on that promise each and every day.