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Fast IT Workshop #1: Beyond SDN _ Expanding the Conversation

As business leaders navigate an increasingly complex world of connections, they need IT to dynamically respond to their needs. This four-part blog series explores how responsive and programmable infrastructure helps IT leaders succeed. Today’s post highlights how Fast IT, a new model of IT, encompasses a broader focus of next-generation infrastructure and how it can drive business value.

To read the second post in this series by Jim Grubb which discusses a roadmap to adopt a Fast IT model, click here. To read the third post in this series by Doug Webster which highlights how service providers specifically stand to benefit from Fast IT, click here. To read the fourth and final post in this series by Jeff Reed which explores how a Fast IT model can mitigate infrastructure challenges, click here.

Lately, there has been a lot of chatter around what software-defined networking (SDN) really is. Initially, SDN was a term used to explain the concept of splitting the forwarding plane from the control plane with the added benefit of automation and orchestration. However, recently SDN has become a “buzzword” attached to products that vendors are trying to sell as explained by Network Computing’s Tom Hollingsworth.

Critics of SDN say that it means too many things to too many different people, making what was once network architecture into a philosophy. This was affirmed by Colin Bannon, Chief Architect and CTO, British Telecom, as heard in this recording of the “Business Implications of Software-Defined Networking” panel discussion at Cisco Live Milan in January. During the panel, he suggested SDN means one of three things:

  1. Centralized control which is especially popular with data center,
  2. Centralized control but with lots of distributed intelligence, or
  3. A software programmability into existing infrastructure, meaning more of an orchestration set.

Tim Zimmerman, Research Vice President, Gartner, echoed this sentiment at this same SDN panel: “SDN tends to have a meaning for everybody. It’s not always the same meaning for each person who asks the question.” He added, “We have to worry a little about using it to mean everything. I encourage people to ask the additional questions to ensure they’re getting the right answers when we explore what SDN means to them.”

Cisco_ FastITWorkshop_#1_ALT_5.5.14

At Cisco, we know that the old way of doing things won’t work anymore and SDN seems to solve many issues organizations face today with programmability. However, we want to expand the conversation beyond just SDN to include application-centricity, automation, virtualization, and orchestration. We’ve labeled these types of capabilities Fast IT. Fast IT is a new model for IT with a drive for less complexity, more agility, and comprehensive security. With the majority of IT budgets tied up in manual processes, IT struggles to free up resources needed to deliver innovative technology services to the business. IT must deliver value faster, and be more agile and less complex in responding to changing business needs. IT must enable the business to innovate and achieve business outcomes faster through a simple, smart and secure IT model.

So, what do IT leaders need to do?

IT leaders must shift their focus from only-programmability to encompass a broader focus of next-generation infrastructure. They need to embrace programmability (SDN) but also orchestration, automation, and virtualization (broader than SDN).

IT leaders need to change their thinking and ultimately, their adoption of infrastructure technologies to embrace Fast IT, as it will ultimately deliver comprehensive business results.

Over the course of this four-part Fast IT Workshop blog series, my colleagues and I will discuss steps that businesses can take to achieve a faster, more intelligent infrastructure and why focusing on infrastructure-programmability can drive business value now and in the future.

Stay tuned for our next post that will outline the steps organizations can take to follow the Fast IT roadmap. In the meantime, join the conversation, #FutureOfIT, visit Cisco Executive Perspectives, or leave us a comment below.

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1 Comments.


  1. You said “IT must enable the business to innovate and achieve business outcomes faster through a simple, smart and secure IT model.”

    That’s a lofty goal for many CIOs and their IT managers, that just can’t seem to break free from the day-to-day operational responsibilities of owning and managing legacy data centers and aging network infrastructure.

    It’s the practical reason why traditional IT organizations won’t achieve a greater impact on business outcomes in 2014. It’s like these near-term demands, that they can’t ignore, are forcing them to be strategically shortsighted. The notion of FAST IT might be frustrating to many leaders in that predicament.

    Therefore, I’m wondering, is there a prescriptive pathway — via the adoption of SDN — that can help guide Cisco customers to a place where they can finally cast-aside these unwanted handicaps from a bygone era?

    I suspect that many CIOs may be able to picture the desired destination (freedom from prior constraints), but few can imagine themselves arriving at the end of this journey. If you can provide directions, then perhaps you’ll have solved the inertia challenges that they are likely to encounter along the way.

       3 likes