Automation is a key element in our Cisco Digital Network Architecture (DNA). The immediate –and let’s admit it, somewhat negative- association with automation is that the human element in production is almost entirely replaced by robots. While that might be a trend in certain manufacturing environments, IT Departments are not a production plant. Especially as enterprises increasingly adopt digital strategies, IT becomes a vital business transformation element.

Let’s make it perfectly clear: the most business relevant elements of IT cannot be automated, because they require creativity, vision and architectural savvy. That’s not to say automation doesn’t have a very important place in IT Departments today. It plays a critical role by freeing up IT resources for the more strategic planning required to enable digital initiatives. The repetitive configuration of a network element to a certain operational standard can be automated. But building an automation strategy, or any other strategic IT initiative, cannot be automated.

Let me give you an example: with Cisco DNA, we provide an application that runs on our SDN Controller, the APIC-EM.  Cisco DNA provides 85% faster provisioning of network services and 79% reduction in installation costs. So now, instead of configuring every branch router’s capabilities manually, the network manager uses the app to abstracts details and provide automation based on a few pre-defined, optimal configurations available from a catalog. Now here’s the thing – I still need experts to define and build those standard, optimal configurations. Through this process, others are able to re-use and quickly apply easy to understand standard configurations. This means my experts can keep innovating and developing new automation strategies, instead of having to engage in the tedious, repetitive exercise of manually replicating such configurations throughout the entire enterprise.

In a world in which we are always asked to achieve more business outcomes with fewer resources, the only way IT will flourish is by focusing on innovation, and not by merely operating the enterprise infrastructure to “keep the lights on”.

That is the goal of DNA: to allow us to automate the trivial tasks, and thereby have time to focus on the essential: innovation that directly delivers on new business capabilities. The Cisco DNA network vision is about a network that enriches business processes with network analytics we have thus far underused; a network that defends the necessarily open and thereby more exposed nature of Digital Business with innovative network capabilities. In a nutshell, a network that optimally supports the needs of the digital enterprise – and automation is the necessary first step to accomplish that important goal.