Software-defined networking touches every industry segment

There’s an inside joke in the software-defined networking industry that “SDN” stands for “still done nothing.” People say that because despite the tremendous hype around SDN, many customers remain confused about what it is, how to deploy it and what the benefits are. This is particularly true in the data center where the stakes are high and any kind of mistake can cost an organization millions of dollars.

About 21 months ago, Cisco launched its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) solution and threw its hat in the SDN ring. In practicality, ACI is a much broader solution. It uses the principles of SDNs but deals with much more than the network.

Because of the relative immaturity of SDNs and the fact that ACI is still relatively new, there is some industry chatter that ACI isn’t being adopted. Also, I think early in the cycle Cisco was talking about both Nexus switching deployments and ACI together, causing some confusion. Nexus is part of ACI but can be deployed independently. Nexus deployments might turn into ACI in the future but do not need to, as Nexus customers want the freedom of choice for their SDN solution. Many Cisco customers choose to implement a programmable network or programmable fabric.

As a Cisco watcher, I’ve been curious with respect to what ACI traction has been like. On the last earnings call, Cisco stated it has over 1,800 paying ACI customers, which makes it the market lead by number of deployments. However, I wanted to get some detail behind what customers are doing with the technology. So, I recently asked the company to provide some customers that have deployed ACI and have realized some quantifiable benefits.

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