Applications, the New Lifeblood of Business


Transforming IT operating models to support and enable the application economy.

“Applications have become the lifeblood of our economy,” Cisco CEO John Chambers recently wrote. “They are how business is done; how partners and suppliers interact; how employees connect; how consumers share, learn, and buy. Every business is becoming an applications business. Every industry is becoming an application-centric industry, and the business model shift is only accelerating. We all truly live in an application economy now.”

Truth be told, applications have been driving business for decades. But today, the volume, interconnectedness, and impact of applications are mushrooming. And what used to be carefully controlled by IT teams has been opened up to business groups and individuals who can access countless applications, any time, from a growing number of devices.

While this introduces additional complexity and new risks for organizations to consider and manage, it also creates tremendous opportunity. From employee productivity and operational efficiency to new customer experiences and competitive differentiation, modern applications are helping strengthen and expand the foundations of business success.

A Historic Announcement
As the application economy swells, businesses in all industries need new models for supporting and riding the wave. Or it will inevitably cascade on top of them.

  • Cisco recently introduced a number of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) offerings that help enable this transition.
  • The offerings give every administrator—whether they are focused on networking, security, storage, platforms, or network services—the same view and the same single point of management for the entire IT infrastructure.
  • This includes both physical and virtual networks, all built around the needs of applications. 

“On the surface, this seems like a technology announcement focused on network virtualization,” says Scott Clark, vice president of the Data Center and Cloud Practice for Cisco Services. “But it’s really about transforming IT operating models.”

Today, the complexity and inflexibility of IT is slowing business down, he explains. IT professionals work in separate, inefficient silos because current technology doesn't support a shared architectural model, and there is no way to gain a single view of all the technology components that impact application performance. As a result, the IT components are difficult to configure, complex to troubleshoot, and cumbersome to adjust. That has to change. Complexity must give way to speed and agility.

“In addition to making networks more application-aware, we are unifying, simplifying, and automating infrastructure management,” Clark explains, “which gives more time, attention, and resources to application delivery and support.”

“ACI is a silo buster,” Chambers wrote. “I believe [it] represents the most disruptive architectural innovation in IT that I’ve seen in more than a decade.”

Making the Transition
Transitioning from systems administration to application-centric business enablement is no small feat. Change is difficult, especially when entrenched behaviors and longstanding operating models are at stake.

Fortunately, assistance is available.

  • Cisco offers a variety of data center and virtualization services that help IT organizations support the new application economy.
  • Cisco Services can analyze all operational aspects of an organization’s data center networks and prepare detailed migration plans for the transition to ACI.
  • These services not only consider technologies, but the people and processes that utilize them.

“ACI transcends technology products and administrative silos,” says Clark. “We add the greatest impact and value at a macro level, helping transform IT operating models, establish policy changes, and gradually transition from reactive systems maintenance to proactive service delivery.”

As IT teams become service bureaus, their focus shifts:

  • Instead of being technology implementers and fixers, they begin to act as higher-level consultants for their business community.
  • They are able to focus on the applications that address business priorities instead of the underlying systems that support the applications.
  • And they can do so with far greater speed, security, and cost efficiency.

“At the end of the day, we want our customers to have a unified, easy-to-manage infrastructure that drives their business forward,” says Clark. “From a services standpoint, our job is to put ourselves out of a job.”

More Information: Cloud, mobility, and big data applications are causing a shift in the data center model. Learn how Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) can deliver a framework fit for next-generation data center and cloud applications by downloading this Cisco ACI At-A-Glance sheet.