While software-defined networking (SDN) is no longer a brand-new technology, many organizations have been slow to change the way they approach networking inside their data centers. Although we in the IT world like to pride ourselves on innovation, the truth is that we’re often just like everybody else: resistant to change, especially when what we’re already doing seems to be working just fine.

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However, SDN tools such as Cisco ACI have a number of tangible benefits — both for IT departments and for the business units they support. Here are three of the top benefits for organizations that adopt Cisco ACI in their data centers.

1. Streamlined Management

With traditional data center networking, IT teams must individually manage each component of the network. But with SDN tools such as Cisco ACI, administrators can manage the network centrally and holistically. The Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) serves as a single point of management, providing access to all configuration, management, monitoring and health functions. Rather than working through a command line interface, admins can work through a graphic user interface via a web browser, allowing them to instantly see how the entire ACI fabric is performing.

This not only cuts down on the time that IT teams need to devote to network management but also significantly reduces the risk of configuration problems caused by human error. This is important, as some studies blame human error for more than 1 in 5 data center outage events. With the average outage costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, organizations should be doing all they can to prevent such problems, and embracing SDN is an effective way to do so.

2. Enhanced Automation

The automation enabled by Cisco ACI can save data center teams enormous amounts of time, which they can then devote to other essential projects that add business value to the organization. Using Cisco ACI, data center administrators can use a predefined script to push a configuration to devices throughout the ACI fabric using RESTful application programming interfaces. In addition to automating fabric deployment and configuration, data center teams can leverage Cisco ACI to automate repetitive tasks such as patching and updating — once again, helping to both save time and reduce errors.

3. Support for Multiple Active Locations

Cisco ACI allows organizations to stretch their data center fabric across multiple locations, resulting in an active-active environment (meaning that the data center architecture doesn’t rely on a single path or function). In this sort of setup, multiple data centers function as active application sites, each of them capable of servicing an application at any time. This dramatically improves resource availability and application resilience.

The benefits of this are twofold. For one, an active-active data center environment provides unparalleled responsiveness in disaster recovery and business continuity scenarios; since both data centers are fully active production centers, an outage to one of them should not cause any disruption to the business. Further, maintaining two active data centers can help national and global companies to reduce application latency by placing workloads geographically closer to users.

Moving from traditional data center networking to SDN certainly represents a significant change. But for many organizations, the benefits of the move are more than worthwhile.

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