As IT departments move to private cloud offerings, DevOps methodologies, and continuous integration capabilities, many segments of the data center market have a strong need for more open, programmable, and application-led networks. In these fully automated environments, network automation for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or applications on demand is becoming essential. As discussed in a recent blog postby Ravi Balakrishnan, the Cisco Nexus 9000 offers the industry’s 1st open and extensible application policy model helping businesses increase agility, flexibility, and scalability and automate repetitive manual tasks, reducing the time to deployment and easing maintenance tasks.
A recently-issued Lippis Report provides validation that the Cisco Nexus 9000 product line offers the most comprehensive open programming tools and functions available that can either be leveraged independently, or put to work in unison with other platform capabilities. The report found that the benefits of Cisco Nexus 9000 programming environment include investment protection and improved business agility through support of open protocols, APIs and standards that leverage customers’ existing networking, services including security, physical and virtual compute, and storage assets and accelerate network application deployment times to minutes improving business agility through centralized management.
Cisco 9000 programmability enables use cases across the whole IT delivery chain in terms of being able to orchestrate and automate provisioning of network infrastructure. Applications now have special, real-time access to network buffers, congestion and state information, so that they can actually make better choices and decisions on how they’re delivering services to end-users. In addition, troubleshooting can be automated through applications having much deeper visibility into the network.
The specific use cases for Cisco NX-OS API enhancements span data center network engineers and experienced DevOps personnel in cloud and large enterprise IT organization. For network engineers, NX-OS APIs can simplify and automate common network infrastructure provisioning challenges as well as offer automated troubleshooting through enhanced network visibility.
DevOps personnel may leverage NX-OS APIs and automation tools to create their own custom scripts and leverage the NX-API into other tools with which they are already familiar to customize network device data and use it in the way that’s important for them to either deliver competitive business value or to reduce OpEx through automation.
Cisco 9000 Programmability Highlights
The Cisco NX-OS enhancements for the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series supports numerous capabilities that aid automation and orchestration including providing investment protection through the support of new automation capabilities in the future. Centralized, fine-grained access to Cisco 9000 networking resources is enabled through support for XML, JSON, representational state transfer (REST), remote procedure call (RPC), NetConf, Python scripting, Bash and Broadcom chip-level shell access, and Linux containers for development of custom applications. These APIs have full read and write access to the Cisco 9000 platform, providing programmability, automation, and system access. Cisco-NX-OS also supports APIs enabling rapid integration with existing management and orchestration frameworks. These include OpenStack interfaces to provide Cisco policy consistency across physical, virtual, and cloud environments.
Would SDN, by any other name, still smell as sweet?
Perhaps I’m in the minority that is still frustrated by this, but as a marketing person who is tasked with explaining technology and solutions to customers and prospects, I feel hamstrung by a lack of a widely agreed upon definition of what is and is not “SDN” still. This usually comes up in discussions about our new Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and how it compares to traditional SDN concepts, as well as alternative approaches, such as overlay networks advocated by VMware.
The topic came up again this with a NetworkWorld article in which the head of VMware’s network virtualization business is now saying, “SDN will never happen” (our rebuttal). Well, what is happening, if it’s not SDN? Or just because the technology has evolved, do we need to create a new term just because some early assumptions the industry made have changed? As we start out a new year, I thought it a good time to try and reframe the definition, and look at how the trends in SDN may be shaping up to extend the concept into new areas.
Why do customers need SDN?
By early 2012, there was so much hype and expectations around Software Defined Networking, focused on the ability to “program” the network, that real customer use cases and the killer SDN app was lost in the conversation. But what slowly emerged, that is driving all the investment, pilots and product designs is a much better way to manage the data center and cloud network, and to automate IT tasks so that the infrastructure could respond dynamically to rapidly changing business conditions and requirements. The “intelligence” to make all that happen is moving from the network devices and device management consoles, to centralized policy-management platforms, orchestration tools and cloud-managers.
What’s caused the biggest evolution in SDN is the realization that very few organizations really have the desire, skills and incentives to write a new class of applications to a published API to program the network. These users are outlying use cases compared to the vast majority of organizations just looking to automate IT tasks, accelerate application deployment, make their cloud networks more flexible, and better align their IT infrastructure with business requirements. The focus has shifted from SDN being an open API/controller platform, to a platform capable of hosting a myriad of orchestration and IT workflow automation solutions that drive customers to their end goal. To that end, ACI is meeting all those objectives, and in more advanced and innovative ways than earlier SDN approaches.
I am neither an AC Milan soccer fan nor a connoisseur of haute couture, so it will be no surprise if you wondered what I am doing in Europe’s fashion capital Milan, and that too in the middle of Milan’s wintry January.
Without further ado, I will break the suspense. Yes, I am one of the few, chosen as Cisco Datacenter leads for the Cisco Live Milan event. You may be thinking I have the best job in Silicon Valley, as I hop from Melbourne to London to Milan to cover Cisco Live worldwide, over the years. You are right, I do have an enviable job, bringing together the best of cisco datacenter technologies that help customers achieve more value for their investment, and I also make sure to have some fun in the process. During this event, I will be bringing you real-time excerpts of the action in the show floor, via social media. In this blog, I want to provide all you Datacenter IT and Networking professionals, highlights of various activities we have on the menu.
If like me you are fortunate to attend, I am sure you are looking forward to attend the wall-wall keynotes on Jan 28, hosted by Cisco Executives Rob Lloyd and Rob Soderbery. Rob Lloyd will discuss how Cisco and the ecosystem of Cisco’s partners are uniquely positioned to connect the unconnected with an open standard and an integrated architecture from the cloud to end devices In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to check out the latest innovations in Cisco ACI and Data Center Networking technologies. Let us pick up action at the Cisco Campus and Datacenter area in the World of Solutions.
Cisco ACI demos are at the center of all action in Datacenter switching. .These demos in particular highlight the growing significance of Cisco as a datacenter infrastructure provider. With the successful introduction of Cisco ACI and its seamless integration with Cisco UCS, FlexPod, vBlock, UCS Director etc, we are able to demonstrate why infrastructure matters and its relevance to applications. I strongly encourage you to check out the Cisco ACI-Open Stack demo that highlights the provisioning and orchestration of a multi-tenant cloud environment and virtual applications through Open Stack, as well as showing integration of Open Stack on top of the Cisco APIC interface. Many of you have been eagerly awaiting the integration of L4-L7 services from Citrix, F5 with Cisco APIC, and we have put together a demo that illustrates the set-up and insertion of multiple network services into an application network, and the routing of traffic to the required services and the virtual workload. Other ACI demos include those that showcase Cisco Nexus 9000 platform programmability and Cisco ACI integration with Hyper-v, but in the interest of time, I will let you discover the exciting details of these demos at your convenience. Besides ACI, we have Unified Fabric based demos focusing on Nexus 7k and Dynamic Fabric Automation, VXLAN integration with Nexus switching platforms etc, to illustrate the comprehensive portfolio of switching products from Cisco. You will not be disappointed at the demo floor as the best and brightest engineers from Cisco business units will be available to engage you in technical conversations.
1.VMware pricing model is fundamentally flawed, which is raising OpEx costs, and affecting network design decisions and scale.
VMware is charging customers per-port, per-VM, and increases the cost of networking by 2x or more, while providing lower functionality, increasing operations expense, and forcing you to adopt a different network architecture. ACI delivers more functionality with zero VM tax.
For VMware, our customers consistently report pricing starting at $50 or more per VM per month. In competitive engagements, pricing rapidly declines to $15 per VM per month, then lower depending on the negotiation. Customers do not like the per port pricing, the same as they do not like per VM pricing. All of those models get expensive and alter your designs and scale considerations.
2. Claims that ACI is a proprietary platform or policy model belies the fact that many aspects of VMware’s architecture require vendor lock-in, on top of the premium pricing model.
VMware claims that ACI is proprietary. Yet customers have to get their OVS from VMware not the open switch download, under open source license. Currently, VMware is the only hypervisor platform that locks customers into a proprietary controller -- RedHat, KVM, and Hyper-V all provide open access. ACI contributions are showing up in OpenStack, IETF drafts, and through VXLAN extensions, and is providing the most open implementation in the industry -- API’s, data model, and integration with 3rd party controllers. Federating NSX with 3rd party controllers, such as HP, is different that providing open, bi-directional programmability.
3. Openness is really measured by the breadth of infrastructures, OS platforms, orchestration models, etc., that are supported by the policy model, and ACI is rapidly outdistancing NSX in this area.
ACI supports any hypervisor, any encapsulation (VXLAN, NVGRE, VLAN, and even STT), any physical platform, storage, physical compute, layer 4 through 7, WAN, with full flexibility of any workload anywhere, with full policy, performance, and visibility in hardware. ACI supports Open vSwitch and allows a 3rd party controller to program ACI hardware components. Investment protection is built in supporting existing platforms, and within the Nexus 9000 products enabling you to run enhanced NXOS and ACI mode with a software upgrade.
FlexPod Rings in the New Year with New Solutions, Technologies, and Offerings
FlexPod had a fantastic 2013 and received tremendous recognition for industry leadership and innovation. It takes close collaborate between Cisco and NetApp and flawless execution to create this list:
Best of TechEd 2013 for the Microsoft Private Cloud solution
Windows IT Pro award for best hardware appliance.
Validated designs with 4 of the 5 world’s largest software companies -- VMware, Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle.
Solutions capable of being delivered by almost 1,000 resellers in 84 countries including 13 of the 15 world’s largest Systems Integrators.
3,200 customers and over 100 public customer references.
Cisco and NetApp are not going to rest on our laurels and 2014 offers plenty of opportunity to build on that momentum. We are enhancing FlexPod by introducing industry leading technologies, solutions, and offerings that enable IT to quickly, confidently accelerate application deployment and performance:
New FlexPod Solutions for Virtualization and Cloud
Support for Nexus 6000 and 9000 Series Switches
Addition of Microsoft to the FlexPod Cooperative Support Program
The Introduction of FlexPod Unified Financing
Please read the NetApp blog post covering our FlexPod Cooperative Support and Unified Financing offerings. The latest FlexPod solutions and the addition of Cisco Nexus 6000 and 9000 switches are highlighted below.
Enhanced Solutions for Virtualization and Cloud
Cisco and NetApp are introducing new FlexPod designs that provide our customers’ tremendous choice and flexibility on their journey to the cloud. FlexPod customers can choose from Microsoft Private Cloud or VMware vSphere 5.1.1 for their virtualization and private cloud solutions. To the end, we have enhanced the Microsoft Private Cloud and FlexPod with VMWare vSphere 5.1.1 designs with the latest Cisco and NetApp components, enabling enterprises of all sizes to rapid deploy solutions using our latest technologies. FlexPod also expanded its support for Cloud Platforms to include a commercially certified and packaged version of Citrix CloudPlatform 4.2.1 Powered by Apache. FlexPod is a leader in supporting open and flexible architectures based on OpenStack and CloudStack, enabling a broad ecosystem of technology partners and avoiding vendor lock-in. Last but not least, we will be releasing an updated version of FlexPod Express with VMware Vsphere 5.1.1 with Clustered Data ONTAP 8.2.
Comprehensive Support for Nexus Family of Switches
FlexPod has also added support for the Cisco Nexus 6000 and Nexus 9000 Series Switches. FlexPod now offers validated designs covering the breadth of Nexus data center switches. The Cisco Nexus family of switches offer scalability and intelligence to help enterprises manage the proliferation of virtual machines and the challenges of cloud computing. The addition of the Nexus 6000 switch delivers more ports and lower latency than previous switches. In addition, the introduction of the new Nexus 9000 establishes a foundation for future technology enhancements.
We are looking forward to an exciting year with FlexPod. These new solutions and technologies enable FlexPod to meet a broad range of IT needs and run the most business-critical applications. If you’re going to Cisco Live in Milan, please come by the World of Solutions and see our FlexPod demo. To learn more about our FlexPod portfolio visit www.cisco.com/go/flexpod and to see all of our validated designs check out the DesignZone for FlexPod.