Disruptive technologies have become more frequent than ever before, making business agility and the ability to adapt key competitive differentiators. Every day I speak with IT executives who are asking how Cisco can help them respond to new requirements across their physical, virtual, and cloud-based environments. They feel compelled to accelerate the delivery of applications, better align IT with business activity, and reduce time to revenue. They want to know if their initiatives will have the impact and outcomes they require. Can they capture the full value of their technology investments? How can they up their game when it comes to delivering IT services that their businesses need to succeed?
Today Cisco introduced its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) offerings to manage the health and performance of the applications that you rely upon to run your business. A simplified, flexible, and agile framework, ACI aligns the needs of the entire application lifecycle, overcoming functional silos, and bringing together your infrastructure, security, application, and cloud teams through a holistic architecture and policy-driven framework.
After countless brainstorming sessions, code reviews, lab trials, scores of NDAs and nearly two years of intense speculation from media, analysts and the internet community – it is finally here! Today, Cisco is pulling back the curtains to reveal details of the vision of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) announced in June 2013. With shipping products as part of the announcement today, Cisco is also taking the first steps in making this vision a concrete reality. In the process, Insieme networks also returns to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Cisco.
For those tuning into the press conference and webcast today , you will see John Chambers, Rob Lloyd and Insieme executives get into the specifics of ACI, with the event being hosted out of the historical Waldorf Astoria in New York. You will also see Cisco’s partners and customers share both the stage as well as a common vision.
So, after months of silence, there will be quite a bit of information sharing, perhaps Information overload even. This is an announcement with innovation at multiple levels, and even for the tech savvy it will take time to fully understand and appreciate the architecture and the benefits it brings.
I wanted to share a few key concepts, innovations, and highlights of the announcement today. We will delve into additional details and dissect these pieces over the next few weeks on this blogging platform as well the public www.cisco.com/go/aci website, which will host a lot of the structured content.
1. The concept of Application Centric Infrastructure
We put together a short video to distill the concepts of ACI. It encompasses a lot of what existing networks today, as well as emerging SDN concepts (regardless of what the definition of SDN is), and goes quite beyond what anyone else is offering out there today. You will see some critical differentiators here:
De-coupling of application and policy from IP infrastructure
Ability to define application network profiles and apply them
Integration of physical and virtual infrastructure elements with end-to-end visibility
The Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) is a new appliance that will be the heart of the ACI fabric. While the actual product will ship around Q2 of next calendar year. An APIC simulator will also be made available on a controlled basis for customers and partners to get familiar and additional information will continue to be made available. Unlike most software-only controllers in the market today that have little ability to exploit the capabilities of hardware, APIC provides a holistic system level view and an ability to tap into the capabilities of the underlying infrastructure. While it will initially be paired with the Nexus 9000, the APIC will be expanded to support other parts of the portfolio as well as other infrastructure building blocks.
The APIC utilizes a centralized policy-model with an application network profile and open architecture that allows for the application needs to be defined and mapped to infrastructure, to make it application-aware.
3. Nexus 9000 – Expanding the Nexus switching family
We’re expanding the highly successful Nexus family with the next “big bad boy” -- the Nexus 9000. This will initially come in two models – the Nexus 9500 and the Nexus 9300, with the former shipping now. It has a variety of innovations for all of the “5 Ps” – (i) an extremely attractive Price point , optimized for 1G to 1/10G in the access, and for 10G to 40G migration in the aggregation layer. In addition (ii) It brings in Industry leading Performance with 1.92Tbps per line card and is 100G ready. (iii) Has significantly higher non-blocking Port-density (iv) Flexible programmability with JSON/XML API with a Linux container for customer apps and (v) Power efficiency – with an innovative design that has no mid-plane/backplane resulting in 15% greater power and cooling efficiency.
The kaon shows the “see-through” design of the Nexus 9500 without the traditional mid-plane design. To see the 3D design of the Nexus 9500 click here
The Nexus 9000 is designed from ground-up to be ACI ready with a combination of merchant silicon and Cisco custom ASICs to deliver the “5 Ps”.
As customers migrate to 10/40G over the next few years, the cost of laying new fiber and overhauling the optics is a tremendous drag and raises barriers for 40G adoption. I wrote about multi-layered innovations – this is one of them at a component level. The 40G BiDi lets customers preserve their existing 10G cables, resulting in tremendous time savings, cost savings (labor and fiber) as well as improved time to market for the upgrade. Bandwidth upgrades is one of the top reasons that drive network refreshes, and this innovation (a Cisco exclusive) produces remarkable results
5. The Partner Ecosystem
It is not possible for one company to address all the challenges manifesting in the data center on its own, no matter how revolutionary the architecture is or how radical the innovations are. This is where a rich ecosystem of partners have stepped in(see the technology leaders rally here), each of them market and innovation leaders respective domains, to make the vision of ACI all the more real and consumable.
Their vision and commitment is reflective both of the shared vision and commitment to transform the data center infrastructure, as well as reflective of the open architecture of the ACI approach in general, building on the principles of the Cisco Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE), but also taking it to other aspects of the infrastructure. You may expect to see a lot of the demos as the APIC becomes generally available next year, even as services offerings around ACI become much richer, as evidenced by Scott’s blog link below.
Please stay tuned to this blog space and the www.cisco.com/go/aciwebsite for additional information over coming weeks and months. As always we would like your comments and constructive criticism as we together help redefine the power of IT.
(*) Click on the Infographic to enlarge or download it
The road in my picture below – the A82 that winds through Glencoe in Scotland – was used in the James Bond “Skyfall” movie in one of the amazing car chase scenes. This road winds through sparsely inhabited territory, has lots of ups, downs, bumps and turns and if you’re not careful it can be a dangerous road. I’ll draw the analogy here with the challenges of introducing new technologies: there can be ups, downs, bumps and turns into the unknown, if you are not careful. And in my case here, I’ll use this analogy to illustrate the challenges of adopting OpenStack: without the right kind of approach, without a carefully managed exploratory “pilot” investigation and subsequent roadmap planning, you may find that adopting OpenStack – or any other open source software solution, for that matter – has its share of challenges, ups, downs, bumps and turns into the unknown.
Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, the crossover edition. That’s right, this week, as we answer the question “I’m an Engineer, Why Would I Do That?” with TechWise TV’s very own Jimmy Ray Purser (@jimmyray_purser). He’s taking up the question of why FlexPod instead of of DIY architecture with NetApp’s Joel McKelvey (@joelmckelvey). This episode is lively and informative as our experts explore the solution from a tech and business point of view.
In less than 48 hours, on Nov 6th, Cisco will officially announce details of its approach to Application Centric Infrastructure based on innovations from Insieme networks.
[To join our Webcast with John Chambers and Insieme Soni Jiandani on Wednesday November 6 at 10:30 am EST/7:30 am PST register here ]
No doubt that there are great expectations riding on this announcement. In part due to Insieme’s pedigree, and in part due to the promise it brings. The former I covered in my previous blog – Application Centric Infrastructure gets ready to rumble. As for the latter, it is important to put the promise in perspective.
As businesses of all sizes continue to pump billions of dollars of investment into data center and cloud IT and consumption models, the expectations for IT to generate a credible RoI in terms of business agility, productivity and efficiency has never been higher. IT today epitomizes a very powerful business function that directly impacts agility and contributes to bottomline and customer experience. It is but natural to think of data centers are futuristic, glamorous environments, quietly humming away transforming businesses at their core. Many new data centers are in fact that, and seem to come out for sci-fi movie.
However, in a majority of cases, many data centers have just “grown-up” too fast over the last decade that saw adhoc spurts in data center consolidation and server virtualization. While both phases have provided tremendous benefits in terms of efficiencies and economies of scale, they have also contributed their mite to increasing operational complexity. From cabling sprawl, to network and server sprawl, to VM sprawl – the rapid growth has in some cases negated cost efficiencies gained through server virtualization. The same can be said of software stacks with complex licensing and version control issues. The affinity to applications in this chaos has somehow been either taken for granted or partially lost in the complexity, making it harder to bring predictability into application deployments or troubleshooting, leading to both time and cost overruns. How can this be simplified? How can infrastructure be better linked to the needs of applications? How to make life simpler for data center operations and facilitate a better application experience?
Per a survey conducted by ESG last year, 63% of IT pros say new app deployments take a month or more, 50% say upgrades take just as long. 77% of enterprise IT pros say they would manage more than 150 applications over the next year. This is a lot! For IT to deliver high performing apps, they need a way for infrastructure to automatically respond to the needs of the application, and to have excellent visibility when something goes wrong and requires troubleshooting during application deployments or upgrades.