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Network Services Headers (NSH): Creating a Service Plane for Cloud Networks

In the past, we have pointed out that configuring network services and security policies into an application network has traditionally been the most complex, tedious and time-consuming aspect of deploying new applications. For a data center or cloud provider to stand up applications in minutes and not days, easily configuring the right service nodes (e.g. a load balancer or firewall), with the right application and security policies, to support the specific workload requirements, independent of location in the network is a clear obstacle that has to be overcome.

Let’s say, for example, you have a world-beating best-in-class firewall positioned in some rack of your data center. You also have two workloads that need to be separated according to security policies implemented on this firewall on other servers a few hops away. The network and security teams have traditionally had a few challenges to address:

  1. If traffic from workload1 to workload2 needs to go through a firewall, how do you route traffic properly, considering the workloads don’t themselves have visibility to the specifics of the firewalls they need to work with. Traffic routing of this nature can be implemented in the network through the use of VLAN’s and policy-based routing techniques, but this is not scalable to hundreds or thousands of applications, is tedious to manage, limits workload mobility, and makes the whole infrastructure more error-prone and brittle.
  2. The physical location of the firewall or network service largely determines the topology of the network, and have historically restricted where workloads could be placed. But modern data center and cloud networks need to be able to provide required services and policies independent of where the workloads are placed, on this rack or that, on-premises or in the cloud.

Whereas physical firewalls might have been incorporated into an application network through VLAN stitching, there are a number of other protocols and techniques that generally have to be used with other network services to include them in an application deployment, such as Source NAT for application delivery controllers, or WCCP for WAN optimization. The complexity of configuring services for a single application deployment thus increases measurably.

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OPEN: A Fundamental Part of the Network of the Future

Over the past several years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two important trends in the networking industry – the evolution of open standards and open APIs, and the definition of policy as the key interface to the network.

Open is an extremely important word to the future of networking. The simple dictionary definition for open means not closed or locked, allowing access to inside, and freely accessible.

The ultimate networking environment will allow a user the freedom to connect anything together in the cloud and to an existing environment. In order for this vision to happen, companies must work together to create a common language.

OpenStack has garnered a lot of interest in the development community and among our customers.  We at Cisco have been actively helping to shape the discussion around policy.  Working collaboratively with our partners and competitors, we helped create Group-Based Policy (GBP), an intent-driven policy API for OpenStack.

The Group-Based Policy initiative represents a significant innovation in how users conceive, manage, deploy, and scale their applications in OpenStack clouds.  And its now available as a 100% open source solution available to any vendor.  When coupled with Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure, we are able to offer our customers a completely policy-driven network.

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Cisco at AWS re:Invent

As a Gold Sponsor of AWS re:Invent this year, Cisco will be showcasing hybrid cloud solutions that enable you to combine the control, security, and performance of private clouds with the scale, economics, and speed that public clouds can offer.

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Cisco cloud portfolio, including Intercloud Fabric, ApplicationCentric Infrastructure, Cloud Services Routers, and Adaptive Security Appliances, gives you the power of choice and agility. 

Booth Demonstrations:

Learn more about how your business can unleash hybrid IT, and be sure not to miss the following Cisco solution demos at re:Invent 2014. We will be raffling many exciting prizes on all days during the event. You’re automatically entered when you visit the Cisco booth and have your badge scanned.

Intercloud Fabric

Cisco Intercloud Fabric is a highly secure, open, and flexible solution that provides complete freedom in workload placement. It is hypervisor and cloud provider independent, giving you the desired flexibility. All the traffic between your data center and cloud provider as well as traffic inside the public cloud is cryptographically encrypted. Your network and security policies are migrated consistently and transparently over Layer 2 extension. A unified management portal gives you a single interface for workload management and automation across heterogeneous cloud environments.

Get a free 90 days evaluation license for Cisco Intercloud Fabric when you visit Cisco Intercloud Fabric booth.

Application Centric Infrastructure

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), the Cisco software-defined networking (SDN) architecture, brings agility, reduces TCO, automates IT tasks, and accelerates data center application deployments.

It supports a business-relevant application policy language, greater scalability through a distributed enforcement system, and greater network visibility through the integration of physical and virtual environments across networks, servers, storage, security, and services. For more details, check out a special edition of Unleashing IT.

Cloud Services Router

Cisco Cloud Services Router (CSR1000V) sets the standard for enterprise-class networking and security services in a virtual form factor. The CSR1000V is the first platform to deliver multigigabit IPSec performance in Amazon Web Services cloud.

It helps enterprises transparently extend their private networks to the public cloud using the familiar Cisco IOS XE Software CLI and RESTful API, which make sure of easy deployment, monitoring, troubleshooting, and service orchestration.

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Security continues to be a top concern for organizations looking to expand their network into the cloud. It needs to be a transparent extension of local network and data center policies, allowing data to move securely between those environments. To address this need, Cisco has engineered new versions of our market-leading Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance Next-Generation Firewall (ASA NGFW) and FirePOWER NGIPS solutions specifically for AWS environments.

Now you can create dynamically encrypted tunnels between your local or distributed networks and the cloud; apply consistent security for physical, virtual, and cloud environments; make sure local policies are understood and enforced in the cloud; and deploy a single security strategy across traditional, NFV, SDN, ACI, and cloud architectures.

See you in Vegas! 

Stop by Cisco Booth #112 to have 1:1 meetings with Cisco product experts and discuss your use cases. We look forward to seeing you at re:Invent.

 

 

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Introducing the ACI Toolkit

Cisco, in its quest to embrace programmability, has created what is called the ACI Toolkit, which is basically a combination of an NX-OS like CLI and some custom python scripts. Although this toolkit doesn’t allow you to do all configurations within ACI, it can be used to create and show the common configuration and administrative actions that may be used daily. It’s also great for someone who is just starting to migrate to a more programmatic way of doing things, as it’s easily understandable to folks used to common networking commands.

If you’re not familiar with ACI, check out this short video to get a brief understanding of some of the basic constructs used and for a deeper dive go to www.cisco.com/go/aci. These concepts will help you to understand some of the configuration options available with the ACI Toolkit.

ACI - Toolkit

The toolkit’s python libraries are all available on GitHub.com and it’s fairly simple to access. All you need to do is open a terminal window on your computer and enter the following command:

git clone https://github.com/datacenter/Simple-ACI-Toolkit

This command will download the necessary libraries to use the ACI Toolkit syntax. Then to run CLI commands from your APIC type:

python acitoolkitcli.py -l admin -p password -u https://APIC_IP

This will connect you to your APIC so you may run commands that will help you build your application network profiles as shown in the three tier application in the picture above. We can do things such as switching tenants, creating contexts, creating bridge domains, and creating end point groups (EPGs).

Here are some examples of the common commands we might use to create these logical objects.

Switch to a tenant configuration mode:

  • fabric# switchto tenant <tenant-name>
  • fabric-tenant# switchback

Create a Context and don’t enforce contracts on it:

  • fabric-tenant(config)# [no] context <context-name>
  • fabric-tenant(config-ctx)# [no] allow-all

Create a bridge domain and assign it to a context:

  • fabric-tenant(config)# [no] bridgedomain <bd-name>
  • fabric-tenant(config-bd)# [no] context <context-name>

Create a subnet under the bridge domain:

  • fabric-tenant(config-bd)# [no] ip address <ip-address>/<masklength> [name <subnet-name>]

 

As you can see from these examples the syntax will be very familiar to network engineers. We can also use the ACI Toolkit combined with the Python SDK to actually script these things. It makes scripting a little easier because we’re again using simpler syntax. Below is an example of configuring a tenant using Python in conjunction with the toolkit:

from acitoolkit import *

from credentials import *

tenant = Tenant (‘Customer1’)

context = Context (‘customer1-router’, tenant)

bd = BridgeDomain(‘BD1’, tenant)

bd.add_context(context)

bd.add_subnet(‘10.0.0.1/24’)

app = AppProfile(‘web-and-ordering’, tenant)

vlan10 = EPG(‘VLAN10’, app )

vlan10.add_bd(bd)

vlan20 = EPG(‘VLAN20’, app )

vlan20.add_bd(bd)

Currently the ACI Toolkit may not be used to create service graphs, VMM Domains, SPAN, Atomic Counters, and or to see most telemetry and health score information. However, the toolkit still gives us a lot to work with and automate as far as basic configurations go. For more information please see the guide found here (http://datacenter.github.io/acitoolkit/).

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Cisco Live Cancun – Hi-Tech visits Vacation Paradise

Cancun in November is not your ideal spring break destination, but it feels that way as many of us are heading there next week as part of a big contingent to host Cisco Live Cancun 2014. Beyond fun and tourism, lots of excitement awaits Cisco customers on the technology front at Cancun next week.

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Cisco Live Cancun 2014 offers two amazing keynotes, 100s of sessions, and the opportunity to network with many of Cisco’s premier partners among major attractions.

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Rob Lloyd, Cisco President, kick-starts the event with a welcome address keynote Tuesday, Nov 4.  Do not miss the keynote as you will get an insider’s perspective on how Cisco and partner companies will make the Internet of Everything (IOE) a reality, and how today’s emerging technologies will rewrite the rules for the way we connect and collaborate in the future. This year we also feature a Guest keynote on Wednesday, Nov 5, by Jon Steinberg, the CEO of MailOnline America as well as series of solution keynotes on different topics during the course of the event.

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My focus for the rest of this blog will be on Application centric Infrastructure (ACI) and related key activities. I am sure most of you think of ACI as the most happening technology in today’s Data Centers, and therefore, are eagerly waiting for deep-dive ACI breakout sessions. I’d recommend Cisco Distinguished TME Maurizio’s breakout session on “Integration of Hypervisors and L4-7 Services into an ACI Fabric / Operations” as a must-attend. This session provides a technical introduction to how the ACI fabric handles single and multi-hypervisor environments and how the ACI controller provides integration into different Virtual Machine Management domains.

We are also featuring a multi-hour technical seminar on topic “ACI – Policy Driven Datacenter” complemented by a 2-hour breakout “End-to-End ACI by another Cisco Distinguished SE Carlos Pereira.

If you are challenged for time, we also have short duration ACI presentations at the Cisco Theater in the World of Solutions (WOS). The WOS opens on Tuesday, Nov 4 at 8 PM with a welcome reception. You can enjoy your time at the Cisco Theater where we feature non-stop 15 minute presentations on multiple topics including three repeating sessions on ACI. Specifically, there is a session on each of the following topics: Open ACI Eco-System, ACI for Campus and WAN, and ACI and SDN.  This will give you an end-end perspective on ACI architecture and strategy.

As we have seen in other Cisco Live events, demos are a major draw at the WOS. This year’s event will include multiple demos including several ACI solutions with OpenStack, F5 and Citrix eco-system integration, Multi-hypervisor integration featuring VMware and Microsoft, and a number of other SDN solutions for Campus and WAN deployments.

Stop by our Cisco booth at the WOS to engage our subject matter experts for a deep-dive engagement. We can also do architectural white-boarding and walkthroughs to address your specific needs.

If you wondered about entertainment, well I read your mind. To celebrate with you, we are bringing an incredible band Starship at the customer appreciation event, on Thursday, Nov 6. It will be a night to remember.

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We also offer in addition, Walk-in labs, a Cloud day featuring new trends in Cisco Intercloud (Monday, Nov 3), Industry summit on Internet of Everything trends (Tuesday, Nov 4), and a networking opportunity to meet the experts at the Expert Area in the Expo Center.

While at the event, follows us via social media on Twitter, Facebook and other outlets. It can be overwhelming to even a regular Cisco Live attendee as the list of activities is vast.  If you are new, do not feel overwhelmed and I have been there myself. Our Information desk and reception ambassadors can make you feel at home and help you find the agenda activity of your interest throughout the event duration.

Well, I do not want to share all the fun and excitement and take away the spirit of adventure and discovery from you.  Hope to see you at the event and safe travels.

Related Links:

www.ciscolivecancun.com

www.cisco.com/go/aci

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