On July 18th, Cisco IT turned on the first deployment of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) fabric at its engineering data center in San Jose. By using ACI fabric to simplify and flatten the data center network, we can reduce network operating costs as much as 55 percent and incident management roughly 20 percent. Take a peek at the ACI fabric inside our engineering data center: Read More »
I am Soni Jiandani, SVP of Marketing for Cisco’s Insieme Business Unit. Together with a team of veteran leaders and engineers, we continue to disrupt markets to drive industry transformation. Our latest disruption is focused on leapfrogging Software Defined Networks (SDN) with a holistic approach to the future of networking: Application Centric Infrastructure, or ACI for short.
My blog is timed with announcing the shipment of ACI – namely the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) with ACI mode for the Nexus 9000. But this is not a corporate sales blog. My intent is to foster an open discussion about the future of the networking industry.
ACI: A key enabler to driving fast IT
We have spent the past few years to gather the best and the brightest engineering minds focused on one simple goal: to design an infrastructure for our customers that meets the needs of applications today and in the future. These applications require dynamic, agile, fast, secure, scalable, reliable infrastructure that is automated as a native, baseline requirement.
Cisco has a broad base of data center customers with a diverse set of requirements and we meet their needs with Nexus -- the most comprehensive switching portfolio in the industry. This week, we are making announcements for both the Nexus 9000 series and the Nexus 3000 series that provide design and deployment flexibility for our commercial, enterprise, service provider, as well as cloud customers. Key points of the announcement include:
- ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) is shipping this month;
- Additional linecard and chassis options provide customer choice and flexibility;
- 100G linecards for the Nexus 9500 will be available in Q4CY14 and will offer the highest density in the industry; and
- New starter kits and bundles help customers ease transitions.
The Nexus 9000 Series
ACI is shipping this month
The Nexus 9000 series can operate in standard NX-OS mode or in ACI mode. In either case the Nexus 9000 portfolio delivers the value of the “5 P’s” of Power efficiency, Price, Port density, Performance, and Programmability. NX-OS mode provides customers with the value of the NX-OS operating system used by tens of thousands of customers in data centers around the world. ACI mode adds to NX-OS capabilities by providing an application driven policy model, integration of hardware and software, and centralized visibility, among other things. ACI requires a controller and switch software. Both are shipping this month. It is important to note that the pricing for this solution is simple and predictable. There is a perpetual license for each leaf switch. Other pricing approaches in the industry are monthly and are based on varying elements like number of VM’s. Comparing the two approaches is somewhat like comparing a cell phone bill that is either flat rate or usage based. Personally, I like the simplicity and predictability of flat rate. See The Future of Networking, as well as SDN and Beyond for additional details on new ACI announcements and how they can take you beyond SDN.
Additional linecard and chassis options underscore flexibility
We’ll consider how flexibility is delivered for both modular and fixed platforms. For modular switching, the Nexus 9500 modular chassis family offers different line card options that can be mixed in the same chassis and allow customers to “dial up” or “dial down” their design based upon the price, performance, feature set, and scale they want to achieve. There are basically 3 different ‘flavors’, all of which are now shipping:
- The Nexus 9500 X9400 set of 1/10G and 40G line cards are based on merchant silicon and provide industry-leading price and performance compared to other merchant silicon switches. These provide a very cost effective solution ideal for traditional modular data center designs.
- The Nexus 9500 X9500 set of 1/10G and 40G line cards are sometimes referred to as “merchant plus” because they have custom Cisco ASICs, in addition to merchant silicon, and are ideal for customers that need performance together with additional buffering and VXLAN routing capabilities. The X9500 line cards can be used in future ACI designs as well.
- The Nexus 9500 X9600 set of 40G line cards provide performance without compromise even for small packet sizes.
The Nexus 9300 series offers ACI capabilities (ala the X9500 linecards in item 2 above) in a fixed form factor. For customers interested in a merchant only fixed form factor, we offer the Nexus 3000 family. This week, we announced the new Nexus 3164, which provides 64 ports of 40G and is a great solution for 40G access or space constrained aggregation.
We are also announcing 100G linecards that we believe will deliver industry leading port density of up to 128 ports of 100G in a single chassis. 100G for both the X9400 and X9600 series will be available for the Nexus 9500 in Q4CY14. Cisco will offer an 8 port 100G X9400 line card and a 12 port 100G X9600 line card.
New starter kits and bundles ease transitions
There are numerous packages available to ease transitions -- from 1G to 10G, 10G to 40G, or from traditional networks to ACI. There are 2 bundles I want to quickly call out. The first provides a smooth transition for customers with older End of Row Catalyst 6500’s in their data centers. It occupies the same rack space and uses the same cabling as they currently have, but provides 10X the performance. The second is basically an ACI starter kit, providing the APIC, spine switches and leaf switches, even optical cables – everything required to set up and get started with an ACI pod.
In summary, Cisco is continuing its rapid pace of innovation and execution around ACI and data center switching overall. Ultimately, this means customers gain choice, flexibility and true innovation to support their business needs.
ACI goes beyond SDN to help customers deliver business outcomes and not just network device programmability. That’s part of the reason over 175 customers signed up to trial the APIC during the hardware beta. Now Cisco ACI will start shipping to Data Centers worldwide on July 31! (See Soni’s blog)
From when we first announced the Vision for an Application Centric Infrastructure at Cisco Live Orlando in 2013, it’s been extremely exciting to see customers and ecosystem partners support this new operational model for centrally configuring, automating and operating network and security infrastructure.
The application model for abstracting network infrastructure requirements and policies really does address the operational needs of the infrastructure and application teams. That was by design, as Insieme’s engineering team worked with the leading cloud infrastructure customers of the world and our Cisco IT organization to incorporate their operational and application needs. In fact, IDC published a powerful report to confirm the ACI related 3 year OpEx savings forecast at Cisco’s IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS), one of the largest data center environments in the world. Read the IDC Business Value Brief on Cisco ACI to learn more.
With the production APIC, customers can now begin running production applications on ACI. For insights into why our customers are deploying ACI, we spoke with the leaders of two world-class IT companies that are aggressively rolling out ACI within their own corporate IT.
Symantec IT is an early adopter of ACI and Sean Doherty (VP of Alliances Offerings, Symantec) spoke recently with Shashi Kiran (Senior Director, Cisco) about automating their IT infrastructure with ACI. About the Symantec IT environment, Sean said, “Some applications have been through the Physical to Virtual cycle and others are placed on clouds. We are looking to move those into a more modern agile environment. The ACI is providing the infrastructure to build out that new environment…”. Sean added that ACI helps in significantly accelerating the detection and remediation of security issues with business critical applications. Check out this YouTube video interview for the full story.
Representing another user adopting ACI, NetApp’s CTO Jay Kidd spoke recently about the ACI project in their global development lab. He said this is a large scale deployment covering 2300 racks of equipment wired end-to-end with 40G capacity with Nexus 9000. Talking about the lab, Jay stated, “One of the beauties of the (Nexus) 9K is the ability to gracefully transition and combine 10Gig and 40Gig together in the same infrastructure. Then with ACI, being able to build up these profiles for the applications or the test scenarios for those applications, store them, provision them dynamically. Anything we can do to make it easier for our developers to use this DevOps private cloud, we think will speed up the time to market and ACI is big part of that”. The Lab can spin up thousands of Virtual Machines per hour with an aggregate capacity of running well in excess of a million VMs at a given time. You can listen to Jay’s eloquent explanation on YouTube here.
Our Cisco sales teams have a great way to help Cisco customers to begin their own ACI deployments with the new ACI Starter Bundles. An ACI Starter Bundle (Fig 1) has everything you need to create an ACI POD including a resilient cluster of three APICs, two fixed or modular spine switches, eight 40G optics, and two or four leaf switches depending on which of the four bundles are selected.
Figure 1 ACI Starter Bundles include an APIC Cluster with 3 APICs and 8 40G AOC optics
- #1 Two Fixed Spine Switches, Four Leaf Switches with 192 Ports
- #2 Two Fixed Spine Switches, Four Leaf Switches with 384 Ports
- #3 Two Modular Spine Switches, Two Leaf Switches with 96 Ports
- #4 Two Modular Spine Switches, Two Leaf Switches with 192 Ports
Cisco customers can use ACI Starter Bundles 1 or 2 as policy appliance for flexible/ granular network virtualization and secure isolation in conjunction with their existing base of Nexus 2000 to Nexus 7000 (Fig. 2)
Figure 2 ACI Starter Bundles #1 or #2
ACI Starter Bundles #1 or #2 can also be used to scale out a UCS converged infrastructure solution such NetApp FlexPod and VCE VBlock. (Fig. 3)
Figure 3 Scale out UCS Converged Infrastructure Solutions
ACI Starter Bundles #3 or #4 can be used as a starting point to scale out private clouds with secure multi-tenancy since they are based upon the more expandable modular chassis. (Fig. 4)
When used in conjunction with the just released Application Virtual Switch, AVS, the APIC provides centralized policy based control and automation for any application composed of any number of server tiers containing any number of virtual or physical servers. These ACI starter bundles enable customers to begin ACI deployments for testing or production operations. The simple fixed price licensing for a set of leaf ports, 48 or 96, means there is no penalty for running lots of VMs per server vs. bare metal servers. (Fig 5) Customers can predict the cost of running their software defined network infrastructure.
Figure 5 No per VM Tax with ACI licensing
Contact your Cisco account manager to learn how the cost of an ACI POD is less than the cost of those dedicated x86 hardware gateways required with leading pure software overlay approaches. ACI delivers more scale, security, and performance at a fixed predictable cost with documented TCO benefits.
Many of our ecosystem partners announced at Cisco Live that they would be shipping their ACI Device Packages when Cisco’s APIC enters FCS. The following joint solutions have passed rigorous interoperability testing conducted jointly by the vendor’s and Cisco’s engineering teams in our own ACI testing lab. These partners demonstrate ACI’s open ecosystem for service integration, investment protection for existing ADC networks, and the benefits of a centralized control point for L2-L3 network and L4-L7 service policy coordination and automation.
- Cisco ASA security and Cisco ACI solution: Customers can now deploy Cisco ACI with Cisco ASA and its ACI Device Package to provide automated, policy-based security provisioning, management, and security policy updates, for firewall, intrusion prevention, and more.
- Citrix NetScaler and Cisco ACI joint solution: Customers can use the APIC to coordinate the Citrix NetScaler’s ADC unique application insights for optimized service delivery with ACI’s network automation and obtain end-to-end telemetry and visibility for service-aware applications and tenants.
- Embrane and Cisco ACI joint solution: With the APIC and Embrane’s ACI Device Package, ESM automates the deployment and lifecycle management of Embrane’s network virtual services as well as those from Cisco ASA, Sourcefire, and Citrix.
- F5 Synthesis and Cisco ACI joint solution: Customers can accelerate application deployment by automating insertion of SSL offload and L4-L7 SLB services using F5’s ACI Device Package and the Cisco APIC.
We are publishing interviews with the analysts, the leading practitioners that are hands on with ACI in August in an exciting ACI special edition of Unleashing IT. I’ll share the link for you here in a few weeks.
Today, we had some great news to share on Data Center and Cloud Networks. The Cisco ACI solution portfolio was orderable on July 1 and starts shipping July 31. This includes the four ACI starter bundles detailed above. For details on today’s exciting new Nexus switches announcement, please visit this blog -- Nexus Flexibility Eases Transitions.
Links for more information
We embarked upon this episode with an agenda. Take a sample of the building momentum around Cisco ACI. The growing benefits, details and momentum behind the Application Centric Infrastructure. First announced in November 2013 and just before we start shipping.
In my estimation, we saw five areas worth highlighting from Cisco Live:
- Cisco is ready to ship ACI
- Partnerships and joint use-cases are resonating with customers
- Strong integrations with APIC through OpFlex
- Partners see strong customer demand
- Partner are getting ready to ship ACI-based solutions
Great Q&A with Soni Jiandani from Network World’s John Dix: Cisco describes its SDN Vision She nails Cisco’s ACI vs. SDN messaging and any confusion you may still have with the positionoing. She also puts good context around the OpFlex protocol.
Our show is a great sneak peak for this summer’s blockbuster release of ACI Fabric Mode and the APIC Controller. If you need to catch up. Be sure and review the launch details we covered for ACI in November 2013: TWTV136: Inside the Application Centric Infrastructure
The key elements for ACI in that episode were:
- Application Awareness -- top down control based on what was important
- A new, tighter coupling between software and hardware
- Recognition that virtualization on the compute side had not been accompanied by requisite innovation on the network wide -- potential for wasted opportunity.
- East West traffic was growing gangbusters in the data center and needed assisted.
We walk through the following components of the offering:
- APIC -- Centralized cluster controller
- Northbound API for standardized communication and control from Applications that need to interact with the Fabric
- Southbound API for third party network services integration
- Profiles -- Application Network Profiles -- the logical representation of all components of the application and its interdependencies on the application fabric
- ACI Fabric -- new stateless hardware within the Nexus portfolio, 9000 series
So what was still missing?
- APIC GUI -- How would we interact?
- Migration plan -- Clarity on how to leverage within existing networks
- Southbound interface -- more details on network control
- Partner Plans -- who would support?
And that formed much of what we wanted to cover for today’s show -- filling in the blanks on the momentum…just before the big release this summer.
Ronak Desai, Director of Software Development walked Jimmy Ray through the new APIC interface.
I got a chance to ask Mike Cohen about OpFlex and where it fits.
And finally, Jimmy Ray weighed in with his view on partner support and the growth we are seeing for the Eco-System.
Please to enjoy!