This is an exciting time in the history of datacenter infrastructure. We are witnessing the collision of two major trends: the maturation of open source software and the redefinition of infrastructure policy.
The trend towards open source is self-evident. Platforms such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight are gaining huge developer mindshare as well as support and investment from major vendors. Even some newer technologies like Docker, which employs linux kernel containers, and Ceph, a software-based storage solution, offer promising paths in open source. Given the fundamental requirements of interoperability in architecturally diverse infrastructure environments, its no surprise that open source is gaining momentum.
The second trend around policy is a bit earlier in its evolution but equally disruptive. Today, there is a huge disconnect between how application developers think about their requirements and the languages and tools through which they are communicated to the infrastructure itself. For example, just to handle networking, a simple three tier app must be deconstructed into an array of VLANs, ACLs, and routes spread across a number of devices. Storage and compute present similar challenges as well. To simplify this interaction and create more scalable systems, we need to actually rethink how resources are requested and distributed between different components. This really boils down to shifting the abstraction model away from configuring individual devices to focus on separately capturing user intent, operational, infrastructure, and compliance requirements.
At Cisco, we’ve really embraced both of these trends. We are active contributors to over 100 open source projects and were founding members of OpenStack Neutron and OpenDaylight. We’ve also made open source a successful business practice by incorporating and integrating popular projects with our products. In parallel, Cisco has accumulated a lot of experience in describing policy through the work we’ve done with Cisco Unified Computing (UCS) and most recently with Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI).
Building on this foundation, we see a unique opportunity to collaborate with the open source community to deliver a vision for policy-driven infrastructure. This will enhance the usability, scale, and interoperability of open source software and benefit the entire infrastructure ecosystem.
This vision includes two initiatives in the open source community:
Group-Based Policy: An information model designed to express applications’ resource requirements from the network through a hardware-independent, declarative language and leave a simple control and dataplane in place. This approach replaces traditional networking constructs like VLANs with new primitives such as “groups”, which model tiers or components of an application, and “contracts” describing relationships between them. Group-Based Policy will be available in the context of OpenStack Neutron as well as OpenDaylight through a plug in model that can support any software or hardware infrastructure.
OpFlex: A distributed framework of intelligent agents within each networking device designed to resolve policies. These agents would translate an abstract, hardware-independent policy taken from a logically central repository into device-specific features and capabilities.
Let’s look a bit more closely at each of these initiatives.
The programming of network resources is not just a trend, but also a way to future-proof IT and business needs.
This blog series examines how infrastructure programmability is providing a faster time to competitive advantage and highlights the differences between programmable infrastructure and traditional infrastructure, and what programmability means for your entire IT infrastructure.
To read the first post in this series that defines infrastructure programmability, click here. To read the third post in this series that discusses how IT leaders can embrace this change, click here.
By the end of this year, the number of mobile connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and U.S. businesses alone will spend more than $13 billion on cloud computing and managed hosting services. In addition, the growing convergence of mobile, cloud and the network is demanding that organizations implement the right combination of strategies, processes, and infrastructure.
As the industry is changing faster than we can imagine, we are shaping the future with a new model for IT. Today’s infrastructure must be simple, smart, and secure.
A piecemeal approach to leveraging new technology—in the midst of a fast-paced market—could leave businesses disaggregated and left on the sidelines by faster competitors.
Unleash Fast IT, an operating model that delivers simplification and orchestration through automated, agile, and programmable infrastructures. The concept of Fast IT embodies IT being agile enough to operate at the speed of business. This means that in order for your organization to be successful in an increasingly complex world you must have an infrastructure that runs at a speed and scale never before seen.
There are three core principles for Fast IT: simplicity, intelligence and security. In some ways, this model is markedly different from the current IT model, which can be highly complex and closed.
In November last year, I introduced via my blog, the powerful capabilities of the ACI Fabric and the unique hardware based VXLAN implementation in Cisco Nexus 9000 Series switching platform. In this blog, I am happy to present a powerful Video based demonstration of the ACI Fabric. The demo presents a single view of an entire spine-leaf fabric based deployment, and how the fabric allows full integration and full normalization of any encapsulation be it vlan or vxlan, with full bridging/routing capabilities across all of these including bare-metal servers. The demo also shows how data can jump in and out of physical/virtual environment within the Fabric, and how the Fabric treats everything with a consistent policy based approach to deploying apps on top of ACI. Check out the demo here:
The times keep changing: first there were devices, then there were apps, and today, if you don’t develop a strategy for enterprise mobility and get ahead of the trend, the mobile wave will leave you behind. A year ago, after talking with many of our customers, partners, and our own technical sales teams, we realized that IT organizations were facing enormous challenges when making the transition from simple BYOD to adopting an enterprise mobility strategy across the business. As is typical during such tremendous market transitions like mobility, IT organizations were spending a lot of time figuring out how to line up the pieces required to support a mobile workforce, sorting through and weighing the many technology and vendor choices.
Acxiom is a well-known Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company providing data analytics and data processing solutions to Fortune 100 companies for running and analyzing their marketing campaigns. Recently Cisco spoke to Acxiom’s senior managers Kamal Kharrat, and Chuck Crane, about Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy and how it helps them address their Data Center challenges. In this blog, I will present a brief summary of our discussions. Acxiom is experiencing exponential growth in its customer base, running millions of transactions every week in their hybrid-cloud based data centers. But this growth has brought in its wake several challenges. Acxiom stores confidential, compliance driven data in their private data center infrastructure, and is currently facing elastic scalability problems. Second, they want to transition from a high CAPEX, fixed infrastructure utilization model towards a dynamic model, in which workloads can be seamlessly moved across the private and public infrastructures. Besides, Axciom has a heteregenous mix of L4-L7 vendor devices, multi-hypervisor and security systems and has a pressing need for an open, policy based extensible foundation for their AOS SAAS to bring these services together.
Acxiom is excited to consider Cisco ACI as the best solution to address these problems and are looking to automate their compute, storage and security infrastructure provisioning and achieve the elasticity requirements in their private cloud similar to what they are achieving in the public cloud. Also, Acxiom plans to move the workloads in and out of compute and storage platforms while changing the security zones on-demand increasing the resource utilization to upwards of 80%. Mr. Chuck Crane is quick to point out that Acxiom makes more than 20,000 network and security configuration changes every year and feels the only way to keep up with the growing customer base is to eliminate the labor intensive man-hours and costs that go with them, and hopes to achieve significant reduction in these inefficient processes via automation. He says ACI is the key to arm the network operations to automate the operations and ultimately attain the competitive advantage of agile IT resulting in faster time to market and capitalizing new revenue opportunities.
Today, depending on the solution, it takes about 7 days to 3 weeks for a full provisioning of the resources and the goal is to bring the provisioning time down to hours. With ACI, they say, Acxiom aims to achieve 24-hour turnaround in end-end infrastructure provisioning for application deployments Acxiom will realize a significant reduction in OPEX with this automation.
Last, let us look at how ACI’s Openness helps Acxiom’s data center operations. When looking at repatriating an application (Figure 2) into a private data center, one of the critical challenges is the ability to port the same tools and automation from the public to the private cloud and the network infrastructure is a critical layer in realizing this goal. The open standards based ACI helps Acxiom to use their existing tools and expertise in working across public and private clouds in building infrastructure quickly and achieving the business goals of faster time to market resulting in increased revenue potential.
In conclusion, the Acxiom executives assert that ACI allows their private datacenters to integrate best of breed technologies with their existing infrastructure and achieve full automation seamlessly using service stitching from compute through load balancing through the security platforms -- all from a single point of control. This helps Acxiom to optimize costs, reduce turnaround times and at the same time work seamlessly across private and public clouds.