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ACI for Splunk Enterprise: Enabling comprehensive application health

On January 13th, 2015, Cisco will celebrate the 1-year anniversary of its launch of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), a ground breaking SDN architecture.  It will include a public webcast with the participation of early ACI adopters and our ecosystems partners.  One of these inaugural partners was Splunk,  the Operational Intelligence company for all types of IT organizations.  At the webcast, Splunk and other partners will describe  a range of new solutions with ACI, that dramatically simplify Data Center operations. Here is a preview of Splunk’s solution.

A large portion of the data center operational effort is consumed in managing application health.  This includes:

  • Ensuring the end-user experience for distributed users with different types of performance needs
  • Discovering the physical and virtual resources associated with applications and the user experience
  • Detailed monitoring of resources and events in the infrastructure that affect application performance

These activities have become more complex as applications have become distributed, interconnected or cloud based because they cause applications to move, scale and evolve rapidly.

Splunk Enterprise can monitor and analyze millions of infrastructure events through logs and agents, in real-time. This can provide rapid visibility and isolation of infrastructure that affect application performance. Cisco has been collaborating with Splunk to combine the application visibility of Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure with operational analytics of Splunk Enterprise. The result is “Cisco ACI for Splunk Enterprise” a highly scalable application that is orderable immediately at Splunk.com.

ACI and Splunk have enabled a comprehensive view of application health with the ability to monitor the entire end-to-end environment in real time and proactively prevent issues from impacting end users.

ACI provides visibility to application health from the network perspective by tracking all network dependencies and events that impact application performance and security. Splunk complements Cisco ACI by bringing actionable intelligence across the entire data center infrastructure including storage, compute, virtualization endpoints, as well as application tiers and components provided by ACI. Splunk’s analytical and visualization tools provide real-time insights to data center teams to optimize performance and ensure security policies in a highly dynamic environment.

How does it work

Cisco ACI exposes a wealth of networking data previously inaccessible to Splunk. The Cisco ACI app for Splunk Enterprise gathers data from APIC (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller) including APIC network events, health scores and inventory of logical constructs (e.g. tenants, application profiles, end point groups) and physical constructs ( e.g spines, leafs, VMs).

SplunkACI_CentralizedApplicationHeath

This data is used to:

  1. Reduce resolution time with accelerated root-cause analysis
  • Splunk enables users to reduce the mean time to investigate/resolve problems up to 70%
  • Centralized management of operational health of ACI environment & underlying entities in real-time
  • Detect issues or anomalies in performance or response times and proactively resolve
  • For multiple tenants, quickly navigate to the source of problems using flexible per-role views, including 1) Help Desk view, 2) Tenant View and 3) Fabric view
  1. Provide Central Proactive Monitoring of Cisco ACI
  • Get real-time proactive notification of network traffic and device faults with location, affected objects.
  • Track trends and anticipate application impact
  1. Operational Analytics across the entire virtual and physical infrastructure
  • Optimize network capacity and prevent service deterioration with detailed visibility into fabric path degradation.
  • Meet compliance/security with user analytics, including authentication tracking reports.
  • Correlate data from Cisco ACI with data from storage resources, operating systems, applications, security devices, endpoint and more for enterprise-wide visibility.
  • Trace and monitor transactions through all tiers of a distributed application architecture
  • Gives application managers a perspective on the underlying Cisco ACI infrastructure’s effect on applications without being directly involved in ACI Ops.
  • Monitor key operational metrics such as end-to-end response times to ensure SLAs met.

As an example, a Fortune 100 company is using Splunk with ACI:

  • for operational visibility for their ACI cluster with ability to quickly identify faults and troublesome tenants and determine corrective action.
  • to provide centralized visibility as ACI expands across multiple data centers and for proactive monitoring to establish baselines and triggered alerts when key thresholds exceeded.

This approach to Application Health is part of the broader discipline of Application Performance Management (APM). According to Gartner, “By 2018, 60% of APM deployments will use and integrate data extracted directly from log  files alongside wire data and agent-derived data as a foundation for reporting, prediction, and analysis, up from less than 5% today.”  With our collaboration, ACI for Splunk Enterprise provides important new capabilities for  Application Performance Management.

Learn more about Cisco ACI for Splunk Enterprise here.  And register for Cisco’s webcast on January 13th.

 

 

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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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Security for an Application-Centric World

October 1, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

Organizations are migrating to the cloud because it dramatically reduces IT costs as we make much more efficient use of resources (either ours or by leveraging some cloud provider’s resources at optimal times). When done right, cloud also increases business agility because applications and new capacity can be spun up quickly on demand (on-premises or off), network and services configurations can be updated automatically to suit the changing needs of the applications, and, with enough bacon, unicorns can fly and the IT staff can get home at a reasonable hour.

Whenever you ask a CIO-type at any of these organizations what’s holding them back from all this cloud goodness, though, more often than not the answer has something to do with security: “Don’t trust the cloud…”, “Don’t trust the other guy in the cloud…”, “Cloud’s not compliant…”.  You have to be something of a control freak to be a CIO/CISO these days, and, well, isn’t “cloud” all about giving up some control, after all (in return for efficiency and agility)?

Even if you overcome your control issues and you find a cloud you can trust (even if it’s your own private cloud – we can take baby steps here…), if we are going to achieve our instant on-demand application deployment, network provisioning and cost-efficient workload placement process, it turns out all the security stuff can throw another obstacle in our way. Cloud security isn’t like old-fashioned data center security where you could just put a huge firewall in front of the data center and call it good. For secure multi-tenancy and a secure cloud overall, virtually every workload (or “every virtual workload”?) needs to be secured from every other (except for the exceptions we want to make). Some folks call this “microsegmentation”, a fancy word for an old concept, but, a fundamental requirement that cloud deployments need to address. (Spoiler alert: ACI does this very well.) Read More »

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Software Defined Networking, Cisco Style

As new technologies emerge and replace traditional ones, IT teams are discovering that building an infrastructure around new functionality is advantageous in a slew of ways.

One such disruptive technology gaining ground is software defined networking, or SDN.

clouds

The premise of SDN is to allow the user to determine how the network behaves by decoupling the control plane from the data plane. Control planes are essentially the “data directors,” instructing the data plane on where to transfer packets of data. The data plane then establishes the best path and carries the data to its destination. By separating these two functions, the user can program the open-source network to act in accordance with business requirements—using a central management interface in a vendor-neutral manner.

Not only has Cisco joined the SDN approach, they’ve gone beyond the basics of SDN to include an application-driven infrastructure. It’s called, appropriately, Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure, or Cisco ACI.

Cisco ACI combines hardware, policy-based control systems, and software to deliver management automation, programmatic policy, and dynamic workloads. It’s built around the application, not the network.

What’s the advantage? Doing so enables greater support for scalability, a more dynamic network, and centrally-defined portable policies—all of which lend to faster application provisioning and a more efficient environment.

While many SDN solutions are focused solely on software and virtualization, the reality is that hardware still exists and is an integral part of the network. Cisco ACI leverages existing hardware—because no matter how de-emphasized it may become, the physical infrastructure remains important.

As Cisco senior vice president of marketing Soni Jiandani tells Unleashing IT, “ACI is SDN plus a whole lot more. Other SDN models stop at the network. ACI extends the promise of SDN—namely agility and automation—to the applications themselves. Through a policy-driven model, the network can cater to the needs of each application, with security, network segmentation, and automation at scale. And it can do so across physical and virtual environments, with a single pane of management.”

And Shashi Kiran, senior director of market management at Cisco, shares his views on Cisco ACI in this blog.

As businesses are becoming more dependent on applications, they must stay competitive and relevant by considering updating their infrastructure to speak directly to the needs of the application. Learn more in this edition of Unleashing IT, a special release focused on Cisco ACI -- produced by Cisco and Intel® - and see how early adopters are realizing the benefits it brings to the table.

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How Is Cisco IT Benefiting from Application Centric Infrastructure?

Cisco IT has already started reaping the benefits of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) from our early internal deployments. Cost savings rank high, in decreased operating expenditures through automation enabled by ACI and the sharp reduction of manual processes that introduce human errors and operational risk.   Read More »

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