Yesterday, Nov 6, Cisco unveiled details of the Application Centric Infrastructure with an ecosystem of partners that share our common view -- IT is in need of a transformation to create the Application Economy. Some key technology leaders spoke about the application lifecycle impact of an open and centralized policy model for complete infrastructure automation, including configuration, operation, monitoring, and optimization. I’d like to recap a few of those comments here today.
During the ACI announcement, Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President in Microsoft’s Windows Server and System Center Group (WSSC), said that
virtualization has unshackled applications from the hardware in the past. But now with ACI we can do much more.So first of all, we can have the applications be able to describe their needs for more rapid provisioning. So with the view we can get across physical and virtual, we can see what is happening with the application, we can optimize the infrastructure for the application, and do more rapid troubleshooting.
…the integration with Microsoft cloud OS and UCS is really remarkable. Literally you have a common way to automate everything from the application, down to the operating system, down to all of the hardware level components. But ACI gives us the ability to do some really remarkable things..
Imagine how Exchange, Sharepoint and Linc -- being able to be shipped with ACI policies that now describe out how exactly the network should be configured, how it should be optimized, and automatically be provisioned across physical and virtual in a holistic way. That’s the kind of value we are going to be able to deliver together.
“…These new solutions are designed to improve business agility and reduce cost by driving infrastructure automation in support of core business processes and applications. This next-generation infrastructure will deliver increased application performance, resource pooling, visibility, automation and mobility through:
· Converged ACI stacks that include fully integrated versions of Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server, Exchange and SharePoint”
I introduced the IT challenge posed by apps that behave differently in my earlier ACI post so now I want to point out that the new converged ACI stacks will fully integrate the operating system, orchestration, applications, server and network infrastructure to provide an enterprise customer with the application agility to rapidly deploy Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint, scale and upgrade them, and also to decommission them.
Many next generation distributed cloud applications are being written on open source platforms. For a view on what ACI means to a leading open source cloud platform, OpenStack, let me quote what Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO of Red Hat, said at the launch:
…there’s a whole set of functionality that is required to run a portfolio of true production applications and be able to run a diverse set of applications and to make sure that you can actually guarantee the performance levels that you need. The great thing about ACI is it provides that really differentiated functionality that enterprises need, even on open platforms, but at the same time, it does it with open standards, open APIs, and an open ecosystem so that customers get the benefit without being locked in and maintain the flexibility they are looking for going forward.
For more on Openstack and ACI, see this video – Application Policy and OpenStack – which explains how the DevOps community can extend agile processes to network infrastructure.
In the ACI architecture, applications drive networking behavior, not the other way around. Pre-defined application requirements and descriptions (“policy templates”) automate the provisioning of the network – virtual and physical, application services, security policies, tenant subnets and workload placement. Automating the provisioning of the complete application network reduces IT costs, reduces errors, accelerates deployment and makes the business more agile.
Application Virtual Switches are thepurpose-built, hypervisor-resident virtual network edge switches designed for the ACI fabric. They provide consistent virtual networking across multiple hypervisors to simplify network operations and provide consistency with the physical infrastructure.
AVS is robustly integrated into the ACI architecture and supports Application Network Profile (ANP) enforcement at the virtual host layer consistent with the Nexus 9000 series physical switches.
AVS is managed centrally along with rest of the ACI fabric components through the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) and provides advanced telemetry features to allow end-to-end visibility and troubleshooting capabilities across both virtual and physical devices, .
AVS enables optimal traffic steering between virtual and physical layers of the fabric to maximize performance and resource utilization. For example, if the web and app tier are located on the same host, AVS can route traffic or apply security policies between these end point groups within the hypervisor itself. On the other hand, if the database is a bare metal workload that is attached to the physical Nexus 9000, the application policy is consistently applied at the physical Nexus 9000 top of rack switches instead.
Application Centric Infrastructure with Application Virtual Switch
ACI eliminates the operational complexity of differences in managing virtualized environments vs. bare metal or legacy environments. It provides a consistent operational model across both AVS and Nexus 9000 respectively. ACI also allows for flexibility of placement of application workloads based on application requirements. Watch this short video.
What ACI has done is backed off from all the network complexity in trying to build more and more intelligence directly in the fabric. Building the network to be externally automated can centralize the intelligence and control, while simplifying the design and operations of the fabric greatly (also a goal of SDN, by the way). But what’s really new about ACI is that the programmability and orchestration of the infrastructure (how it takes the orders) is now done in a business-relevant policy language/model.
In a pre-launch post, I looked at why application policies were an ideal model to build infrastructure automation around, and how application policies are better suited to mirror business objectives and requirements than traditional IT infrastructure policies. The fact is that applications are the brains of the business and best reflect the activity and dynamic requirements of the business. Application policies are inherently business-relevant. The key benefits for customers end up being vastly greater degrees of automation, process improvement and business agility. [Note: It will be left as an exercise for the reader to prove that OpenFlow, e.g., is not a business-oriented policy language.]
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.
Applications have become the lifeblood of our economy. They are how business is done; how partners and suppliers interact; how employees connect; how consumers share, learn and buy. Every business is becoming an applications business. Every industry is becoming an application-centric industry, and the business model shift is only accelerating. We all truly live in an application economy now.
And think about this: by 2020 there will be fifty billion things connected to the Internet. New and valuable connections will be formed between those things and people, processes and data, creating the next wave of the Internet -- the Internet of Everything. Most of us will experience the value of the Internet of Everything through applications. This shift to an application economy is perhaps the biggest IT market transition of all.
Business leaders are struggling with the pace of change. And Chief Information Officers (CIOs) feel the pressure more than most. The complexity of information technology (IT) is slowing down their ability to enter new markets, to deliver new products and services, to manage risk and security threats, and to drive more efficiency into their organizations.