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Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and the Application Virtual Switch (AVS)

November 11, 2013 at 4:00 am PST

Following our launch of the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), we continue with our series exploring in more detail key aspects of the ACI policy model and partner ecosystem. In Part 1 of my series on ACI, we 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 key benefits for customers end up being vastly greater degrees of automation, process improvement and business agility.

In Part 2, we looked into one example of the difficulty in deploying and managing applications and the level of complexity that must be overcome to truly automate application-oriented tasks: application-specific network services and security policies (as well as a separate post on the partner ecosystem for application services and security solutions that support the ACI model).

In this Part 3, we’ll look at one of the components of the ACI fabric that we also announced, the Application Virtual Switch (AVS). We’ve received a number of follow-on questions in this area that can be addressed here. By way of introduction, I had the chance to sit down with AVS and Nexus 1000V Director of Product Management, Balaji Sivasubramanian to talk about the new AVS and how it relates to both ACI and the Nexus 1000V virtual switch (Balaji also had a related post on AVS):

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Introducing Cisco Application Virtual Switch – Extending Virtual Networking to Applications

November 7, 2013 at 7:00 am PST

Cisco has been the leader in virtual networking since the introduction of Nexus 1000V virtual switch more than 5 years ago.  Now it is time to make the virtual network more application aware.  With the introduction of the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), we are pleased to introduce the Application Virtual Switch (AVS), the virtual network edge of the Cisco ACI -enabled network that includes the Nexus 9000 series of switches.

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 the purpose-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

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.

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