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Will Software Defined Networking Actually Happen?

As a writer for the IT media, conference speaker, and co-host of the Packet Pushers podcast, I cover emerging networking technologies often. The new tech that comes across my screen ranges in value from “I can’t believe that got funded,” to “Why has no one thought of this before?” and everything in between. As a big idea, software defined networking (SDN) seems to generate about that same range of responses from network engineers. Some networkers think that SDN is an extraordinary technology that’s going to change the world of IT. Others see SDN as yet another in a long string of quirky networking ideas that never gained acceptance. In fact, as I’ve read responses to my SDN-related content over the last few years, I believe that more folks are in that latter camp. SDN is a fad. SDN is a buzzword. SDN will go nowhere useful. SDN will eventually fail to have a universal impact.

I understand the cynicism. After all, for a long time, networking had lapsed in an innovation coma, with nothing especially exciting coming along to really shake things up. Yes, Ethernet’s gotten faster. And that BYOD thing got everyone excited a couple of years ago. But for the most part, we design, build, and operate networks the same way today that we did fifteen or more years ago. The core underlying protocols have grown up or had new knobs and levers added, but generally speaking, if a networker of the past fell out of a time warp and into a design project today, it wouldn’t take them too terribly long to catch up. Read More »

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Cisco ACI at F5 Agility 2014, Copenhagen

At F5 Agility 2014 Copenhagen this month, Applications take the central stage.  The key focus area is Application Delivery Controllers (ADC’s as Gartner calls them) and how they are increasingly becoming more important to modern IT than they used to be, allowing scale, availability, orchestration and provisioning.

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Another key focus area is around the deployment of applications and how joint technology solutions present a tremendously powerful option for F5’s customers.  F5’s partners -- and Cisco is a key partner – are a large part of Agility.  Cisco is at the event to demonstrate how its ACI technology integrates with F5 BIG-IP to improve manageability, strengthen security, and ensure faster and more successful deployments.

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We have quite a few exciting things that we are showcasing at F5 Agility from a Cisco ACI perspective, and in this blog I want to take you on a quick tour of the highlights. As a testimony to our growing momentum with the Cisco ACI-F5 joint solution effort, we have demos, business and technical breakout sessions. The event features F5 CEO John McAdam’s keynote on Tuesday June 17, where he will … discuss how applications are impacting the architecture of the data center and driving IT strategy and alignment to key business drivers.

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Cisco Marketing Manager Ravi Balakrishnan is presenting a business breakout session-4 titled “Unleash the power of Cisco ACI and F5 Synthesis for Accelerated Application deployments,” on Wednesday June 18. This session gives a detailed overview on the benefits of our joint solution and the customer pain points it addresses, so do not miss this. I’d also encourage you to attend Paolo Pio and Nicolas Menant’s technical breakout session-3 on Wednesday June 18, where they will walk you through details of ACI/VMDC joint solution.

We also have an exciting demo at the Cisco ACI kiosk, where we are showing how the Cisco ACI and F5 BIG-IP joint solution works with step-by-step illustrations of configuration, deployment and execution. The demos run Tuesdays and Wednesday at the Exhibit Hall for the entire duration of the day. Stop by our demo kiosk to get a deep-dive architecture type white-boarding or brainstorming type engagement with Cisco subject matter experts on ACI-F5 integrated solution. There are several other solution areas where Cisco and F5 are working together including F5 LTM-Cisco Nexus 7000 integration, F5 LTM-SourceFire NGIPS integration etc, so come by our demo booth to learn more.

To learn more on Cisco and F5  partnership visit the Cisco-F5 Alliance web page.

 

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Cisco ACI at ONS Summit, 2014

ONS summit 2014 starts Monday March 3, and for me it is my first time here. It hardly feels that way. For us in Cisco ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) team, it is busy last few days as we are putting final touches to showcase our exciting ACI solutions, demos and presentations to customers at this premier SDN event. Early in 2014, Cisco ACI expert Mike Cohen has made insightful predictions on what awaits SDN in 2014 – Read his Blog

Mike zeroes in on key Data Center use cases for SDN, starting with Application Deployment Acceleration securely and at scale. No one can disagree with this. L4-L7 services chaining for physical and virtual devices is another killer use-case Mike enlightens the reader with, and at the ONS Solutions Expo this year, we are showing exciting demos to illustrate service automation using dynamic L4-L7 service chaining. Do not miss out our demos at Cisco Booth 302. We are also showing demos focused on Open Stack integration with ACI, another area of growing interest.

I strongly recommend you to attend Mike’s Theater presentation titled, “Role of Policy in SDN” on March 5, 12.40 PM. Learn all the benefits and value-props that a declarative policy based ACI approach brings to network operations that is today crippled by imperative management, lack of scalability and flexibility. You will be excited to discover how our Cisco ACI team is working with Open Stack, Open Daylight initiatives and driving an open eco-system. Mike will also touch on how ACI helps bring visibility across both physical and virtual infrastructures, and how today’s SDN network overlay problems can be overcome. Shashi Kiran posted a fantastic blog on SDN overlays in ACI deployments, last week, and it makes compelling read in the context of Mike’s session.

We wish you a great ONS summit this year and look forward to seeing you at Cisco Booth 302

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Cisco Nexus 9000 Community on GitHub

If you are an open source fan, in particular GitHub, I have good news for you.

Yes, we now have a Cisco Nexus 9000 community on GitHub. While many of the initial contributions were created by Cisco employees, ANYONE is allowed and in fact encouraged to participate and share code. Pull requests are monitored and reviewed by a group of administrators to maintain a level of quality and protect users consuming code as well.

Our GitHub presence comprises two sections:

1. Cisco NX-OS Standalone Mode: Focuses on the Nexus 9000 series of switches running enhanced Nexus OS. These products include NX-API, Puppet, Chef, and scripting capabilities using Python and other shell scripts.

2. Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Mode: Focuses on the Cisco APIC controller and Cisco ACI Object Model. This includes Python, Puppet, and Chef code samples. Additionally, it includes Tenant creation examples, Application profiles which are XML-based configurations that model applications, and southbound device automation scripts, which can be used to integrate 3rd party L4-7 devices.

If you are wondering how you take advantage of this offering, first and foremost I can assure you these code samples can speed up your learning curve with Cisco ACI and Nexus 9000 programmability aspects. Refer my Cisco ACI blog on Cisco Nexus 9000 programmability details.

Related Links

http://developer.cisco.com/web/n9k

www.cisco.com/go/aci

www.cisco.com/go/nexus9000

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Close Peek at Cisco ACI : Network Abstraction, VXLAN, Programmability

Last week was a memorable one for me in more ways than one. First, the unveiling of Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) specifics by John Chambers and his Executive Management team via a public webcast on Nov 6. The announcement was a big success and received broad endorsement and support from a big eco-system of Partners, customers, Press and Analysts.

Second, personally it is special to me, as I became part of the ACI Marketing team two weeks ago, to join life in fast lane. In this blog I want to share my excitement with you, and focus on nuances of ACI that do not overlap with blogs already posted by Shashi Kiran and Harry Petty.

The excitement started with an ACI boot-camp, I attended last week. In 2 days, I got a good overview on the architectural advantages of Cisco ACI and the Datacenter pain-points it addresses. By now, many of you would have learnt that ACI is all about Datacenter agility and automation. Sounds easy, but you may be wondering how to attain this goal. I will give examples from my career as a software engineer in the 90’s, when I worked for Sun Microsystems. Those days, I wrote code for 2 –tier and three-tier enterprise software applications that required global deployment and access by users on the company-wide WAN.

My problem started as I went from the Application Development phase to Test/QA phase. I had to run from pillar to post coordinating my application deployment needs with security, network and database/storage admins to identify the best rollout strategy. There was no collaboration between Dev and Ops teams. The alpha and beta test phases required testing on multiple subnets, across geographies, via multiple protocols like to establish proper SLA/functioning of the application. If my application had to open say, a firewall port to allow a particular traffic type (non http) it was next to impossible to get security ops to agree. Opening non-http ports were considered a security risk. In addition, tight coupling of network constructs like subnets, VLAN, security, network services, IP addresses etc with one another, further impacted the network flexibility and application deployment process. (Refer to Figure-1 below for details)

abstraction

With ACI architecture, tight coupling between network constructs can be eliminated. Figure-1 above, illustrates this approach via Abstraction.

Read More »

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