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Cisco APIC Makes Best of Interop 2015 Finalist

BOI_2015_finalist1

With Interop less than three weeks away, we are excited to learn that Cisco APIC, the SDN controller for our Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) fabric, has been selected as Best of Interop 2015 Finalists  in Software Defined Networking (SDN) category. As you may recall, when we announced ACI back in Nov 2013, we mentioned that APIC would be the software controller for the application-centric policy model, and would be available in Q3, CY 2014. In a short span of less than a year, APIC has gained broad industry adoption with more than 300 Customers either deploying or in production already.

Interop Vegas, is a great venue to unveil more aspects of the ACI fabric, the policy model, and key APIC features. If you aren’t going to be in Las Vegas the last week of April, now may be the time to start making plans as we gear up for some exciting ACI news and events, and  hopefully bringing home this Best of Interop award.

But wait, there’s more…

If you are not familiar with ACI or APIC yet, let me take the opportunity to tell you about APIC and why I think it is a finalist for the Best of Interop.

The Cisco APIC is the unified point of automation and management for the ACI fabric and health monitoring. The Cisco APIC is built with open APIs and an open application-centric policy model designed to simplify the provisioning, monitoring, and management of applications across the data center. Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is a fabric architecture with centralized automation and policy-driven application profiles designed to make the infrastructure highly responsive to the needs of applications, while significantly simplifying the data center and cloud operational model.

APICGraphic

The Cisco APIC is built on the SDN principles of an extensible/programmable centralized controller, standardized north-bound API’s, a protocol for communicating with and orchestrating data center devices and network nodes, and  features and agents within the network infrastructure to support the controller’s policy model and respond appropriately.

The Cisco APIC uses an application-centric policy model rather than network-centric SDN policies that do not adequately reflect business requirements. Cisco ACI is an open ecosystem of management, services, and security partners that incorporate best-of-breed solutions across physical and virtual infrastructures. Customers have a choice of flexible workflow automation and orchestration solutions on top of APIC and the ACI fabric, including OpenStack, VMware cloud automation solutions, Microsoft System Center, Cisco UCS Director, and more, rather than being locked into a specific automation model.

The APIC software is delivered on turn-key UCS C-Series server appliances, so the user out-of-box experience is simple.

Apparently these stellar traits weren’t lost on the Best of Interop judges as it made it to Finalist status.  We sincerely hope this bad boy brings home the prize too – stay tuned for more excitement to come.

Related Links

www.cisco.com/go/apic

www.cisco.com/go/aci

 

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The Power of the ACI Toolkit: The “Snapback” App

I recently wrote in my blog about a partner, WWT, that quickly developed a network replication solution across dual DC using the programming interface on the APIC.  Our own development team, just published a complete management rollback mechanism for the APIC using the ACI toolkit’s high level APIs and the APIC’s RESTful APIs.  It took them just a few short days to accomplish this.  This is a testament to the fantastic capability our customers and partners have for rapid feature development on this open programmable platform, the APIC and ACI fabric.

Cisco Insieme engineering team has introduced a new ACI toolkit feature to automate the snapshot and rollback of ACI fabric configuration. Why Snapshots and Rollback for Virtual Networks?  Virtualization introduced a powerful debugging and management capability when file based snapshots of state, data, and configuration of a virtual machine could be made at a specific point in time.  You could restore a previous state, restore lost data, and restart applications from a point in time using snapshots.  With network virtualization, you can store the state of the network, restore a previous configuration, and restart the network with its applications from a point in time.  There are tremendous applications for this capability for DevOps teams testing and debugging distributed applications to optimize performance at scale or to recover from some introduced error or failure.

Snapshot Feature: The tool called “snapback” allows administrators to take live snapshots of a running ACI Fabric configuration either immediately or at some predetermined time in the future.  It allows the snapshots to be performed as a one-time occurrence or on an ongoing schedule.  All snapshots are stored in a version control system that allows full viewing of any version of the configuration and the differences between versions.  Policies can be specified in version control to meet compliance requirements.

snapback-schedule-snapshot-set

Rollback Feature: Rollback is allowed to any previous configuration version and can be done as a full configuration rollback or as granular as per tenant. This enables certain tenants to be rolled back to previous configs, while certain others get to keep their current configs. All config files are readable and open JSON formatted text files. The Open interfaces of ACI enables easy integration of this “snapback” tool with third-party systems to develop integrated operations-focused solutions as it can be imported as a library, run from the OS command shell, or run as a web application.

snapback-snapshots

The source code of the toolkit with examples in GitHub, is available for you now to access and start building your own customized solutions using the APIC and ACI.

Related Links

http://acitoolkit.readthedocs.org/en/latest/snapback.html

https://github.com/datacenter/acitoolkit/

 

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Why Network Design in the Modern Era Has Kept Me from Retirement

Network Design in the Modern Era1In youth-oriented Silicon Valley, it’s risky to mention this, but I’ve been around for a long time. In fact, in theory I could retire! I already moved to a small town in the Pacific Northwest where the cost of living is low, and I could spend my days hiking in the mountains.

But actually I can’t retire. Why? The networking field is too interesting! In addition, modern networking, with its emphasis on design, applications, policies, and users, focuses on the same concepts that have interested me from the beginning. Not only that, but I firmly believe that with today’s network design tools, we are positioned to build networks that are faster, larger, and even more user-friendly than ever. How could I retire when that’s the case?

In the Beginning

I started my career as a software developer. This was long before agile software development became popular, but nonetheless there was a focus on agility and flexibility. The goal was to develop software that could be used in multiple ways to support a broad range of users. The focus was on user behavior, application modeling, systems analysis, and structured design. Read More »

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How you integrate Network Services matters

Guest post from Lori Mac Vittie (@lmacvittie) from F5 Networks 

How you provision all the network things matters

Polymorphism is a concept central to object-oriented programming. The notion of polymorphism is used to extend the capabilities of a basic object, like a mammal, to specific implementations, like cats or dogs or honey badgers, even though they don’t care about such technical distinctions. A good example of this is cats and dogs, which are both of the type “mammal” but that “speak” in a different voice.

polymorphism

Read More »

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Take One small step with the ACI Simulator, Make a giant leap in ACI Fabric deployments

Cisco ACI is gaining momentum and mindshare in the industry as testified by the 160 plus licensees for the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), and 900 plus customers for the Nexus 9k platform.  All of this in less than three months since going live in August 2014.  Riding on that wave of success, we are pleased to announce the Cisco ACI Simulator, a physical appliance that provides a simulated Cisco ACI environment. The appliance is a full-featured Cisco APIC controller software along with a simulated fabric infrastructure of leaf switches and spine switches in one physical server.

If you wondered how it is going to help you, think of it as a self-contained environment with Cisco APIC instances with real production software. You can use it to quickly understand ACI features, exercise APIs, and initiate integration with third-party orchestration systems and applications. The ACI simulator will also allow you to use the native command line CLI and GUI via APIs that are available for third-parties.  If you are a developer or Cisco partner, this is an ideal way to develop and test your solution.  If you are a customer, you can use this in your test lab to create profiles for your enterprise apps with your actual application delivery controllers and security devices.  This belongs in any well-architected DevOps environment.

Topology of the simulator

The Cisco ACI Simulator enables you to simulate the Cisco ACI fabric, including the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches supported in a leaf-and-spine topology, to take full advantage of an automated, policy-based, systems management approach. Specifically, the ACI simulator environment comprises 2 ACI spines, 2 ACI leafs, and 3 APIC controllers.

acisimulator

The Cisco ACI Simulator includes simulated switches, so you cannot validate the data path. However, some of the simulated switch ports are mapped to the front-panel server ports which allows you to connect external management entities such as VMware ESX servers, VMware vCenter, VMware vShield, and bare-metal servers; Layer 4 through 7 services; authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) systems; and other physical and virtual service appliances. In addition, the Cisco ACI Simulator allows simulation of faults and alerts to facilitate testing and demonstrate features.

Benefits/features

The ACI simulator provides a variety of features and benefits, key ones summarized in the table below.

Fabric Management Topology view, Fabric discovery
Creation of network constructs Build a tenant,  private layer 3 network, bridged   domain
Specify Cisco ACI policy constructs Create Filters, Contracts
Application deployment create Application Network Profiles, End-point groups
Virtualization Integration VMware ESXi, vCenter, vshield
L4-L7 services integration Cisco ASA/ASAv, Citrix NetScaler and F5 BIG-IP
Monitoring and troubleshooting View faults, events, managed objects etc through GUI
Programmability with Northbound API clients Python, REST APIS with JSON & XML bindings,   PowerShell etc

 

Additionally,  please refer to the Cisco ACI compatibility matrix for a full list of supported capabilities and the Datasheet for detailed specifications. In closing, I want to bring to your attention to the general availability of APIC release 1.0(2i) and Cisco NX-OS release 11.0(2i) for Cisco Nexus 9000 Series ACI-Mode Switches. This release delivers new hardware and software capabilities that will further the customer momentum we are seeing with ACI.

For more information, visit

www.cisco.com/go/aci

ACI simulator

https://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter

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