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The Future of Networking, Available Today

I am Soni Jiandani, SVP of Marketing for Cisco’s Insieme Business Unit. Together with a team of veteran leaders and engineers, we continue to disrupt markets to drive industry transformation. Our latest disruption is focused on leapfrogging Software Defined Networks (SDN) with a holistic approach to the future of networking: Application Centric Infrastructure, or ACI for short.

My blog is timed with announcing the shipment of ACI – namely the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) with ACI mode for the Nexus 9000.  But this is not a corporate sales blog. My intent is to foster an open discussion about the future of the networking industry.

ACI: A key enabler to driving fast IT

We have spent the past few years to gather the best and the brightest engineering minds focused on one simple goal:  to design an infrastructure for our customers that meets the needs of applications today and in the future. These applications require dynamic, agile, fast, secure, scalable, reliable infrastructure that is automated as a native, baseline requirement.

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SDN and Beyond: Cisco ACI Starts Shipping to Data Centers Worldwide on July 31!

July 29, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

ACI goes beyond SDN to help customers deliver business outcomes and not just network device programmability.  That’s part of the reason over 175 customers signed up to trial the APIC during the hardware beta.  Now Cisco ACI will start shipping to Data Centers worldwide on July 31! (See Soni’s blog)

From when we first announced the Vision for an Application Centric Infrastructure at Cisco Live Orlando in 2013, it’s been extremely exciting to see customers and ecosystem partners support this new operational model for centrally configuring, automating and operating network and security infrastructure.

The application model for abstracting network infrastructure requirements and policies really does address the operational needs of the infrastructure and application teams.  That was by design, as Insieme’s engineering team worked with the leading cloud infrastructure customers of the world and our Cisco IT organization to incorporate their operational and application needs.  In fact, IDC published a powerful report to confirm the ACI related 3 year OpEx savings forecast at Cisco’s IT Elastic Infrastructure Services (CITEIS), one of the largest data center environments in the world.  Read the IDC Business Value Brief on Cisco ACI to learn more.

With the production APIC, customers can now begin running production applications on ACI.  For insights into why our customers are deploying ACI, we spoke with the leaders of two world-class IT companies that are aggressively rolling out ACI within their own corporate IT.

Symantec IT is an early adopter of ACI and Sean Doherty (VP of Alliances Offerings, Symantec) spoke recently with Shashi Kiran (Senior Director, Cisco) about automating their IT infrastructure with ACI.  About the Symantec IT environment,  Sean said, “Some applications have been through the Physical to Virtual cycle and others are placed on clouds. We are looking to move those into a more modern agile environment. The ACI is providing the infrastructure to build out that new environment…”.  Sean added that ACI helps in significantly accelerating the detection and remediation of security issues with business critical applications.  Check out this YouTube video interview for the full story.

Symantec Doherty NetApp KiddSymantec DohertySymantec Doherty

Representing another user adopting ACI, NetApp’s CTO Jay Kidd spoke recently about the ACI project in their global development lab.  He said this is a large scale deployment covering 2300 racks of equipment wired end-to-end with 40G capacity with Nexus 9000.  Talking about the lab, Jay stated, “One of the beauties of the (Nexus) 9K is the ability to gracefully transition and combine 10Gig and 40Gig together in the same infrastructure. Then with ACI, being able to build up these profiles for the applications or the test scenarios for those applications, store them, provision them dynamically. Anything we can do to make it easier for our developers to use this DevOps private cloud, we think will speed up the time to market and ACI is big part of that”.  The Lab can spin up thousands of Virtual Machines per hour with an aggregate capacity of running well in excess of a million VMs at a given time.  You can  listen to Jay’s eloquent explanation on YouTube here.

NetApp Kidd

Our Cisco sales teams have a great way to help Cisco customers to begin their own ACI deployments with the new ACI Starter Bundles.   An ACI Starter Bundle (Fig 1) has everything you need to create an ACI POD including a resilient cluster of three APICs, two fixed or modular spine switches, eight 40G optics, and two or four leaf switches depending on which of the four bundles are selected.

Figure 1  ACI Starter Bundles include an APIC Cluster with 3 APICs and 8 40G AOC optics

  • #1 Two Fixed Spine Switches, Four Leaf Switches with 192 Ports
  • #2 Two Fixed Spine Switches, Four Leaf Switches with 384 Ports
  • #3 Two Modular Spine Switches, Two Leaf Switches with 96 Ports
  • #4 Two Modular Spine Switches, Two Leaf Switches with 192 Ports

Cisco customers can use ACI Starter Bundles 1 or 2 as policy appliance for flexible/ granular network virtualization and secure isolation in conjunction with their existing base of Nexus 2000 to Nexus 7000 (Fig. 2)

Figure 2 ACI Starter Bundles #1 or #2

Slide1

ACI Starter Bundles #1 or #2 can also be used to scale out a UCS converged infrastructure solution such NetApp FlexPod and VCE VBlock. (Fig. 3)

Figure 3 Scale out UCS Converged Infrastructure Solutions

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ACI Starter Bundles #3 or #4 can be used as a starting point to scale out private clouds with secure multi-tenancy since they are based upon the more expandable modular chassis. (Fig. 4)

Figure 4

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When used in conjunction with the just released Application Virtual Switch, AVS, the APIC provides centralized policy based control and automation for any application composed of any number of server tiers containing any number of virtual or physical servers.  These ACI starter bundles enable customers to begin ACI deployments for testing or production operations.  The simple fixed price licensing for a set of leaf ports, 48 or 96, means there is no penalty for running lots of VMs per server vs. bare metal servers. (Fig 5) Customers can predict the cost of running their software defined network infrastructure.

Figure 5 No per VM Tax with ACI licensing

Servers

Contact your Cisco account manager to learn how the cost of an ACI POD is less than the cost of  those dedicated x86 hardware gateways required with leading pure software overlay approaches.  ACI delivers more scale, security, and performance at a fixed predictable cost with documented TCO benefits.

Many of our ecosystem partners announced at Cisco Live that they would be shipping their ACI Device Packages when Cisco’s APIC enters FCS.  The following joint solutions have passed rigorous interoperability testing conducted jointly by the vendor’s and Cisco’s engineering teams in our own ACI testing lab.   These partners demonstrate ACI’s open ecosystem for service integration, investment protection for existing ADC networks, and the benefits of a centralized control point for L2-L3 network and L4-L7 service policy coordination and automation.

  • Cisco ASA security and Cisco ACI solution:   Customers can now deploy Cisco ACI with Cisco ASA and its ACI Device Package to provide automated, policy-based security provisioning, management, and security policy updates, for firewall, intrusion prevention,  and more.
  • Citrix NetScaler and Cisco ACI joint solution:  Customers can use the APIC to coordinate the Citrix NetScaler’s ADC unique application insights for optimized service delivery with ACI’s network automation and obtain end-to-end telemetry and visibility for service-aware applications and tenants.
  • Embrane and Cisco ACI joint solution:  With the APIC and Embrane’s ACI Device Package, ESM automates the deployment and lifecycle management of Embrane’s network virtual services as well as those from Cisco ASA, Sourcefire, and Citrix.
  • F5 Synthesis and Cisco ACI joint solution: Customers can accelerate application deployment by automating insertion of SSL offload and L4-L7 SLB services using F5’s ACI Device Package and the Cisco APIC.

We are publishing interviews with the analysts, the leading practitioners that are hands on with ACI in August in an exciting ACI special edition of Unleashing IT.   I’ll share the link for you here in a few weeks.

Today, we had some great news to share on Data Center and Cloud  Networks.  The Cisco ACI solution portfolio was orderable on July 1 and starts shipping July 31.  This includes the four ACI starter bundles detailed above.  For details on today’s exciting new Nexus switches announcement,  please visit this blog -- Nexus Flexibility Eases Transitions.

Links for more information

The Future of Networking, Available Today

8/15 Demo Friday: Watch Cisco ACI Enable Fast IT

IDC: Optimizing the Datacenter Network for Improved Scalability, Orchestration, and Automation

An Application-Centric Infrastructure Will Enable Business Agility

ESG: Accelerating Transformation with an Application-centric Approach

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure and Cisco Nexus Switching: Delivering Investment Protection

 

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Case Study: Atos Enables Self-Service IT with Cisco Prime Service Catalog

I recently wrote a blog post about Steria, one of our Cisco Prime Service Catalog customers (you can also read their case study here). Today, I’m proud to introduce another case study on an IT service provider customer using Cisco Prime Service Catalog: Atos.

Atos Societas Europaea (SE) is a global leader in IT services with 77,000 employees in 52 countries worldwide. Cisco has a strong partnership with Atos in several areas including data center, cloud, and collaboration – and they are a customer of multiple Cisco solutions.

In particular, there is a division of Atos that provides managed  services for North American companies. This division of Atos offers a broad range of services for their enterprise customers including new employee onboarding, provisioning smartphones and tablets, requesting Cisco WebEx accounts, provisioning of physical servers and virtual machines for data center operations, and more.

To meet the IT service needs of their large customer base, Atos needed to speed up the service delivery process and serve more customers without adding additional IT staff.  According to Atos’ manager of process automation, Kert Gilpin, “We measure success by how much we can reduce service requests by email or phone and how quickly we can fulfill requests. To continue growing, we needed to automate IT service requests. We wanted to deliver IT as a Service.”

Customer Case Study: Atos Automates Fulfillment of Service Requests from Cisco Data Center

Now, thanks to Cisco Prime Service Catalog, Atos is serving more customers, faster, with the same size IT staff. Cisco Prime Service Catalog provides the one-stop shop for Atos customers to request a broad range of IT services (with more than 1,700 service options and configurations). From 2010 through 2013, Atos used the service catalog to process more than 1.5 million IT service requests from it’s customers – including more than 250,000 approvals for more than 260,000 users.

On the front-end, employees at each customer can log into Cisco Prime Service Catalog’s web-based portal interface for self-service access to their organization’s available services. On the back-end, Cisco Prime Service Catalog is integrated with the customer’s existing systems to automate provisioning for each service request. Some of the most commonly requested services in the Atos catalog include:

  • Server setup or decommissioning: Cisco Prime Service Catalog can be integrated with the customers’ data center infrastructure automation tools to enable self-service provisioning.  “Before, multiple people had to perform a manual task to provision a physical or virtual server,” Gilpin said.  “Now we use Cisco Prime Service Catalog to automate approximately 50 tasks in the workflow, taking different actions depending on the conditions.”
  • Distribution of Windows software updates and patches: For this popular service, Atos integrates Cisco Prime Service Catalog with the customer’s Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) server.  Employees receive an automated notification when software application upgrades are available. Then they just click to install the upgrade or patch.
  • Employee onboarding services: Through integration between Cisco Prime Service Catalog and their customers’ Oracle and PeopleSoft HR systems, Atos has automated new hire onboarding, transfers, terminations, leaves of absence, name changes, and changes between contractor and employee status.

This combination of self-service ordering and automation is powerful – with real and tangible benefits.  “Automation means customer requests are fulfilled more quickly,” Gilpin said. “The request is generally complete in minutes, compared to days or weeks when we manually provisioned services. And our IT team now has more time for activities that provide value to our customers.”

You can also read the full Atos case study here, and learn more about Cisco Prime Service Catalog at cisco.com/go/service-catalog.

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Finally, a hybrid cloud that makes both users and IT happy!

Two years back, I disparaged hybrid clouds in my blog: “Why Hybrid Clouds Look Like my Grandma’s Network”. Since then the pain and necessity of many clouds in business environment has become acute. I see a great similarity between Hybrid Clouds and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon that has become well-accepted in today’s organization. IT tried to resist it initially, but the consumer movement proliferated into the workplace and was hard to control. Hence IT had no choice but to follow along.

A similar movement is emerging in Cloud. After Amazon Web Services (AWS) made it simple for application developers to swipe credit cards to buy compute and get up and running in a jiffy, the addiction has been hard to stop. Enterprise stakeholders are consuming cloud infrastructure by the hour and in the process running up total costs for their organizations and leaving gaping holes in security and compliance. But this time around, IT has an opportunity to get ahead of the phenomenon.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 11.25.29 PM

 

Challenges with existing hybrid cloud approaches:

 Vendor lock-in: It is hard to argue against the flexibility offered by public clouds. However, few realize that the flexibility comes at the cost of vendor lock-in. Public cloud APIs are typically custom and moving the workload back is almost impossible.

Skyrocketing costs: Granted that public cloud vendors have been driving down costs. However, using public cloud for regular application deployments is like using a rental car for long-term use. If you need a car temporarily, say during a vacation, it makes sense to rent it by the day. However, when you are back at home and need a car for everyday commute, using a rental car will run up costs. This is what enterprises are running into when public cloud charges for resources and bandwidth start to add up. However, it is hard to get out once you are locked into operational practices and workload customization in your favorite cloud.

Security & Compliance holes: Security, what security? When you don’t even know what workloads are running in public clouds and you have no control over who accesses them and how, it is needless to say how big a security and compliance hole this is.

The Solution: Embrace Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC), build hybrid clouds with Intercloud Fabric

Now that we agree that there’s no way around folks bringing their own clouds, IT needs to provide choice to users while driving consistency, control and compliance for its own sake. Here’s how Intercloud Fabric make this possible:

Choice: Intercloud Fabric enables IT to support a number of clouds including giant public clouds (Amazon, Azure) or their favorite cloud provider including Cisco Powered.

Consistency: Although users get choice of clouds, IT can maintain consistency in networking, security and operations. This is made possible by seamless workload portability across clouds, say vSphere to AWS while maintaining enterprise IP addressing and security profiles.

Compliance: Since public clouds appear as an extension of enterprise data center, current compliance requirements like logging, change control, access restrictions continue to be enforced.

Control: IT controls the cloud in a good way. They don’t have to say “No” to their end users in consuming diverse clouds but can still manage them with a single console and move workloads back and forth.

Seem too good to be true?

 See how cloud providers and business customers are getting ready to do it -- replay of recent webcast Securely Moving Workloads Between Clouds with Cisco InterCloud Fabric

Also, if you are Gigaom Structure in San Francisco this week, you can see the solution in action and get further insights in our workshop on Intercloud Fabric.

 

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Cisco’s Data Center and Cloud Management Software at Cisco Live San Francisco #CLUS

May 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm PST

We’re excited to showcase new innovations in our data center infrastructure automation and cloud management software at Cisco Live San Francisco this week!

CL14-CoSp-Exhib-250x250-GGB

This past Friday, Cisco announced the new Cisco UCS Director version 5.0 – including Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) support and integration with the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). Cisco customers, prospective customers, and partners in the data center market won’t want to miss these two Cisco Live breakout sessions that will showcase this major new release on Thursday:

Cisco UCS Director 5.0
PSODCT-1004
Thursday, May 22
8:30 to 9:30am

Management and Automation of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) with Cisco UCS Director
BRKACI-2410
Thursday, May 22
12:30 to 2:00pm

In addition, we’ll be featuring live demos of UCS Director 5.0 all week in the Cisco Live World of Solutions expo. Here are some of the Cisco UCS Director + ACI demos you don’t want to miss:

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