Welcome to Episode 2 of #CiscoChampion Radio, a podcast series by and for Cisco Champions as technologists, hosted by Cisco’s Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja). This week we’re talking about Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI).
Cisco Champion: Colin Lynch (@UCSguru)
Cisco Subject Matter Expert: Joe Onisick (@jonisick)
How ACI lets you manage a network cohesively instead of box-by-box
What a network looks like in ACI mode vs. stand-alone mode
How ACI works with network protocols like spanning-tree and TRILL
Upgrading the Nexus 9000 Series to ACI
When ACI makes sense for your business
As IT departments move to private cloud offerings, DevOps methodologies, and continuous integration capabilities, many segments of the data center market have a strong need for more open, programmable, and application-led networks. In these fully automated environments, network automation for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or applications on demand is becoming essential. As discussed in a recent blog postby Ravi Balakrishnan, the Cisco Nexus 9000 offers the industry’s 1st open and extensible application policy model helping businesses increase agility, flexibility, and scalability and automate repetitive manual tasks, reducing the time to deployment and easing maintenance tasks.
A recently-issued Lippis Report provides validation that the Cisco Nexus 9000 product line offers the most comprehensive open programming tools and functions available that can either be leveraged independently, or put to work in unison with other platform capabilities. The report found that the benefits of Cisco Nexus 9000 programming environment include investment protection and improved business agility through support of open protocols, APIs and standards that leverage customers’ existing networking, services including security, physical and virtual compute, and storage assets and accelerate network application deployment times to minutes improving business agility through centralized management.
Cisco 9000 programmability enables use cases across the whole IT delivery chain in terms of being able to orchestrate and automate provisioning of network infrastructure. Applications now have special, real-time access to network buffers, congestion and state information, so that they can actually make better choices and decisions on how they’re delivering services to end-users. In addition, troubleshooting can be automated through applications having much deeper visibility into the network.
The specific use cases for Cisco NX-OS API enhancements span data center network engineers and experienced DevOps personnel in cloud and large enterprise IT organization. For network engineers, NX-OS APIs can simplify and automate common network infrastructure provisioning challenges as well as offer automated troubleshooting through enhanced network visibility.
DevOps personnel may leverage NX-OS APIs and automation tools to create their own custom scripts and leverage the NX-API into other tools with which they are already familiar to customize network device data and use it in the way that’s important for them to either deliver competitive business value or to reduce OpEx through automation.
Cisco 9000 Programmability Highlights
The Cisco NX-OS enhancements for the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series supports numerous capabilities that aid automation and orchestration including providing investment protection through the support of new automation capabilities in the future. Centralized, fine-grained access to Cisco 9000 networking resources is enabled through support for XML, JSON, representational state transfer (REST), remote procedure call (RPC), NetConf, Python scripting, Bash and Broadcom chip-level shell access, and Linux containers for development of custom applications. These APIs have full read and write access to the Cisco 9000 platform, providing programmability, automation, and system access. Cisco-NX-OS also supports APIs enabling rapid integration with existing management and orchestration frameworks. These include OpenStack interfaces to provide Cisco policy consistency across physical, virtual, and cloud environments.
At the heart of the transition to cloud computing is on-demand provisioning of a wide variety of applications, linear scalability of resources, and non-stop operation at lower total cost. With the increasing frequency of rapid provisioning of data-intensive applications in the cloud, organizations are increasingly challenged to better scale and manage network and storage environments without business disruption. This necessitates a network that provides uniform latency, high bandwidth, full utilization of all paths, and configuration simplicity.
The Cisco Nexus® 9508 40GbE data center Ethernet switch was recently tested by Lippis report and turned in remarkable performance results, while supporting 288 40GbE ports for the highest 40GbE port density of any switch tested to date. Cisco Nexus 9508 performed with the best overall store-and-forward latency of core switches tested to date, while providing consistent latency across all packet sizes at line rate. In addition, it demonstrated 100% throughput (i.e. without dropping a single packet!) across all 40GbE ports for a wide range of packet sizes. This is key to public and private cloud providers seeking aggregation and core networking technology that underpins large-scale, highly virtualized data centers and converged storage systems with support for disparate workloads having a wide range of performance requirements.
The industry-leading 40GbE density and performance of Cisco Nexus 9508 enables data center IT to upgrade aggregation network infrastructures from 10GbE to 40GbE to complement the shift in server networking from GbE to 10GbE. Having extremely impressive cross sectional bandwidth and latency numbers, the Cisco Nexus 9508 can also excel for aggregation and core infrastructure applications in traditional, cloud data centers as well as hyper-scale data center environments. Cisco Nexus 9508 is also optimal network infrastructure for high performance cluster computing applications, for example, for large-scale data analytics and low-latency trading applications.
For unicast traffic, Cisco Nexus 9508 delivered store-and-forward latencies ranging from 1.6 microseconds for 64B packets used in transaction workloads to 3.5 microseconds for 9KB packets used in data-intensive, large-file applications. The latency variation ranged between 1 to 3 ns, allowing consistent latency across all packet sizes at line rate. These are by far the lowest latency measurements observed by Lippis Report in core switches to date (the previous record for modular switch latency was 2.2 to 11.9 microseconds, at the same packet range, however at much less density).
For IP multicast traffic, the Cisco Nexus 9508 demonstrated store-and-forward latencies ranging from 1.6 microseconds for 64B packets to 3.5 microseconds (3465.3 ns) for 9KB packet forwarding IP multicast traffic faster than any other core switch observed in Lippis core switch tests.
The Cisco Nexus 9508’s congestion management is excellent at nearly 78% of aggregated forwarding rate as percentage of line rate during congestion conditions for L3 traffic flows, but when considering the density of ports supported and sheer magnitude of the traffic flow, the Cisco Nexus 9508 achieved congestion management at a scale never before attempted.
The Cisco Nexus 9508 also demonstrated 100% throughput as a percentage of line rate across all 288 40GbE ports for unicast traffic. In other words, not a single packet was dropped while the Cisco Nexus® 9508 was presented with enough traffic to populate its highly dense 288 40GbE ports at line rate.
The full report can be found here:
Following are links to webcasts providing highlights of unicast and multicast support of Cisco 9000:
Nexus 9000 Unicast forwarding by Lilian Quan
First and foremost, demand for Cisco ACI is terrific and global already. We already have more than 300 customers in our pipeline spanning every geography and every customer segment. Just as with the ramp-up of the world-beating Cisco Unified Computing System, we’re seeing the greatest early adoption in nimble mid-sized businesses. About 30% of our pipeline is in what we call the ‘commercial’ segment here in the US. Another 15% is with the largest US enterprises. 19% of orders are in Asia Pacific and a healthy 13% in EMEAR. In short…EVERYONE wants a piece of ACI!
That type of customer demand will be music to our reseller partners’ ears. Obviously partners are crucial to our success, in the data center (and in everything Cisco does) and we’re making sure the Cisco partner ecosystem is able to accelerate ACI momentum too. In just one month since launch, we have trained 125 partners, and we will train an additional 350 with 1500 engineers in the next six weeks.
It was suggested in some quarters of the media this week that it will take years for the power of ACI to be felt in the market. Knowing the passion and commitment of our partner ecosystem, we’re betting that ACI, both in terms of the building blocks available today, and the full system availability a few months from now, we will make a huge impact much faster than that!
In his address to more than 100 financial analysts in New York, John Chambers also touched on the importance of Cisco ACI’s open ecosystems approach, and the progress we’re making there. Let me re-cap:
Since early November we have established an OpenStack working group which includes Cisco, IBM, Juniper, Intel, Plexxi, Big Switch, and Midokura to develop application-centric Neutron APIs. We also founded an Open Daylight working group with IBM and Plexxi to develop an application-centric API layer, and we’ve created an OpenSource Community Repository here.
Of course, we’re just at the beginning of the journey and there is so much more to come. In the next quarter we plan to release an ACI Python SDK built on the ACI Restful API, an ACI southbound device API, and we’ll release the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) simulator to give customers and developers early access to the APIC environment ahead of its full availability in Q2 calendar 2014.
As you can see, we’re off to a good start with Cisco ACI. What customers are telling me is that they are not satisfied with the limitations on network performance at scale, and security that the overlay model of SDN forces upon them. Tightly coupling hardware to software overcomes those limitations.
By now, given all the launch and blogging activity activity over the past week or so, I am sure your understanding of and interest in Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) will have grown. Many of you will be asking “how do I get started as quickly as possible?”, and “how can I free up some time and resources to investigate?” You understand the “what” - now, as I blogged recently on SDN, it’s time to understand more about the “why” and take action on the “how”. How then do you get off that start line as quickly as possible?
Get Set To Go With ACI
As with many things in life, it helps if you get help from someone who has “been there” and “done that”. And that’s where Cisco Services comes in, as Scott Clark, the VP for our Data Center Services team, introduced last week. So let’s talk about why Cisco Services should be your partner in this application centric world, and what services can help you.