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ACI Walkabout at CiscoLive 2014, San Francisco

In a few days at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Cisco Live. This year we are expecting record attendance exceeding 20,000 participants, 9 amazing keynotes, 600 sessions, live demos at world of solutions, big analyst and partner presence, and last but not least, the opportunity for you to meet and network with top minds in high-tech. If you are new to Cisco Live and feel overwhelmed by the grandness of the event, let me assure you that you are not alone.  I have been there before. I have set out in this blog to give you an easy walkabout of Cisco Datacenter highlights, particularly the Cisco ACI key activities over the duration of the event.

Much like you I will also be eagerly looking to attend John Chambers’ majestic keynote that starts the proceedings on Monday, May 19. John in his unique style will lead with the Theme “Tomorrow Starts Here” covering leading industry trends such as Internet of Everything (IOE), Fast IT, and Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) among many others. So, do not miss this opportunity. I want to shift gears and take you on a fast cruise of Cisco Data Center and Cisco ACI highlights at the event.

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In less than a year since the announcement, Cisco ACI has taken the industry by storm with a large customer base  and several of the industry’s key partners such as Microsoft, Red Hat, Citrix, F5, et al endorsing and building joint solutions. There is so much excitement around ACI at this year’s Cisco Live. I want to give a structure to how I am planning to cover the topic in this blog. Essentially, I consider them as Cisco-led and Partner led.

Cisco has a packed agenda of ACI activities and announcements. Cisco APIC, which enables ACI Fabric mode on Nexus 9000 networks, will be available this summer along with a robust Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy that includes additional eco-system partners, Cisco Validated Designs (CVD), additional platform support and leading-edge hardware innovations across the portfolio. We are also introducing two new additions to the existing portfolio of Nexus 9000 to meet scalability, flexibility and performance requirements of standalone and ACI mode deployments.

Executive ACI speaking sessions feature prominently this year with Cisco President Rob Lloyd’s session “Infrastructure for the Agile Enterprise” keynote, May 20, 10 AM, at the North Hall.  Rob’s keynote also features Soni Jiandani, who will present how ACI delivers agility. Rob Soderbery and Soni Jiandani are presenting a technology trends keynote (GENSK 1109) on May 21, 8.30 am, titled “Fast Track to Fast IT: Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure”, another choice from a catalog of exciting offers.

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Interop Redux: Focus on Virtual L4-7 Services with Embrane

April 14, 2014 at 5:30 am PST

Our recap of Interop 2014 continues with a focus on Cisco technology partner Embrane, who focuses on integration of layer 4-7 virtual services into cloud and data center networks, including its own virtual load balancer, firewall and VPN. Embrane describes its heleos platform and heleos Elastic Services Manager (ESM) solution as a virtual services lifecycle manager and orchestration engine, based on the ability to provision virtual security instances in minutes, automatically insert them in the network, assign rules and policies to a specific application, enable self-healing high availability (HA), and automate the licensing and usage monitoring for each virtual appliance.

Embrane was part of Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) ecosystem at our initial launch last November, and at this most recent Interop also came out and endorsed ACI’s OpFlex protocol, which handles communication between network devices and the APIC controller. Embrane also recently announced the ability to provide its lifecycle management services to Cisco’s virtual security platforms, both the ASAv and Sourcefire. I had the chance to catch up with Embrane Founder, Dante Malagrino, in the Cisco booth at Interop and get a little deeper understanding of how Cisco is working with Embrane in these areas.

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Introducing OpFlex - A new standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure

Continuing on its tradition of contributing and committing to open source and open standards over the last 25 years, today Cisco announced “OpFlex” – a new open standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure that has been submitted into the IETF standardization process. We believe this will accelerate multi-vendor innovation in data center and cloud networks to drive operational simplicity, lower costs and increased agility.

Why is this required?

Traditional SDN models today function on the basis of an imperative control model with a centralized controller and distributed network entities that support the lowest common denominator feature set across vendors such as bridges, ports and tunnels. As the network scales, the controller becomes a bottleneck due to the need to maintain increased state, and starts to impact performance and resiliency. Likewise, because the applications, ops and infrastructure requirements need to be translated into network configuration, it impacts agility and introduces a manual learning process, requiring app developers to describe their requirements in low-level constructs.

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If we contrast that with the vision of the ACI model with the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), ACI adopts a declarative management approach. This model abstracts applications, operations and infrastructure providing simplification and agility. By distributing complexity to the edges, it also increases better scalability, and allows for resiliency – i.e. the data forwarding can still continue to happen even if there is no controller. It further provides ease of use with self-documenting policies automatically deployed or cleaned up from devices as necessary. All of these help circumvent the issues seen in traditional SDN models.

For this declarative model to work across a multi-vendor environment, to translate and map policy definition into the infrastructure, there has hitherto been no standard protocol to do that across physical/virtual switches, routers and L4-L7 network services. This vacuum has led to the development of “OpFlex” – a new open standard recently submitted to the IETF.

Who is contributing to OpFlex?

Several industry leaders and practitioners are actively involved in the standardization process. These include Microsoft, IBM, Citrix and SunGard Availability Services, in addition to Cisco.

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