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Transform DevOps with CA Release Automation and Cisco ACI

DevOps is gaining momentum in many enterprises today. Customers are increasingly realizing the benefits of DevOps and how it helps in breaking down barriers and helps application agility. DevOps enables a constraint free development, continuous application delivery, collaboration and continuous monitoring throughout the Application Lifecycle from Dev to Test to production deployments. A CA led global IT survey in 2013 projects DevOps adoption in 39% of the companies surveyed and another 27% in process of adoption, further testifying the momentum.

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At CA World this week DevOps related topics feature prominently.  Cisco Insieme Business Unit and CA are featuring a breakout session DCT33S on Tuesday Nov 11, on how CA Release Automation and Cisco ACI joint solution helps bring accelerated application delivery with collaboration and efficiency from design to deployment.

CA Release automation and Cisco ACI joint solution is a perfect marriage and showcase for Enterprise DevOps strategy. CA Release Automation enables continuous application delivery by automating application release execution to any environment and on top of any infrastructure whether it is virtual, physical or cloud. Cisco ACI with its Application Network profile and policy model helps provide secure, multi-tenant and a purpose-built Nexus 9000 network environment for compliant applications, across Dev/Test/Staging/Production stages of the application lifecycle.

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CA Release automation uses the Application layout and intent to create Application Network Profiles (ANP) in Cisco APIC and also copies/clones the ANPs to quickly create parallel secure/multi-tenant networking environments on the Dev/Test/production systems. As a result, it is easy for CA Release Automation (CA RA) to move application releases quickly across the Dev/Test/production systems in highly compliant type application environments. Besides, Cisco ACI also enables IT to continuously monitor the configurations and application performance on these multiple tiers to enforce SLA per contractual agreements. The interactions between Cisco ACI and CA RA are illustrated in detail below.

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It is not my intent to capture the entire session detail via this blog. To learn finer details of the ACI-CA RA solution, I strongly encourage you to attend the session DCT33S on Tuesday Nov 11. See you at the show.

Related Links

http://www.ca.com/us/caworld.aspx

www.cisco.com/go/aci

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The Top Five Myths about Cisco ACI

October 22, 2014 at 5:30 am PST

It’s been almost a year since Cisco publicly unveiled its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). As we’ve noted in the past, ACI had to overcome a number of preconceived notions about Software Defined Networking (SDN), and without some detailed explanation, it was hard to get your head around how ACI worked and how it related to SDN. As we continue to clarify the message, there are still a number of ACI myths running around out there that we have to spend a good amount of time dispelling, so I thought I’d summarize them here. (Like Centralized Policy Management, Centralized Myth Handling can lead to greater efficiency and increased compliance. :-)).

1.      MYTH:  Cisco has limited software expertise and can’t deliver a true SDN solution because ACI requires Cisco switches (hardware) as well as the APIC controller (software).
REALITY: Cisco believes data centers require a solution that combines the flexibility of software with the performance and scalability of hardware. ACI is the first data center and cloud solution to offer full visibility and integrated management of both physical and virtual networked IT resources, all built around the policy requirements of the application. ACI delivers SDN, but goes well beyond it to also deliver policy-based automation.

2.      MYTH: ACI requires an expensive “forklift upgrade” Cisco customers must replace their existing Nexus switches with new ACI-capable switches.
REALITY: ACI is actually quite affordable due to the licensing model we use and because customers can extend ACI policy management to their entire data center by implementing a “pod” with a cost-effective ACI starter kit. On July 29, Cisco announced four ACI starter kits which are cost effective bundles that are ideal for proof-of-concept and lab deployments, and to create an ACI central policy “appliance” for existing Cisco Nexus 2000-7000 infrastructure to scale out private clouds using ACI. Customers who compare ACI to SDN software-only solutions discover that operational costs, roughly 75 percent of overall IT costs, are substantially lower with ACI — so the total cost of ownership is compelling. Along with the fact that the existing network infrastructure can still be leveraged.

3.      MYTH:  The ACI solution is not open; Cisco doesn’t do enough with the open community. 
REALITY: Openness is a core tenet in ACI design. We see openness in three dimensions: open source, open standards, and open APIs. This naturally fosters an open ecosystem as well. Several partners like F5 and Citrix already are shipping device packs for joint deployments. Customers experience tremendous benefits when vendors come together to provide tightly integrated solutions engineered to work together out of the box.

ACI is designed to operate in heterogeneous data center environments with multiple vendors and multiple hypervisors. ACI supports an open ecosystem covering a broad range of Layer 4-7 services, orchestration platforms, and automation tools. One of the key drivers behind this ecosystem is OpFlex, an open standards initiative that helps customers achieve an intelligent, multivendor, policy-enabled infrastructure. Additionally, through contributions to OpenStack Neutron with our Group-Based Policy model, we are offering a fully open source policy API available to any OpenStack user. Cisco is also working with open source Linux vendors like Red Hat and Canonical to distribute an ACI Opflex agent for OVS, and contributing the Group-based Policy model to Open Daylight.

4.      MYTH: Customers want SDN solutions for their data center networks, but ACI is not an SDN solution.
REALITY:  We believe that SDN or even software defined data centers are not the sole results customers are looking for – it is the policy-based management and automation provided by ACI that delivers tremendous benefits to application deployment and troubleshooting– and provides a compelling TCO by cutting operational costs.  Channel partners agree with us:  a recent study by Baird Equity Research surveyed 60 channel solution providers and found that they would recommend the Nexus 9000 portfolio and ACI to their customers.

5.      MYTH:  Cisco can’t compete against cheap commodity “white box” switches – they are the future of data center networks.  
REALITY:  The truth is that only a handful of companies can effectively deploy white boxes because they require a great deal of operational management and troubleshooting, which is more expensive than the upfront costs of non-commodity hardware. Deutsche Bank published a report last year titled “Whitebox Switches Are Not Exactly a Bargain” which explains how the total cost equation changes when you take into account operational costs. In addition, white boxes don’t include the rich features and capabilities that most companies want. Channel solution providers know this very well. The same Baird Equity Research study of 60 channel solution providers cited above indicated that only 2% would recommend NSX running on white-box or non-Cisco networking gear.

In the data center, “one size does not fit all”, so Cisco offers a variety of switch configurations to match customer needs. For example, customers can start with merchant silicon-based line cards and migrate to an ACI environment with ACI-capable line cards and APIC, if and when they wish.

BOTTOM LINE:  We believe that Cisco will continue to win with our partners in the data center by delivering innovation through a highly secure and application centric infrastructure.  Through training, support, and new certifications, we are empowering over two million networking engineers and thousands of channel partners worldwide to succeed with ACI in the data center and cloud.

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Turbocharging new Hadoop workloads with Application Centric Infrastructure

At the June Hadoop Summit in San Jose, Hadoop was re-affirmed as the data center “killer app,” riding an avalanche of Enterprise Data, which is growing 50x annually through 2020.  According to IDC, the Big Data market itself growing six times faster than the rest of IT. Every major tech company, old and new, is now driving Hadoop innovation, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook Microsoft, IBM, Intel and EMC – building value added solutions on open source contributions by Hortonworks, Cloudera and MAPR.  Cisco’s surprisingly broad portfolio will be showcased at Strataconf in New York on Oct. 15 and at our October 21st executive webcast.  In this third of a blog series, we preview the power of Application Centric Infrastructure for the emerging Hadoop eco-system.

Why Big Data?

Organizations of all sizes are gaining insight and creativity into use cases that leverage their own business data.

BigDataUseCaseTable

The use cases grow quickly as businesses realize their “ability to integrate all of the different sources of data and shape it in a way that allows business leaders to make informed decisions.” Hadoop enables customers to gain insight from both structure and unstructured data.  Data Types and sources can include 1) Business Applications -- OLTP, ERP, CRM systems, 2) Documents and emails 3) Web logs, 4) Social networks, 5) Machine/sensor generated, 6) Geo location data.

IT operational challenges

Even modest-sized jobs require clusters of 100 server nodes or more for seasonal business needs.  While, Hadoop is designed for scale out of commodity hardware, most IT organizations face the challenge of extreme demand variations in bare-metal workloads (non-virtualizable). Furthermore, they are requested by multiple Lines of Business (LOB), with increasing urgency and frequency. Ultimately, 80% of the costs of managing Big Data workloads will be OpEx. How do IT organizations quickly, finish jobs and re-deploy resources?  How do they improve utilization? How do they maintain security and isolation of data in a shared production infrastructure?

And with the release of Hadoop 2.0 almost a year ago, cluster sizes are growing due to:

  • Expanding data sources and use-cases
  • A mixture of different workload types on the same infrastructure
  • A variety of analytics processes

In Hadoop 1.x, compute performance was paramount.  But in Hadoop 2.x, network capabilities will be the focus, due to larger clusters, more data types, more processes and mixed workloads.  (see Fig. 1)

HadoopClusterGrowth

ACI powers Hadoop 2.x

Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure is a new operational model enabling Fast IT.  ACI provides a common policy-based programming approach across the entire ACI-ready infrastructure, beginning with the network and extending to all its connected end points.  This drastically reduces cost and complexity for Hadoop 2.0.  ACI uses Application Policy to:

-          Dynamically optimize cluster performance in the network
-          Redeploy resources automatically for new workloads for improved utilization
-          Ensure isolation of users and data as resources are deployments change

Let’s review each of these in order:

Cluster Network Performance: It’s crucial to improve traffic latency and throughput across the network, not just within each server.

  • Hadoop copies and distributes data across servers to maximize reliability on commodity hardware.
  • The large collection of processes in Hadoop 2.0 are usually spread across different racks.
  • Mixed workloads in Hadoop 2.0, support interactive and real-time jobs, resulting in the use of more on-board memory and different payload sizes.

As a result, server IO bandwidth is increasing which will place loads on 10 gigabit networks.  ACI policy works with deep telemetry embedded in each Nexus 9000 leaf switch to monitor and adapt to network conditions.

HadoopNetworkConditions

Using policy, ACI can dynamically 1) load-balance Big Data flows across racks on alternate paths and 2) prioritize small data flows ahead of large flows (which use the network much less frequently but use up Bandwidth and Buffer). Both of these can dramatically reducing network congestion.  In lab tests, we are seeing flow completion nearly an order of magnitude faster (for some mixed workloads) than without these policies enabled.  ACI can also estimate and prioritize job completion.  This will be important as Big Data workloads become pervasive across the Enterprise. For a complete discussion of ACI’s performance impact, please see a detailed presentation by Samuel Kommu, chief engineer at Cisco for optimizing Big Data workloads.

 

Resource Utilization: In general, the bigger the cluster, the faster the completion time. But since Big Data jobs are initially infrequent, CIOs must balance responsiveness against utilization.  It is simply impractical for many mid-sized companies to dedicate large clusters for the occasional surge in Big Data demand.   ACI enables organizations to quickly redeploy cluster resources from Hadoop to other sporadic workloads (such as CRM, Ecommerce, ERP and Inventory) and back.  For example, the same resources could run Hadoop jobs nightly or weekly when other demands are lighter. Resources can be bare-metal or virtual depending on workload needs. (see Figure 2)

HadoopResourceRedeployment

How does this work? ACI uses application policy profiles to programmatically re-provision the infrastructure.  IT can use a different profile to describe different application’s needs including the Hadoop eco-system. The profile contains application’s network policies, which are used by the Application Policy Infrastructure controller in to a complete network topology.  The same profile contains compute and storage policies used by other tools, such as Cisco UCS Director, to provisioning compute and storage.

 

Data Isolation and Security: In a mature Big Data environment, Hadoop processing can occur between many data sources and clients.  Data is most vulnerable during job transitions or re-deployment to other applications.  Multiple corporate data bases and users need to be correctly to ensure compliance.   A patch work of security software such as perimeter security is error prone, static and consumes administrative resources.

ACI_SecurityImperatives

 

In contrast, ACI can automatically isolate the entire data path through a programmable fabric according to pre-defined policies.  Access policies for data vaults can be preserved throughout the network when the data is in motion.  This can be accomplished even in a shared production infrastructure across physical and virtual end points.

 

Conclusion

As organizations of all sizes discover ways to use Big Data for business insights, their infrastructure must become far more performant, adaptable and secure.  Investments in fabric, compute and storage must be leveraged across, multiple Big Data processes and other business applications with agility and operational simplicity.

Leading the growth of Big Data, the Hadoop 2.x eco-system will place particular stresses on data center fabrics. New mixed workloads are already using 10 Gigabit capacity in larger clusters and will soon demand 40 Gigabit fabrics.  Network traffic needs continuous optimization to improve completion times.  End to end data paths must use consistent security policies between multiple data sources and clients.  And the sharp surges in bare-metal workloads will demand much more agile ways to swap workloads and improve utilization.

Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure leverages a new operational and consumption model for Big Data resources.  It dynamically translates existing policies for applications, data and clients in to fully provisioned networks, compute and storage. .  Working with Nexus 9000 telemetry, ACI can continuously optimize traffic paths and enforce policies consistently as workloads change.  The solution provides a seamless transition to the new demands of Big Data.

To hear about Cisco’s broader solution portfolio be sure to for register for the October 21st executive webcast  ‘Unlock Your Competitive Edge with Cisco Big Data Solutions.’  And stay tuned for the next blog in the series, from Andrew Blaisdell, which showcases the ability to predictably deliver intelligence-driven insights and actions.

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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.

Read More »

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Nexus Flexibility Eases Transitions

Cisco has a broad base of data center customers with a diverse set of requirements and we meet their needs with Nexus -- the most comprehensive switching portfolio in the industry.  This week, we are making announcements for both the Nexus 9000 series and the Nexus 3000 series that provide design and deployment flexibility for our commercial, enterprise, service provider, as well as cloud customers.  Key points of the announcement include:

  • ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) is shipping this month;
  • Additional linecard and chassis options provide customer choice and flexibility;
  • 100G linecards for the Nexus 9500 will be available in Q4CY14 and will offer the highest density in the industry; and
  • New starter kits and bundles help customers ease transitions.

Nexus 9000 family

The Nexus 9000 Series

 ACI is shipping this month

 The Nexus 9000 series can operate in standard NX-OS mode or in ACI mode. In either case the Nexus 9000 portfolio delivers the value of the “5 P’s” of Power efficiency, Price, Port density, Performance, and Programmability. NX-OS mode provides customers with the value of the NX-OS operating system used by tens of thousands of customers in data centers around the world.  ACI mode adds to NX-OS capabilities by providing an application driven policy model, integration of hardware and software, and centralized visibility, among other things. ACI requires a controller and switch software.  Both are shipping this month. It is important to note that the pricing for this solution is simple and predictable.  There is a perpetual license for each leaf switch.  Other pricing approaches in the industry are monthly and are based on varying elements like number of VM’s.  Comparing the two approaches is somewhat like comparing a cell phone bill that is either flat rate or usage based.  Personally, I like the simplicity and predictability of flat rate.  See The Future of Networking, as well as SDN and Beyond  for additional details on new ACI announcements and how they can take you beyond SDN.

Additional linecard and chassis options underscore flexibility

We’ll consider how flexibility is delivered for both modular and fixed platforms.  For modular switching, the Nexus 9500 modular chassis family offers different line card options that can be mixed in the same chassis and allow customers to “dial up” or “dial down” their design based upon the price, performance, feature set, and scale they want to achieve.  There are basically 3 different ‘flavors’, all of which are now shipping:

  1. The Nexus 9500 X9400 set of 1/10G and 40G line cards are based on merchant silicon and provide industry-leading price and performance compared to other merchant silicon switches. These provide a very cost effective solution ideal for traditional modular data center designs.
  2. The Nexus 9500 X9500 set of 1/10G and 40G line cards are sometimes referred to as “merchant plus” because they have custom Cisco ASICs, in addition to merchant silicon, and are ideal for customers that need performance together with additional buffering and VXLAN routing capabilities. The X9500 line cards can be used in future ACI designs as well.
  3. The Nexus 9500 X9600 set of 40G line cards provide performance without compromise even for small packet sizes.

The Nexus 9300 series offers ACI capabilities (ala the X9500 linecards in item 2 above) in a fixed form factor.  For customers interested in a merchant only fixed form factor, we offer the Nexus 3000 family.  This week, we announced the new Nexus 3164, which provides 64 ports of 40G and is a great solution for 40G access or space constrained aggregation.

100G linecards

We are also announcing 100G linecards that we believe will deliver industry leading port density of up to 128 ports of 100G in a single chassis.  100G for both the X9400 and X9600 series will be available for the Nexus 9500 in Q4CY14.  Cisco will offer an 8 port 100G X9400 line card and a 12 port 100G X9600 line card.

New starter kits and bundles ease transitions

There are numerous packages available to ease transitions -- from 1G to 10G, 10G to 40G, or from traditional networks to ACI.  There are 2 bundles I want to quickly call out.  The first provides a smooth transition for customers with older End of Row Catalyst 6500’s in their data centers.  It occupies the same rack space and uses the same cabling as they currently have, but provides 10X the performance.  The second is basically an ACI starter kit, providing the APIC, spine switches and leaf switches, even optical cables – everything required to set up and get started with an ACI pod.

In summary, Cisco is continuing its rapid pace of innovation and execution around ACI and data center switching overall.  Ultimately, this means customers gain choice, flexibility and true innovation to support their business needs.

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