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Integrating ACI & Nexus 2000-7000

As the breadth and depth of the ACI solution continues to grow, so does customer interest.  Many customers who have invested in, and continue to invest in, the Nexus 2000-7000 switches find the ACI vision very compelling.  So, this leads to a logical question regarding how an existing Nexus 2000-7000 fabric will integrate with an ACI fabric.

In short, customers can leverage current Nexus products and add ACI capabilities to their data centers in an incremental manner.  Integrating ACI into an existing Nexus environment will not require replacement of existing Nexus switches.  The benefits of ACI policy can be extended to apps on both physical and virtual servers within the existing Nexus fabric.  This can be achieved as follows (double click on the graphic below to launch the 3+ minute presentation):

In this scenario, the existing Nexus fabric is serving as an optimized transport for an ACI overlay solution.  However, this solution is very different from other industry overlay solutions.   It’s different in that the ACI overlay provides integrated/embedded support for both physical and virtual servers, it allows use of existing L4-7 infrastructure, while providing the automation functionality of the ACI policy model.

If you’d like to learn more, there is a summary, as well as a white paper available.  There is also this video whiteboard session that covers a subset of the elements mentioned above.

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Meet the Next Generation Fabric Extender – Cisco’s Nexus 2300 Series

More than 5 years ago, Cisco introduced its first Nexus 2000 Fabric Extender (FEX) into the market. This broad portfolio has enabled over 15,000 customers to seamlessly add network access port density across server racks without adding the inherent management complexity that comes with adding more boxes into your architecture to meet scaling requirements which ultimately translates into lower capex and opex for the business.

Today marks the next evolution for this portfolio as we introduce the Nexus 2300 platform -- the 3rd generation Fabric Extender family. Based on the extensive innovations you have come to know from the Nexus 2100 and 2200 platforms, Nexus 2300 Fabric Extenders expand on these capabilities with:

  • Larger buffers to absorb bursts of traffic for a wide variety of workloads such as multicast feeds, voice traffic, video traffic, and healthcare applications
  • Unified Ports support enabling a flexible LAN and SAN deployment through support for Ethernet, Fiber Channel and Fiber Channel over Ethernet connectivity
  • Support for Cisco’s 40G BiDi optics simplifying migration 10 to 40 Gigabit Ethernet speeds while reusing existing 10G cabling
  • Additional versatile TCAM which can be used for:
    • Advanced features such as ACL classifications and QOS
    • Hardware-capable local flow redirect for architectures that require intra-rack traffic to reduce bandwidth

Put all of these together with the single point of management, policy enforcement, zero-touch provisioning installation and automatic configuration that is available across all Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders and you further benefit from a more simplified and flexible network design that helps you commission and decommission server racks faster, simplify operations, and support varying workload requirements.

Now let’s look at the first member of the Nexus 2300 platform, the Nexus 2348UPQ. Priced at $9500 (US List), almost the same price as current 1Gbps FEXs, the Nexus 2348UPQ supports 48 1/10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. You can add further 10 G ports when you split the 40G ports for up to 64 10G ports – perfect for data centers that are migrating their servers from 1 to 10G network connectivity. The 6 on-board 40Gbps ports support Cisco’s BiDi optics so that as you migrate from 10G to 40G as your uplink speed, you can reuse your existing 10G cabling – helping you save on the costs of re-cabling your network and get it upgraded faster! This new fabric extender can be deployed in conjunction with Nexus 5500, 5600, and 6000 parent switches and with the Nexus 7000 and 9000 Series in the future.

In summary, Cisco’s Fabric Extender portfolio has seen tremendous traction in the market as the many benefits of this architecture ultimately help create a cost-effective, flexible and simplified approach to building a data center network. The Nexus 2300 Series Fabric Extender, with the Nexus 2348UPQ, continues to deliver on these same principles and further expands on the promise of helping simplify network deployment and operations while ensuring the data center network is ready to support varying application needs. I invite you to learn more about the Nexus 2348UPQ and other Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders at www.cisco.com/go/nexus2000.

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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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ACI Momentum Continues

July 23, 2014 at 2:13 pm PST

TWTV 151 ACI Momentum

We embarked upon this episode with an agenda. Take a sample of the building momentum around Cisco ACI. The growing benefits, details and momentum behind the Application Centric Infrastructure. First announced in November 2013 and just before we start shipping.

In my estimation, we saw five areas worth highlighting from Cisco Live:

  1. Cisco is ready to ship ACI
  2. Partnerships and joint use-cases are resonating with customers
  3. Strong integrations with APIC through OpFlex
  4. Partners see strong customer demand
  5. Partner are getting ready to ship ACI-based solutions

Great Q&A with Soni Jiandani from Network World’s John Dix: Cisco describes its SDN Vision She nails Cisco’s ACI vs. SDN messaging and any confusion you may still have with the positionoing. She also puts good context around the OpFlex protocol.

Our show is a great sneak peak for this summer’s blockbuster release of ACI Fabric Mode and the APIC Controller. If you need to catch up. Be sure and review the launch details we covered for ACI in November 2013: TWTV136: Inside the Application Centric Infrastructure

The key elements for ACI in that episode were:

  • Application Awareness -- top down control based on what was important
  • A new, tighter coupling between software and hardware
  • Architecture
  • Recognition that virtualization on the compute side had not been accompanied by requisite innovation on the network wide -- potential for wasted opportunity.
  • East West traffic was growing gangbusters in the data center and needed assisted.

We walk through the following components of the offering:

  • APIC -- Centralized cluster controller
  • Northbound API for standardized communication and control from Applications that need to interact with the Fabric
  • Southbound API for third party network services integration
  • Profiles -- Application Network Profiles -- the logical representation of all components of the application and its interdependencies on the application fabric
  • ACI Fabric -- new stateless hardware within the Nexus portfolio, 9000 series

So what was still missing?
- APIC GUI -- How would we interact?
- Migration plan -- Clarity on how to leverage within existing networks
- Southbound interface -- more details on network control
- Partner Plans -- who would support?

And that formed much of what we wanted to cover for today’s show -- filling in the blanks on the momentum…just before the big release this summer.

Shashi Kiran level on set on what has been accomplished.
TWTV 151 ACI Momentum

Ronak Desai, Director of Software Development walked Jimmy Ray through the new APIC interface.

TWTV 151 ACI Momentum

I got a chance to ask Mike Cohen about OpFlex and where it fits.

TWTV 151 ACI Momentum

And finally, Jimmy Ray weighed in with his view on partner support and the growth we are seeing for the Eco-System.

Please to enjoy!

Robb
@robbboyd

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ACI—Some lesser known features

I am a consultant at a Cisco partner and I get to see a lot of different networks. Most of the networks are Cisco, but there are a few that are not. From time to time, I get network assessment projects. I love these types of projects as they are an exploration of  uncharted networks to see what can be discovered. Personally I like to have my network consistent, orderly, and precise. The common components of the configurations on all device should be identical. These network assessments usually do not conform to these standards. Syslog configured on some devices pointing to a device that no longer Read More »

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