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:
Cisco is ready to ship ACI
Partnerships and joint use-cases are resonating with customers
Strong integrations with APIC through OpFlex
Partners see strong customer demand
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.
Application Awareness -- top down control based on what was important
A new, tighter coupling between software and hardware
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.
Ronak Desai, Director of Software Development walked Jimmy Ray through the new APIC interface.
I got a chance to ask Mike Cohen about OpFlex and where it fits.
And finally, Jimmy Ray weighed in with his view on partner support and the growth we are seeing for the Eco-System.
#CiscoChampion Radio is a podcast series by Cisco Champions as technologists hosted by Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja). This week we’re talking about ACI Updates with Cisco Product Management Director, Thomas Scheibe.
This is an exciting time in the history of datacenter infrastructure. We are witnessing the collision of two major trends: the maturation of open source software and the redefinition of infrastructure policy.
The trend towards open source is self-evident. Platforms such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight are gaining huge developer mindshare as well as support and investment from major vendors. Even some newer technologies like Docker, which employs linux kernel containers, and Ceph, a software-based storage solution, offer promising paths in open source. Given the fundamental requirements of interoperability in architecturally diverse infrastructure environments, its no surprise that open source is gaining momentum.
The second trend around policy is a bit earlier in its evolution but equally disruptive. Today, there is a huge disconnect between how application developers think about their requirements and the languages and tools through which they are communicated to the infrastructure itself. For example, just to handle networking, a simple three tier app must be deconstructed into an array of VLANs, ACLs, and routes spread across a number of devices. Storage and compute present similar challenges as well. To simplify this interaction and create more scalable systems, we need to actually rethink how resources are requested and distributed between different components. This really boils down to shifting the abstraction model away from configuring individual devices to focus on separately capturing user intent, operational, infrastructure, and compliance requirements.
At Cisco, we’ve really embraced both of these trends. We are active contributors to over 100 open source projects and were founding members of OpenStack Neutron and OpenDaylight. We’ve also made open source a successful business practice by incorporating and integrating popular projects with our products. In parallel, Cisco has accumulated a lot of experience in describing policy through the work we’ve done with Cisco Unified Computing (UCS) and most recently with Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI).
Building on this foundation, we see a unique opportunity to collaborate with the open source community to deliver a vision for policy-driven infrastructure. This will enhance the usability, scale, and interoperability of open source software and benefit the entire infrastructure ecosystem.
This vision includes two initiatives in the open source community:
Group-Based Policy: An information model designed to express applications’ resource requirements from the network through a hardware-independent, declarative language and leave a simple control and dataplane in place. This approach replaces traditional networking constructs like VLANs with new primitives such as “groups”, which model tiers or components of an application, and “contracts” describing relationships between them. Group-Based Policy will be available in the context of OpenStack Neutron as well as OpenDaylight through a plug in model that can support any software or hardware infrastructure.
OpFlex: A distributed framework of intelligent agents within each networking device designed to resolve policies. These agents would translate an abstract, hardware-independent policy taken from a logically central repository into device-specific features and capabilities.
Let’s look a bit more closely at each of these initiatives.
Acxiom is a well-known Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company providing data analytics and data processing solutions to Fortune 100 companies for running and analyzing their marketing campaigns. Recently Cisco spoke to Acxiom’s senior managers Kamal Kharrat, and Chuck Crane, about Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy and how it helps them address their Data Center challenges. In this blog, I will present a brief summary of our discussions. Acxiom is experiencing exponential growth in its customer base, running millions of transactions every week in their hybrid-cloud based data centers. But this growth has brought in its wake several challenges. Acxiom stores confidential, compliance driven data in their private data center infrastructure, and is currently facing elastic scalability problems. Second, they want to transition from a high CAPEX, fixed infrastructure utilization model towards a dynamic model, in which workloads can be seamlessly moved across the private and public infrastructures. Besides, Axciom has a heteregenous mix of L4-L7 vendor devices, multi-hypervisor and security systems and has a pressing need for an open, policy based extensible foundation for their AOS SAAS to bring these services together.
Acxiom is excited to consider Cisco ACI as the best solution to address these problems and are looking to automate their compute, storage and security infrastructure provisioning and achieve the elasticity requirements in their private cloud similar to what they are achieving in the public cloud. Also, Acxiom plans to move the workloads in and out of compute and storage platforms while changing the security zones on-demand increasing the resource utilization to upwards of 80%. Mr. Chuck Crane is quick to point out that Acxiom makes more than 20,000 network and security configuration changes every year and feels the only way to keep up with the growing customer base is to eliminate the labor intensive man-hours and costs that go with them, and hopes to achieve significant reduction in these inefficient processes via automation. He says ACI is the key to arm the network operations to automate the operations and ultimately attain the competitive advantage of agile IT resulting in faster time to market and capitalizing new revenue opportunities.
Today, depending on the solution, it takes about 7 days to 3 weeks for a full provisioning of the resources and the goal is to bring the provisioning time down to hours. With ACI, they say, Acxiom aims to achieve 24-hour turnaround in end-end infrastructure provisioning for application deployments Acxiom will realize a significant reduction in OPEX with this automation.
Last, let us look at how ACI’s Openness helps Acxiom’s data center operations. When looking at repatriating an application (Figure 2) into a private data center, one of the critical challenges is the ability to port the same tools and automation from the public to the private cloud and the network infrastructure is a critical layer in realizing this goal. The open standards based ACI helps Acxiom to use their existing tools and expertise in working across public and private clouds in building infrastructure quickly and achieving the business goals of faster time to market resulting in increased revenue potential.
In conclusion, the Acxiom executives assert that ACI allows their private datacenters to integrate best of breed technologies with their existing infrastructure and achieve full automation seamlessly using service stitching from compute through load balancing through the security platforms -- all from a single point of control. This helps Acxiom to optimize costs, reduce turnaround times and at the same time work seamlessly across private and public clouds.
In case you didn’t notice , the partnership between Citrix and Cisco has been growing nicely over the part 2 years in many areas .
Amongst numerous areas of collaboration here are some common solutions that will be highlighted at the coming conference Citrix Synergy
Cisco Enterprise Mobility solution for business to employee with Citrix XenMobile
Cisco Desktop Virtualization with Citrix Xen Desktop 7.1 on Cisco UCS
Cisco DaaS with Citrix (CloudPlatform or UCS director on UCS)
Cisco’s Citrix NetScaler 1000V (vPath and RISE)
Cisco ACI strategy and how Citrix integrates OpFlex.
The last bullets point, especially the endorsement by Citrix of RISE , the new protocol for Nexus 7000 have been amply covered over the past weeks in blogs from Gary Kinghorn as well as video – You will find links at the bottom of this blogs. But check also Citrix page on Netscaler 1000V.
Cisco and Citrix have been also working diligently to offer the best solutions in terms of mobility . You may want to check this blog from Jonathan Gilad on Cisco strategy and solutions around mobile workplace . Check his recent blog Beyond BYOD to Workspace mobility