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Virtualization: Can We Deconstruct the Problem and Opportunity?

This was the title of a November 19 2013 panel that I had moderated in Washington D.C. at the MPLS-SDN Isocore Conference.

The abstract for this conference was designed to be a bit provocative, specifically:

“ Virtualization as a concept is not new. However, in the context of Software Defined Networking,the virtualization discussion has been focusing on overlay functions e.g networking. What about virtualization overlays and interworking with existing architectures?   What are the implications to performance and management?   Are we speaking the same language?

The panelists will have an opportunity to articulate the virtualization problem space for the industry and the opportunity for the industry to address.”

My panelists included the following individuals: Read More »

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The Quickest Way To Get Started with ACI

November 19, 2013 at 10:26 am PST

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

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.

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Follow-up Q&A on ACI Methodology and the Pursuit of an Application-Aware Architecture

November 15, 2013 at 7:00 am PST

We’ve been getting a lot of great questions about ACI since our launch as people try and better understand the value of an application-oriented approach. I got the following questions on my blog post about the Application Virtual Switch that probed on some of the thinking behind an application-aware architecture, and why now was the right time to release it (after all, John Chambers called it the most disruptive Cisco innovation in a decade!). Anyway, on to the Q&A:

I’d like to know more about the path that Cisco pursued to evolve towards an “application aware” architecture. This back-story (how Cisco arrived at this juncture) would be very helpful to industry analysts, customers and institutional investors. Here’s some of the key questions on my mind.

- What were the primary roadblocks that inhibited the adoption of this innovative approach in the past?

I would say that the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was a combination of a Eureka! moment, that people just never thought of it before, and that it was also an insightful evolution from early SDN technology. So, it might be fair to say that SDN had to come along, and then we realized, here might be a better way to program the network (with an application-oriented model, rather than a network-centric model).

That might be another way of saying that the lack of SDN as a precursor to ACI was a roadblock. But I think of it as networks were just built on hardware that were optimized to pass packets and other very specific tasks. And the limitations of historical networking protocols and traditional network designs, coupled with very limited ways in which you could manage a network and tell it what to do, all served as roadblocks to implementing anything like ACI. So the roadblocks that had to be cleared included the ability to program switches through software interfaces, and to centrally manage the software applications or controllers to orchestrate the broader network, not an individual device. Those are some of the things SDN brought along.

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Close Peek at Cisco ACI : Network Abstraction, VXLAN, Programmability

Last week was a memorable one for me in more ways than one. First, the unveiling of Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) specifics by John Chambers and his Executive Management team via a public webcast on Nov 6. The announcement was a big success and received broad endorsement and support from a big eco-system of Partners, customers, Press and Analysts.

Second, personally it is special to me, as I became part of the ACI Marketing team two weeks ago, to join life in fast lane. In this blog I want to share my excitement with you, and focus on nuances of ACI that do not overlap with blogs already posted by Shashi Kiran and Harry Petty.

The excitement started with an ACI boot-camp, I attended last week. In 2 days, I got a good overview on the architectural advantages of Cisco ACI and the Datacenter pain-points it addresses. By now, many of you would have learnt that ACI is all about Datacenter agility and automation. Sounds easy, but you may be wondering how to attain this goal. I will give examples from my career as a software engineer in the 90’s, when I worked for Sun Microsystems. Those days, I wrote code for 2 –tier and three-tier enterprise software applications that required global deployment and access by users on the company-wide WAN.

My problem started as I went from the Application Development phase to Test/QA phase. I had to run from pillar to post coordinating my application deployment needs with security, network and database/storage admins to identify the best rollout strategy. There was no collaboration between Dev and Ops teams. The alpha and beta test phases required testing on multiple subnets, across geographies, via multiple protocols like to establish proper SLA/functioning of the application. If my application had to open say, a firewall port to allow a particular traffic type (non http) it was next to impossible to get security ops to agree. Opening non-http ports were considered a security risk. In addition, tight coupling of network constructs like subnets, VLAN, security, network services, IP addresses etc with one another, further impacted the network flexibility and application deployment process. (Refer to Figure-1 below for details)

abstraction

With ACI architecture, tight coupling between network constructs can be eliminated. Figure-1 above, illustrates this approach via Abstraction.

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Automation and Application-Centric Infrastructure

If you have been following the news, I’m sure you saw that Cisco just introduced Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). Combine ACI with Cisco UCS Director and you can provision and deliver application-centric infrastructure automatically.

insieme

Over the past 11 months, I have discussed how Cisco UCS Director reduces data center complexity with unified automation and management of multi-vendor converged and integrated infrastructure systems. But the provisioning of compute, storage and network resources is just the start. IT needs to deliver infrastructure that is tailor-made for the specific applications their users need. Together with ACI, Cisco UCS Director has key capabilities to make this happen.

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