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The Benefits of an Application Policy Language in Cisco ACI: Part 2 – The OpFlex Protocol

October 14, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

[Note: This is the second of a four-part series on the OpFlex protocol in Cisco ACI, how it enables an application-centric policy model, and why other SDN protocols do not.  Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4]

Following on from the first part of our series, this blog post takes a closer look at some of these architectural components of Cisco ACI and the VMware NSX software overlay solution to quantify the advantages of Cisco’s application-centric policies and demonstrate how the architecture supports greater scale and more robust IT automation.

As called for in the requirements listed in the previous section, Cisco ACI is an open architecture that includes the policy controller and policy repository (Cisco APIC), infrastructure nodes (network devices, virtual switches, network services, etc.) under Cisco APIC control, and a protocol communication between Cisco APIC and the infrastructure. For Cisco ACI, that protocol is OpFlex.

OpFlex was designed with the Cisco ACI policy model and cloud automation objectives in mind, including important features that other SDN protocols could not deliver. OpFlex supports the Cisco ACI approach of separating the application policy from the network and infrastructure, but not the control plane itself. This approach provides the desired centralization of policy management, allowing automation of the entire infrastructure without limiting scalability through a centralized control point or creating a single point of catastrophic failure. Through Cisco ACI and OpFlex, the control engines are distributed, essentially staying with the infrastructure nodes that enforce the policies.

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Learn How to Transform your Network with Cisco Innovations at MEF GEN14!!

October 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm PST

By Gina Nienaber, Marketing Manager, SP Product and Solutions Marketing  gina

Cisco is a sponsor of a new show this year, the Metro Ethernet Forum Global Ethernet Network 2014 show or “MEF GEN 14” to be held on November 17-20th, at the Gaylord National in Washington, DC. The event promises to bring together leading industry experts to define the future of global networking. Distinguished Cisco specialists will be available to discuss business transformation through industry leading innovations such as Software Defined Network (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Service Orchestration and Carrier Ethernet 2.0.

MEF GEN 14

On Monday, 17 November, at 1:00 PM, Cisco will host a “MUST ATTEND” pre-conference workshop for our customers where we will share new innovations that will change how service providers plan, deploy, and operate programmable Carrier Ethernet networks. Read More »

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Cox Communications and Cisco Jointly Present on Innovations in Network Monetization and Optimization

Project Illustrates How Software Defined Network (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Work in Concert to Enhance How Networks are Designed, Operated, and Monetized

Last week, I blogged about some joint research with Cox Communications related to our Evolved Services Platform (ESP) and NFV efforts. Another collaborative took place at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) at their Cable-Tec Expo 14 event in Denver.

Loukas Paraschis, a Technology Solutions Architect at Cisco, co-wrote a paper (entitled SDN and NFV in Business Services) with Mazen Khaddam, Principal Lead Network Architect at Cox Atlanta.

SDN and NFV Value in Business Services: Innovations in Network Monetization and Optimization from Cisco Service Provider

The paper provides a comprehensive summary of Cisco’s SDN, NFV, and open source vision with the Cisco Evolved Services Platform (ESP). It specifically validates the service provider’s need for solutions that provide desired business outcomes for applications running across multiple domains (such as WAN and data center), and provides detailed use cases for the WAN Automation Engine (WAE).

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Cisco at the Fall ’14 PONC, Oct 28-30, Baveno Italy – Informative Workshops

By Leonard Luna, Senior Marketing Manager, Cisco Service Provider Solutionsheadshot-resized-sp360

The Fall ’14 Cisco Packet Optical Networking Conference (PONC) is quickly approaching – October 28-30 in Baveno & Vimercate, Italy.  Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in this highly compelling and informative event (To learn more visit the Cisco PONC Series webpage).

If you are a PONC veteran, then you appreciate the value of this event – an opportunity to network with industry peers, hear directly from carriers leading the convergence evolution, see the latest technology innovations, and to have your voice heard.

If this will be your first PONC, then let me prepare you for this compelling event.

Cisco conducts this three day event twice a year –in the spring in San Jose California, and in the fall near its facilities in Vimercate, Italy.  Read More »

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The Benefits of an Application Policy Language in Cisco ACI: Part 1 – Enabling Automation

October 10, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

[Note: This is the first of a four-part series on the OpFlex protocol in Cisco ACI, how it enables an application-centric policy model, and why other SDN protocols do not.  Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]

IT departments and lines of business are looking at cloud automation tools and software-defined networking (SDN) architectures to accelerate application delivery, reduce operating costs, and increase business agility. The success of an IT or cloud automation solution depends largely on the business policies that can be carried out by the infrastructure through the SDN architecture.

Through a detailed comparison of critical architectural components, this blog series shows how the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture supports a more business-relevant application policy language, greater scalability through a distributed enforcement system rather than centralized control, and greater network visibility than alternative software overlay solutions or traditional SDN designs.

Historically, IT departments have sought out greater automation as device proliferation has accelerated to overcome the challenges of applying manual processes for critical tasks. About 20 years ago the automation of desktop and PC management was an imperative, and about 10 years ago server automation became important as applications migrated to larger numbers of modular x86 and RISC-based systems. Today, with the consolidation of data centers, IT must address not only application and data proliferation, but also the emergence of large scale application virtualization and cloud deployments, requiring IT to focus on cloud and network automation.

The emergence of SDN promised a new era of centrally managed, software-based automation tools that could accelerate network management, optimization, and remediation. Gartner has defined SDN as “a new approach to designing, building and operating networks that focuses on delivering business agility while lowering capital and operational costs.” (Source: “Ending the Confusion About Software-Defined Networking: A Taxonomy”, Gartner, March 2013)

Furthermore, Gartner, in an early 2014 report (“Mainstream Organizations Should Prepare for SDN Now”, Gartner, March 2014), notes that “SDN is a radical new way of networking and requires senior infrastructure leaders to rethink traditional networking practices and paradigms.” In this same report, Gartner makes an initial comparison of mainstream SDN solutions that are emerging, including VMware NSX, and Cisco ACI. There has been some discussion whether Cisco ACI is an SDN solution or something more, but most agree that, in a broad sense, the IT automation objectives of SDN and Cisco ACI are basically the same, and some of the baseline architectural features, including a central policy controller, programmable devices, and use of overlay networks, lead to a useful comparison.

This blog series focuses on the way that Cisco ACI expands traditional SDN methodology with a new application-centric policy model. It specifically compares critical protocols and components in Cisco ACI with VMware NSX to show the advantages of Cisco ACI over software overlay networks and the advantages of the ACI application policy model over what has been offered by prior SDN solutions. It also discusses what the Cisco solution means for customers, the industry, and the larger SDN community.

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