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The Countdown Begins! Cisco customers and partners prepare to roll out ACI

As spring turns to summer, just 6 months from when Cisco announced its vision of Application Centric Infrastructure, the momentum has started to pick up on all fronts – solution availability, technology integration with partners, channel awareness and most importantly strong customer traction. It is worthwhile to look at the trajectory thus far –

  • Nexus 9000 shipping with strong customer traction, awards and records
  • 70+ active ACI trials with customers and channel partners
  • ACI ecosystem – 33 ecosystem partners leveraging the open approach and the policy model
  • 1000+ customers in pipeline
  • 175+ customers across major SPs, Enterprise and Commercial with several production deployments

With the APIC ready to ship this summer and become generally available, it is very exciting to see the positive feedback coming in especially from customers and partners that are deploying the Nexus 9000 as also those participating in the ACI trials with the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC).

Hear directly from our major partners in this short video montage

New Innovations

Today we continued the momentum with new “ACI-ready” Nexus 9300 Top of Rack switches (9336PQ and 9396TX) both of which can ease into traditional 3-Tier deployments or ACI deployments moving forward. A new line card was also made available for the Nexus 9500 to function as an ACI ready spine. In addition, there were several other innovations across the Nexus portfolio, including a new Nexus 6004X switch,  VXLAN support made available across the entire portfolio as well as enhanced programmability and SDN/automation capabilities on the Nexus 7000 series switches.

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Introducing OpFlex – A new standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure

Continuing on its tradition of contributing and committing to open source and open standards over the last 25 years, today Cisco announced “OpFlex” – a new open standards-based protocol for Application Centric Infrastructure that has been submitted into the IETF standardization process. We believe this will accelerate multi-vendor innovation in data center and cloud networks to drive operational simplicity, lower costs and increased agility.

Why is this required?

Traditional SDN models today function on the basis of an imperative control model with a centralized controller and distributed network entities that support the lowest common denominator feature set across vendors such as bridges, ports and tunnels. As the network scales, the controller becomes a bottleneck due to the need to maintain increased state, and starts to impact performance and resiliency. Likewise, because the applications, ops and infrastructure requirements need to be translated into network configuration, it impacts agility and introduces a manual learning process, requiring app developers to describe their requirements in low-level constructs.

OpFlex1

If we contrast that with the vision of the ACI model with the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), ACI adopts a declarative management approach. This model abstracts applications, operations and infrastructure providing simplification and agility. By distributing complexity to the edges, it also increases better scalability, and allows for resiliency – i.e. the data forwarding can still continue to happen even if there is no controller. It further provides ease of use with self-documenting policies automatically deployed or cleaned up from devices as necessary. All of these help circumvent the issues seen in traditional SDN models.

For this declarative model to work across a multi-vendor environment, to translate and map policy definition into the infrastructure, there has hitherto been no standard protocol to do that across physical/virtual switches, routers and L4-L7 network services. This vacuum has led to the development of “OpFlex” – a new open standard recently submitted to the IETF.

Who is contributing to OpFlex?

Several industry leaders and practitioners are actively involved in the standardization process. These include Microsoft, IBM, Citrix and SunGard Availability Services, in addition to Cisco.

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New Applications are Knocking! Is your data center OPEN for business?

Mark your calendars. On April 2nd at Interop this week we will be bringing you an exciting new webcast -- “New Applications are Knocking! Is your Data Center OPEN for business?”  

Register Here!open

Cisco will be sharing new announcements led by Soni Jiandani, SVP at Cisco.  Joining us will be leaders from leading technology companies -

  • Citrix -- Sunil Potti, Group Vice President and General Manager, NetScaler Product Group
  • F5 -- Sangeeta Anand, Sr. VP, Product Management and Marketing
  • IBM -- Inder Gopal, Vice President, Networking Development and Technical Strategy
  • Microsoft -- Mike Schutz, General Manager -- Windows Server, Management and Appliances Product Marketing
  • RedHat -- Tim Burke, Vice President, Linux and Cloud Engineering

Expecting multi-vendor innovation around next-generation software-defined networking (SDN)? Hear what Cisco and these panelists from leading technology companies have to say:

OpFlex Panel

Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby, who’s delivering a keynote at Interop, will also be joining to share her perspectives on technology and how Cisco IT is embracing aspects of Application Centric Infrastructure.

It’s been five months since the seminal Nov 6 announcement of Application Centric Infrastructure and the momentum keeps accelerating -

  • Nexus 9508 ships -- Nov 2013
  • 800+ Nexus 9000 customers in pipeline
  • Over 30 ACI ecosystem companies – Jan 2014
  • Miercom performance benchmark records for Nexus 9516
  • ACI training programs for partners to empower 2 million CCIE/CCNA trained network engineers – Mar 2014
  • Nexus 9516 and APIC selected as Finalists for Best of Interop – Mar 2014
  • Next?? Tune into the webcast for more..!

To put great technology solutions into real world perspective, we will also be joined by several of Cisco’s customers from different segments and deployment models, providing insights into their experiences and best practices.

Join me and the rest of the Cisco team, as we continue to redefine the power of IT. April 2nd at 1 PM PST.

Register Here!

Already Attending Interop?

If you’re already attending Interop in person, please join me and the rest of the Cisco team for this live broadcast at the Mandalay Ball Room at 12.45PM.

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ACI Design Principles: The role of SDN Overlays in Application Centric Deployments – Part 1

Tom Edsall, ACIThis is a two-part blog series developed in association with Tom Edsall, a Cisco Fellow and CTO of Insieme Networks, recently acquired by Cisco Systems. The intent is to elaborate on foundational design principles of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), a transformational approach for next-generation and cloud deployments. While the vision of ACI is an expansive one, this blog series focuses on the role of SDN overlays, their deployment considerations, as well as benefits that customers could derive from the unique implementation of overlays in an ACI solution.

The philosophy of Application Centric Infrastructure

Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure approach focuses on the most important thing in the data-center: applications.  Without applications, we would not even need a data center at all!  Everything we do in the data center ultimately is used to support those applications and the data that they work on because that is what ultimately drives business value.

The modern data center must be able to deploy applications rapidly, using any and all resources (compute, storage, network) available in the data center at any time.  It must also be possible to grow, shrink, and move applications as needed.  This will drive business agility and efficient use of resources.

The problem is that classical networking systems were developed in a world where there was less focus on any application anywhere, any time. Instead the focus was on on building large, static, IP networks.

Our solution was to create an application centric infrastructure where the emphasis is on the application rather than on the network.  In order to do this we had to change the abstraction of the network from one that is, well, network centric to one that is application centric.  In addition, we had to employ some SDN techniques to change the network from a traditional static infrastructure to a more dynamic, agile, flexible infrastructure. Let’s look into some of these techniques in detail.

Integrating SDN concepts

We employ two important concepts used in typical SDN solutions: overlays and a centralized controller.  Overlays give us network flexibility that was never possible before by separating the location of a device from its identity. The centralized controller gives us consistent network behavior wherever an application is deployed, the application centric abstraction of the network, and a single point of control.  While these benefits are important, even fundamental, to building a data center capable of supporting the business requirements of application agility, they also introduce their own set of problems in traditional SDN deployments that must be addressed. We will discuss these issues and their solutions shortly.

The SDN overlay and application abstraction is built on top of networking hardware that must move data across the data center quickly and efficiently without requiring changes to the applications, servers or storage elements attached to it.  The hardware must do this in an efficient, reliable manner and provide as much assistance as possible to the network operator when troubleshooting and monitoring those applications as they use the network.  Lastly, this hardware must be cost effective, power efficient, and space efficient.

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Tackling Operational Complexity – Fresh perspectives on role of DataCenter Infrastructure

In less than 48 hours, on Nov 6th, Cisco will officially announce details of its approach to Application Centric Infrastructure based on innovations from Insieme networks.
[To join our Webcast with John Chambers and Insieme Soni Jiandani on Wednesday November 6 at 10:30 am EST/7:30 am PST  register here ]

No doubt that there are great expectations riding on this announcement. In part due to Insieme’s pedigree, and in part due to the promise it brings. The former I covered in my previous blog – Application Centric Infrastructure gets ready to rumble. As for the latter, it is important to put the promise in perspective.

As businesses of all sizes continue to pump billions of dollars of investment into  data center and cloud IT and consumption models, the expectations for IT to generate a credible RoI in terms of business agility, productivity and efficiency has never been higher. IT today epitomizes a very powerful business function that directly impacts agility and contributes to bottomline and customer experience. It is but natural to think of data centers are futuristic, glamorous environments, quietly humming away transforming businesses at their core. Many new data centers are in fact that, and seem to come out for sci-fi movie.

However, in a majority of cases, many data centers have just “grown-up” too fast over the last decade that saw adhoc spurts in data center consolidation and server virtualization.  While both phases have provided tremendous benefits in terms of efficiencies and economies of scale, they have also contributed their mite to increasing operational complexity. From cabling sprawl, to network and server sprawl, to VM sprawl – the rapid growth has in some cases negated cost efficiencies gained through server virtualization. The same can be said of software stacks with complex licensing and version control issues. The affinity to applications in this chaos has somehow been either taken for granted or partially lost in the complexity, making it harder to bring predictability into application deployments or troubleshooting, leading to both time and cost overruns. How can this be simplified? How can infrastructure be better linked to the needs of applications? How to make life simpler for data center operations and facilitate a better application experience?

ESG_1

Per a survey conducted by ESG last year, 63% of IT pros say new app deployments take a month or more, 50% say upgrades take just as long. 77% of enterprise IT pros say they would manage more than 150 applications over the next year. This is a lot! For IT to deliver high performing apps, they need a way for infrastructure to automatically respond to the needs of the application, and to have excellent visibility when something goes wrong and requires troubleshooting during application deployments or upgrades.

ESG_5

 

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