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Take One small step with the ACI Simulator, Make a giant leap in ACI Fabric deployments

Cisco ACI is gaining momentum and mindshare in the industry as testified by the 160 plus licensees for the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), and 900 plus customers for the Nexus 9k platform.  All of this in less than three months since going live in August 2014.  Riding on that wave of success, we are pleased to announce the Cisco ACI Simulator, a physical appliance that provides a simulated Cisco ACI environment. The appliance is a full-featured Cisco APIC controller software along with a simulated fabric infrastructure of leaf switches and spine switches in one physical server.

If you wondered how it is going to help you, think of it as a self-contained environment with Cisco APIC instances with real production software. You can use it to quickly understand ACI features, exercise APIs, and initiate integration with third-party orchestration systems and applications. The ACI simulator will also allow you to use the native command line CLI and GUI via APIs that are available for third-parties.  If you are a developer or Cisco partner, this is an ideal way to develop and test your solution.  If you are a customer, you can use this in your test lab to create profiles for your enterprise apps with your actual application delivery controllers and security devices.  This belongs in any well-architected DevOps environment.

Topology of the simulator

The Cisco ACI Simulator enables you to simulate the Cisco ACI fabric, including the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches supported in a leaf-and-spine topology, to take full advantage of an automated, policy-based, systems management approach. Specifically, the ACI simulator environment comprises 2 ACI spines, 2 ACI leafs, and 3 APIC controllers.

acisimulator

The Cisco ACI Simulator includes simulated switches, so you cannot validate the data path. However, some of the simulated switch ports are mapped to the front-panel server ports which allows you to connect external management entities such as VMware ESX servers, VMware vCenter, VMware vShield, and bare-metal servers; Layer 4 through 7 services; authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) systems; and other physical and virtual service appliances. In addition, the Cisco ACI Simulator allows simulation of faults and alerts to facilitate testing and demonstrate features.

Benefits/features

The ACI simulator provides a variety of features and benefits, key ones summarized in the table below.

Fabric Management Topology view, Fabric discovery
Creation of network constructs Build a tenant,  private layer 3 network, bridged   domain
Specify Cisco ACI policy constructs Create Filters, Contracts
Application deployment create Application Network Profiles, End-point groups
Virtualization Integration VMware ESXi, vCenter, vshield
L4-L7 services integration Cisco ASA/ASAv, Citrix NetScaler and F5 BIG-IP
Monitoring and troubleshooting View faults, events, managed objects etc through GUI
Programmability with Northbound API clients Python, REST APIS with JSON & XML bindings,   PowerShell etc

 

Additionally,  please refer to the Cisco ACI compatibility matrix for a full list of supported capabilities and the Datasheet for detailed specifications. In closing, I want to bring to your attention to the general availability of APIC release 1.0(2i) and Cisco NX-OS release 11.0(2i) for Cisco Nexus 9000 Series ACI-Mode Switches. This release delivers new hardware and software capabilities that will further the customer momentum we are seeing with ACI.

For more information, visit

www.cisco.com/go/aci

ACI simulator

https://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter

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Cisco ACI with OpenStack at Redhat Summit – A perfect Pairing

Last week at Redhat Summit in San Francisco, Cisco Data center was well represented in speaking sessions, and solutions expo. I saw lots of traffic at our demo booth featuring Cisco ACI with OpenStack. Customers and Partners alike, showed great interest in how Cisco APIC integrates with OpenStack and enriches Data center operations. We showed the powerful capabilities of Cisco’s Neutron plug-in implementation and how workflow functions like, “create network”, “create subnets and vlan”, “create security groups”, etc. can be elegantly accomplished from the Open Stack console and aligned with the APIC object model via the APIC-Open Stack  API integration. View Demo here: http://youtu.be/pWMXTb237Vk

ACI with OpenStack demo

ACI with OpenStack demo

We also presented in two sessions one titled “Deploying OpenStack with Cisco networking, compute, & storage” and the other  “Automating Red Hat Enterprise Linux deployments with Cisco ACI & OpenStack”. We talked about plans to introduce the group policy model from ACI into OpenStack so that  DevOps teams and NetOps teams can streamline and automate their work while focusing on application and tenant needs at a policy level.

Ravi_DeCapite_t_0450_OpenStack_with_Cisco

The benefit will be that the Group Policy Plugin provides APIs to build Application Network Profiles including service chain requirements.  Both OVS and the ACI Fabric then implement the full policy including distributed L2, L3, and security.   ACI also allows customers to separate tenant polices from operation.  The Tenants manage their applications while the ACI admin manages network operations and infrastructure using policy and it’s all done with automation that speeds up your OpenStack operations.

There was also strong interest in the OpFlex protocol, which Cisco announced at Interop a few weeks ago and how it opens up the ACI policy framework to a broad eco-system. We had lots of other demos showing our Open Stack integration, from a UCS, Nexus 1k, UCS Director stand-point, to round off a 360 degree view of our commitment to broad industry initiatives.

I want to shift focus now to two cool videos recorded last week, by the dynamic team of Joe Onisick and Lilian Quan from the Insieme Business Unit, at Cisco. Joe emphasizes “traffic flows within the ACI Fabric, and application of policy”, while Lilian covers the magic behind how “traffic is handled within the ACI fabric” with emphasis on re-route, bounce, ARP flooding avoidance, etc.,

Stay tuned for more videos on the ACI Fabric mode in near future. We also have a slew of whitepapers coming up that will cover the APIC/ACI Fabric innovations. Check out the recently posted APIC Policy Model whitepaper  that walks you through the basics of the object oriented policy model, Spine-Leaf network architecture and its benefits, APIC policy enforcement, Unicast/Multi-cast policy enforcement, concept of end-point groups (EPG) and all related concepts that you would find extremely valuable as you consider a policy based network architecture for your Data center needs.

I will be covering more exciting news on the ACI front, as we approach Cisco Live San Francisco. Stay tuned

Reference Links

APIC Policy Model whitepaper http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/data-center-virtualization/application-centric-infrastructure/white-paper-c11-731310.html

OpFlex -- An Open policy protocol http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/data-center-virtualization/application-centric-infrastructure/white-paper-c11-731304.html

OpFlex -- An open source approach http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/data-center-virtualization/application-centric-infrastructure/white-paper-c11-731303.html

(ACI-OpenStack demo) http://youtu.be/fYQDvKVg-ag

(Opflex announcement) http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/introducing-opflex-a-new-standards-based-protocol-for-application-centric-infrastructure/

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