This 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.
We at Cisco are really excited to introduce the new Cisco Nexus 5600 platform! It is the third generation of industry’s leading Data Center Server-Access Nexus 5000 series of switches. Cisco Nexus 5600 is the successor of industry’s most widely adopted Cisco Nexus 5500 series switches (with over 20,000 customers and 25 million ports shipped) that maintain all the existing Nexus 5500 features such as LAN/SAN convergence, Fabric Extenders (FEX) and Fabric Path.
The new Nexus 5600 was unveiled at CiscoLive Milan in January 2014 with quite a bit of interest
Nuts and Bolts
We are introducing 2 models under the 5600 platform:
Cisco Nexus 5672UP – A 1 RU 10/40G Ethernet switch offering wire-speed performance for up to 48 10G Ethernet ports (16 of which are Unified Ports) and 6 true 40G ports.
Cisco Nexus 56128P – A 2 RU 10/40G Ethernet switch offering wire-speed performance for up to 96 10G Ethernet ports (48 of which are Unified Ports) and 8 true 40G ports..
In addition to the existing features of the Nexus 5000, 5600 platform brings new features such as True 40 GE support, VXLAN bridging and routing and Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) innovation. With a latency of about 1 µsec, the 5600 platform is ideal for applications which need low latency. For those of you who need network programmability, the Nexus 5600 supports Cisco OnePK and Openflow.
Why these new features matter
Extensibility with VXLAN support
The Cisco Nexus 5600 with its VXLAN support is very well suited for multi-tenant cloud deployments. In large scale, multi-tenant cloud deployments, there is a need for VMs to migrate across layer-3 boundaries. Traditional VLANs only support about 4000 VLANs which are insufficient in the deployments of thousands of VMs. With the migration need across layer-3 boundaries complexities of layer-3 routers are introduced. To solve the scalability as well as the migration issues VXLAN was developed. For more details on VXLAN, watch the video: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/prod/collateral/switches/ps9441/ps9902/vidoe_fundamentals_vxlan.html
Ease of management with Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA)
Our customers are also faced with complex, manual network configurations and have a hard time keeping up with application requirements. To solve these challenges, Cisco has developed an architecture called Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) which simplifies management and automation – such as automatic device and fabric configuration, automatic VM deployment, migration and seamless integration of bare-metal and virtualized resources in the data center. The Cisco Nexus 5600 platform with DFA implemented in the hardware as well as software is ideal for the multi-tenant and mixed (physical and virtual) cloud infrastructure.
The difference between a 40G and True 40G port is that you can push an entire 40G flow in the True 40G port and in the normal 40G port, the port really is divided into 4 10G ports via Etherchannels, Thus in the True 40G, you get full 40G bandwidth. The Cisco Nexus 5600 platform switches has True 40G ports, which help in servicing the full 40G flows.
The Big Picture
Cisco has one of the most comprehensive portfolios for the Data Center and Cloud Networking and this Nexus 5600 platform is but one of the pieces of this portfolio. You may want to read this excellent blog, which explains Cisco’s Data Center and Cloud Networking portfolio.
The next generation Nexus 5600 family offers VXLAN bridging and routing capability, line rate L2/L3, and 40G uplinks, to deliver high performance in a compact form factor for 10G Top of Rack, 1/10G FEX aggregation deployments.
AND THERE HAS BEEN BROAD CUSTOMER ADOPTION ACROSS THE DATA CENTER!
From Nexus 1000V to the Nexus 9000, Cisco’s holistic approach resonates with customers because it provides increased business agility, operational efficiency, and empowers IT to rapidly evolve as business requirements change.
Here are the latest examples of why our customers chose Nexus:
Last week at Cisco live! Milan, we announced another milestone in our OpenStack strategy with the availability this quarter of the Nexus 1000V virtual networking platform for Linux Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) hypervisor and integration with the commercial OpenStack distribution from Canonical (Ubuntu Linux and OpenStack). I had a chance to sit down in Milan with John Zannos, VP of Global Alliances at Canonical, to talk about the Cisco-Canonical partnership, and what the integration of Nexus 1000V into their OpenStack architecture means for customers.
The Nexus 1000V on KVM brings to the OpenStack cloud a fully integrated network virtualization solution. The solution provides a full layer-2 feature set, feature-rich Layer-3 IOS router, security and QoS policies, VXLAN virtual overlays, vPath-enabled virtual services, and full monitoring and management capabilities. Enterprises and service providers may now deploy a full-featured virtual network infrastructure consistently across VMware, Microsoft, and Linux-based software platforms.
Nexus 1000V for Ubuntu Linux with OpenStack support is now available with full automation and orchestration of enablement of the solution via Juju/Charms. Juju provides both a command-line interface and an intuitive web app to design, build, configure, deploy and manage your infrastructure. Charms give Juju its power. They encapsulate application configurations, define how services are deployed, how they connect to other services and are scaled. Nexus 1000V support for Red Hat KVM and OpenStack is planned for later this year.
Additional details and data sheets can be found here.
And on a related note, if you are interested in Nexus 1000V-related items, we recently recorded a technical podcast with Greg Ferro and Ethan Banks of packetpushers.net on the Microsoft Hyper-V version of our virtual switch, which you can find here.
I could not have asked for a better start to the New Year. 2014 was quick off the starting blocks with January already setting the tone for the rest of the year as momentum continues to pick up in data center and cloud networking. Here are some highlights of the state of the business, new product introductions and additions to the ACI partner ecosystem -
ACI customer traction continues to get stronger; Ecosystem continues to add new members
Cisco Live! in Milan provided first-hand evidence of the strong interest from customers to learn more about Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). Customer briefing sessions were packed and demos in the World of Solutions had strong interest. Hundreds of customers are engaged in proof-of-concepts just in the first 30 days. Select customers have been provided the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) simulator to get them early exposure and help harden the APIC ahead of its general availability targeted for Q2 this year.
The open architecture of the APIC means that it is easier for new technology partners to come on board and integrate. New members coming on board the ACI ecosystem include A10 networks, Cloudera,MapR and Catbird. Expect solution data sheets to be made available closer to the APIC availability.
Watch Soni Jiandani provide details of the momentum building around ACI -
The vision of ACI was also extended to Campus and WAN environments with the announcement of the APIC Enterprise module. Stay tuned for more on this space.
Nexus 9000 continues to break new records – Miercom and Lippis test reports available
The Nexus 9000 has been shipping since Q4 of 2013 and is already breaking new records. Miercom released a report that detailed how the Nexus 9500 is offering the highest performance and lowest latency in 40GbE competitive studies. This supplements test reports released here earlier by Lippis and Ixia that focus on performance, availability, power efficiency and programmability.