The 25th anniversary of Cisco Live was an enormous hit, with record crowds at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Every day I could feel the enthusiasm of Cisco customers and partners, and it was especially high in the World of Solutions Expo. That’s where I spent most of my time, on the Expo floor taking in all the technology displays, talking shop, learning, and sharing information with Cisco partners and customers. The key conference themes dominated our conversations – global Intercloud, collaboration, security, and, of course, Application Centric Infrastructure.

I was impressed by how many partners are creating added value for Cisco ACI. I was impressed but not surprised, because our ecosystem of technology partners is integral to ACI. Cisco’s solution is network based, and so we want to bring in tight integration between hardware, software, and ASICs and to provide a systems approach that allows customers to address all seven layers in the data center. A chief advantage of ACI is that it combines the best of white-label box, merchant silicon, and overlay network environments. As such, it’s important to have a strong ecosystem to interconnect with, whether you’re building all the modules using open source code or turning to a Cisco partner such as Citrix, EMC, F5, or NetApp (among others) to build an end-to-end solution to optimize your goals and business outcomes in the data center and extended data center network. A strong ecosystem includes options for storage, compute, management, security, layer 4 through 7 services, etc.

The Cisco partner ecosystem enhances the value we bring to our customers and their IT organizations by developing validated designs and reference architectures, vetting policies, and applying technology innovation. A case in point: At Cisco Live, I was doing customer research related to application dependency mapping. In ACI fabric mode, the lead time for application dependency mapping and creating associated policies can be quite long. Several Cisco partners can help customers shorten this timeframe and develop solid, reusable policies around application mapping. Vnomic, for instance, is in the process of mapping out and certifying policies for large-scale SAP Business Information Warehouse and SAP HANA applications using Cisco ACI. Partners are also creating validated designs built on top of ACI. NetApp’s integration of ACI into FlexPod reference architectures will allow customers to dynamically optimize their environments for specific applications and workloads.

Other partners are integrating Cisco ACI and Intercloud strategies into their cloud-based service offerings, helping to simplify the creation and management of open, secure hybrid cloud environments and providing customers with many choices to support their workload and business needs. VCE, for instance, has primarily deployed its Vblock Systems (which integrate network, storage, and compute technologies from Cisco, EMC, and VMware) in data centers and private clouds. With Intercloud, VCE can now connect public and private clouds using onramps on the Vblocks. A fabric-based, unified platform like ACI makes deploying multiple clouds, and managing and provisioning physical, virtual, and service features faster and easier.

The Cisco partner ecosystem can help customers accelerate the time to value of their Application Centric Infrastructure. Reducing the complexity and effort required for application dependency mapping alone can speed up fabric deployment, which, in turn, can make it faster for customers to realize three of the top ACI benefits: CapEx savings, OpEx savings, and greater business agility. I’ll talk more about these topics later in my ACI blogs.

Here I’ve mentioned only a few examples of Cisco partners who are enhancing the ACI value chain. For more, check out www.cisco.com/go/aci.