On July 18th, Cisco IT turned on the first deployment of Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) fabric at its engineering data center in San Jose. By using ACI fabric to simplify and flatten the data center network, we can reduce network operating costs as much as 55 percent and incident management roughly 20 percent. Take a peek at the ACI fabric inside our engineering data center: 

This is Cisco’s first major step toward adopting ACI fabric globally. For the deployment, we moved from a Layer 2 / Layer 3 pod architecture to a spine-and-leaf architecture. In this design, every leaf switch connects to every spine switch in the fabric, helping to ensure that application nodes are at most only two hops from each other or from IP-based storage. Spine-leaf is optimal in mixed data center environments of hypervisors and physical servers so that traffic can move in an efficient east-west direction (server node to server node) versus north to south in the traditional three-tier data center network (from access, distribution, and core layers and back again).

A spine-leaf architecture supports the low latency, and greater, more predictable performance requirements of high-bandwidth applications, workloads, and cloud networks. Now, Cisco IT can deliver Layer 4 through 7 network services and security reliably and consistently to applications independent of their location in the network.

The July 18th deployment includes the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), Nexus 9508 spine switches, Nexus 9396 leaf switches, and open northbound and southbound APIs for integration into many platforms for automation, orchestration, and communication with Layer 4 through 7 and virtual switching devices. APIC controls the hardware and policies in the entire spine-leaf architecture. Policies define an application’s infrastructure requirements (connectivity, quality of service, service-level agreements, etc.), which are pushed to the various infrastructure elements (network, compute, storage, security, hypervisor).

The end-to-end build-to-delivery time for the initial ACI fabric deployment was six weeks.