The change in how people are working today means the architectures of business applications and the networks that support them are changing too. The move from traditional, monolithic application architectures to modern, hyperconnected microservices architecture has accelerated. With it, we are seeing apps increasingly spanning multi-cloud data center environments, including on-prem data centers, instead of being pinned to a single environment. This generational shift in application deployment and architecture has introduced new challenges for IT leaders and practitioners alike. They must handle dramatic increases in network traffic while maintaining strong SLAs and expanding capabilities for self-service of both applications and infrastructure. At the same time, IT staff have to cope with a lack of unified visibility and insight into the performance of their technology stack.

At Cisco, we are working hard to address these challenges. One way is by working with HashiCorp, a pioneer in infrastructure software for modern apps. A new integration between Cisco ACI and HashiCorp Consul enables customers to operate their intent-based infrastructure efficiently, with insights from HashiCorp Consul service mesh. This integration, Consul Extension for Cisco ACI, brings together an intelligent closed-loop collaboration between the service/application and network that will achieve the following goals:

  • It will pave the way for dynamic, service-driven network infrastructure automation with self-service capabilities for services,
  • It will provide end-to-end visibility and insights into the entire technology stack starting from the application services to the physical network, and
  • It will enable a secure, consistent multi-cloud infrastructure across any workload by shining light into the nuances of application communications.

Application-Centric is Service-Centric

This integration optimizes application delivery in multi-cloud environments by providing comprehensive service-level visibility across the infrastructure. The goal is that, In the future, it will reduce operational complexities through automation, allowing IT teams to be agile and drive faster business outcomes. In addition, the joint solution can add modern capabilities to legacy environments without requiring significant re-tooling.

The Consul Extension for Cisco ACI provides two big benefits:

First, Service visibility and faster Mean-time-to-Resolution (MTTR). The integration allows operators to see which services are running on each ACI endpoint, by mapping service-mesh abstractions to intent-based networking abstractions. This makes it easier to diagnose application issues and resolve network outages.

Traditionally, data center operations involve multiple personas, such as NetOps, DevOps, Application owners, SecOps, and CloudOps – all working in silos, resulting in lack of end-to-end application stack awareness. This complexity is exacerbated by workload (container, VM and bare-metal) sprawl across disparate infrastructure spanning private and public clouds, each of which bring to the table their own syntax and semantics. A common understanding achieved by the abstraction translation simplifies data center operations by enabling faster identification of issues based on service health and network data correlation.

Consul Extension for ACI also provides real-time visibility into dynamic L4-L7 services, and service health and service-to-service communication on virtual, container and bare-metal workloads connected by the ACI Multi-cloud network driven by Consul service discovery.

Second, Network automation, a future capability, will provide consistent service intention driven network policy automation for virtual, bare-metal and container workloads across private and public clouds for an ACI multi-cloud network. It will also ease the transition to a secure Consul-based service mesh deployment for applications teams and DevOps operators with the ACI multi-cloud network.

How to Try It

The Consul Extension for ACI app is available on the Cisco DC App Center. It provides Service visibility and faster Mean-time-to-Resolution benefits. Network automation functionality will be added to this app in near future.

This integration augments the existing capabilities of Cisco ACI with HashiCorp Terraform to enable flexible on-demand resourcing, operational consistency, and a self-service model to replace manual processes for provisioning applications. Customers are quickly embracing the Terraform providers for Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Cisco Multi-Site Orchestrator (MSO) that Cisco and HashiCorp have developed together to modernize their infrastructure automation posture. Cisco ACI and HashiCorp Consul combine network and dynamic application services knowledge to deliver Network Infrastructure Automation and end-to-end insights.

Check these links to learn more:

Learn more about Consul Extension for ACI (Beta) application.


Yousuf Khan

Vice President of Technical Marketing

Intent Based Networking Group