Mobile and web apps supported by powerful backend services already top the list of this century’s most impactful technology trends. As IT organizations migrate to a micro-services architecture with DevOps practices, I believe the rate of innovation will accelerate. The next two decades promise to be even more exciting than the first two, and we’re working hard to enable our customers to build networks that support these modern apps. Let’s explore a few resources that network practitioners can use to evolve their DevOps journey.

The Evolution of Application Infrastructure

To understand infrastructure as code better, let’s look at what happened when cars became ubiquitous here in the US. Before cars, the railroad system ruled it all. Trains running on extremely well-defined, regimented schedules carried passengers and goods, connected people and places using the mesh of railroads that crisscrossed the country1. Cars democratized transport, allowing us to use our own vehicles on schedules convenient to us. To support this, a rich ecosystem of gas stations, coffee shops, restaurants and rest areas cropped up everywhere as a support system. Most importantly, the investment in the US road system paved the way (pun intended) for a network of freeways, highways and city roads that now carry a staggering 4 trillion passenger-miles of traffic each year, compared to a meager 37 billion passenger-miles carried by railroads2.

We are in the midst of a similar revolution in application architectures. Applications are evolving from the railroad mode (monolithic architectures deployed and managed in centralized, regimented ways, following a waterfall model of project management), to the road system mode (micro-services architectures with highly interconnected components, deployed and managed by small teams following DevOps practices). To cope with this change, our customers are evolving their organization and technology stack to be more agile. Furthermore, applications are increasingly spanning multiple environments—from on-prem DC environments to public clouds.

3 Ways to Prepare Your Infrastructure and Organization

If you are a network practitioner, here are three solutions that can help you manage your infrastructure as code – and stay in lockstep with application DevOps teams.

  1. Cloud-first network automation. HashiCorp Terraform and Red Hat Ansible integrations with Cisco Data Center Networking solutions enables the full power of cloud automation. Terraform Providers for Cisco ACI and Cisco MSO allows customers to automate their networks with the powerful declarative abstraction that is hugely popular with teams building cloud-native applications. With the Ansible collections for Cisco DCNM, Cisco ACI, Cisco MSO, and Cisco NX-OS, customers can move from traditional scripting to robust, reusable automation.
  2. Cisco DevNet offers a full journey for developers, from beginner to building composable infra in the cloud with solutions like Cisco ACI and Cisco NX-OS, using both Cisco-centric and open tooling to build workflows. DevNet sandboxes, code samples, ACI bootcamps, free DevNet Express training, social outreach and non-stop webinars give developers a risk-free, “learn before you deploy” experience.
  3. Enabling DevOps and GitOps. With the advent of containers and immutable infrastructure, it’s common in modern enterprises to develop a universal approach for operations. This is commonly referred to as the GitOps model, where Continuous Integration (CI) pipelines are controlled from a single source of truth and application and infrastructure components can be rolled back or updated using standard Git operations. Cisco ACI and Cisco DCNM amplify GitOps and CI/CD pipeline benefits by providing a software model that can rapidly adapt to automation framework evolution. This ensures that our customers can rely on a robust, flexible and extensible network and security API that can support bleeding-edge automation and cloud-native use cases, such as Kubernetes operators, application-level visibility or multicloud security.

See the new Cisco ACI and HashiCorp Terraform solution in action. 

Register to join the Data Center Networking Demo Series on October 6: Building an automated hybrid multicloud with Cisco ACI and HashiCorp Terraform.

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Enabling DevOps Innovation

We anticipated this trend in the early 2010s and designed products to serve as the strong network of freeways, highways, and city roads, as the case might be, for the modern apps our customers were building. Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI), Cisco Multi-Site Orchestrator (Cisco MSO), Cisco Network Assurance Engine (Cisco NAE), along with the updated Cisco Data Center Network Manager (Cisco DCNM) are a result of this multi-year effort to make the network self-serve friendly, programmable and secure with strong tenant/network isolation. These technologies enable the network practitioner to operate the more agile and democratic network that multicloud requires. One where application owners are empowered to programmatically create, modify and delete networks, as and when their applications need it. Not on some well-defined, regimented schedule driven by manual-intensive steps.

The paradigm shift in application architectures and deployment models surely pose new and interesting challenges to the infrastructure. The network, as the central nervous system of the infrastructure, has a significant role to play. With infrastructure as code as a focus area, we’re committed to making sure that the network lives up to the lofty expectations of seamless connectivity and intuitive operations in an ever-changing application landscape. The updates here are a step in this direction.

We welcome your feedback on how we can help you, our customers and partners, to have the best experience on our journey together.


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Yousuf Khan

Vice President of Technical Marketing

Intent Based Networking Group