“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity”. ~ Plato

November 6, 2014 marked the one-year anniversary since the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was officially announced in the ACI Launch Event at Waldorf Astoria, New York City. I had the privilege to attend the event; I thought to myself that if Cisco had picked NYC for an announcement that’s got to be serious. Also after living over 20 years in NYC/NJ area, I had never stepped in the historic Waldorf Astoria!

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I was extremely exciting and happy about what I heard and saw when I stepped out of Waldorf Astoria at the end of the day. I followed blog posts, tweets on Twitter, etc. about Nexus 9000 and ACI/APIC. But life, family, work, and especially my chasing of the CCIE Data Center digit gradually shifted my focus.

Weeks before the one-year anniversary of the ACI announcement, I’ve decided to look back and share here what I found interesting since November last year.

November 6, 2013

There were rumors and so-called leaked information about Cisco’s SDN solution before November 6, 2013. But all these rumors and leaked info only touched very little of what Insieme/Cisco was going to announce in the ACI Launch Event. Do you notice A in ACI is Application, not Software?

Almost all Cisco executives were present in the Waldorf Astoria. Only a couple of “unfortunate” ones were enjoying warming weather in CiscoLive Cancun. Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers opened the ACI Launch Event.

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The live event was streamed to Cancun and London. Registered users could also view the event via WebEx.

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Twitter buddies Matthew Stone @BigMStone and others spotted me on the live WebEx. I think they saw this:

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Soni Jiandani then introduced the Application Centric Infrastructure – Nexus 9000, Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), and the ACI Ecosystem.

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The no-midplane Nexus 9500 chassis and 9300 fixed switch were announced in the event.

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Today, Cisco offers 3 9500 chassis models and 7 9300 fixed models.

I counted 22 ACI Ecosystem partners from Soni’s presentation.

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Today, Cisco’s ACI Ecosystem webpage shows 40 partners, excluding SourceFire.

One interesting component was mentioned in the event and it was the 40G BiDi transceiver. It’s inexpensive and can run 40G links with existing 10G cabling infrastructure. It was originally announced to work on Nexus 9000. Today, 40G BiDi optics can also be used on Nexus 7700 F3 module, 6000, 5600, and 3164Q.

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One or two days before the ACI Launch Event, some Cisco folks mentioned on Twitter that Joe Onisick @jonisick showed up on their intranet with the ACI Overview video.

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On the same day of the ACI Launch Event, Cisco posted Joe’s video on Youtube, alone with Lilian Quan’s @lilianquan Cisco Nexus 9000 Unicast.

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My Twitter buddy Matt Oswalt @Mierdin wrote two detailed blog posts on the ACI announcement: Part 1 – Hardware and Part 2 – ACI Programmability.

November 21, 2013

Release Notes of NX-OS 6.1(2)I1(1) for Nexus 9000 was published. This marked the availability of Nexus 9508 running NX-OS mode. Only layer 3 features were included in the first Nexus 9000 NX-OS release. Some argued that Nexus 9000 was a layer 3 fabric switch in the end. We knew that the layer 2 features were coming…

February 17, 2014

Matt Oswalt took a spin of NX-OS on Nexus 9508 and made a video of the initial configuration. Now, what if Matt could wait for one more month…

March 17, 2014

Release Notes of Nexus 9000 NX-OS 6.1(2)I2(1) was published. Guess what? Yup. Layer 2 features were added to this NX-OS release for Nexus 9000: VLAN, STP, vPC, FHRP, VXLAN gateway and bridging.

April 2, 2014

Cisco announced OpFlex protocol at Interop 2014. OpFlex is the southbound API for ACI. I believe OpFlex is significant. Through OpFlex, APIC can communicate with L4-L7 devices from other vendor. Cisco Champion Peter Welcher @pjwelcher has a nice article on OpFlex, New Details about Cisco ACI: OpFlex.

April 22, 2014

Two ACI Fabric videos were posted on YouTube. Lilian Quan’s Traffic Handling within the ACI Fabric and Joe Onisick’s Traffic Flows Through the ACI Fabric.

May – June, 2014

My data center network runs Nexus 7000/6000/5000/2000. I always questioned how I would integrate ACI to my existing Nexus infrastructure. Cisco published two white papers for me (and customers who have the same question).

July 24, 2014

Cisco released APIC configuration examples and technotes… in videos! Some may prefer HTML or PDF format, but APIC GUI is a GUI! I want to see where to click and what to click.

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With a whole bunch APIC videos being released, you knew the long-waited ACI/APIC release was coming soon…

July 31, 2014

ACI shipped!

APIC was shipped as an appliance based on the UCS server. The ACI Starter Kit was offered to help customers with POC lab deployments or to connect with existing Nexus 7K/6K/5K/2K environment. The APIC Starter Bundles were offered to include APIC cluster, ACI licenses, and options of 2 Spines / 4 Leafs or of 2 Spines / 2 Leafs.

Most importantly, the APIC GUI does not need Java because it is of HTML5! Cisco Champion Colin Lynch @UCSguru showed his happiness about this:

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August 15-25, 2014

I was jealous that Cisco Champion Carl Niger @carl_niger was able to attend an ACI Bootcamp offered to Cisco partners. He blogged his notes and thoughts in four posts:

September 11, 2014

The Tech Field Day crews visited the Cisco office in Silicon Valley, as part of their Network Field Day 8 activities. There the fast-talking Joe Onisick gave Cisco ACI Fabric Forwarding and Defining Application Using Policy with Cisco ACI. Paul Lesiak presented Cisco ACI Programmability and Automation.

Cisco Champion Ethan Banks @ecbanks was able to catch every single word that Joe said, digested the information, and summarized in a nice blog post, Cisco ACI Fabric Forwarding In A Nutshell.

November 6, 2014

Amy Lewis @CommsNinja, you don’t know how much I appreciate your help in attending the wonderful ACI Launch Event. Without your magic, I wouldn’t be able to listen and watch Mr. Chambers at such a close range. Unlike my neighbor that day, I did dare to pull out my iPhone and take a photo of Mr. Chambers in short distance.

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It’s obviously the writer’s duty to research his or her topic. But Rachel Bakker @RBakker, when I asked you for a collection of ACI-related Cisco Champions activities to make my duty easier, you sent it to me right the way. Amazing. Thank you.

David Jansen @ccie5952, thank you so much for emailing me the Nexus 9K/NX-OS/ACI/APIC event timeline over the weekend rather than the following Monday. I probably shouldn’t have said “ASAP” when you asked “when”.

As a network engineer, there are technical details of ACI that I would like to deep dive.  I’m curious about the separation of the management plane and control plane in ACI/APIC. I am looking forward to the days ahead to know more of ACI.

Yours truly,

Gideon Tam @mfmahler


Gideon Tam

Datacenter Network Architect and Network Security Specialist