Cisco Puts Applications First in Data Center Oversight

Cisco announced what it calls its “Application Centric Infrastructure” (ACI) initiative, providing a bundle of network and software products and new professional services, backed by leading data center providers, including IBM. With ACI, Cisco said it is delivering a data center and cloud solution that offers full visibility and integrated management of both physical and virtual networked IT resources, built around the needs of applications.

ACI couples innovations in software, hardware, and systems with a network policy model built around open APIs. ACI unifies physical and virtual networks, and offers security, compliance and real-time visibility at the system, tenant, and application levels, according to Cisco.

The ACI offering is comprised of the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), the Nexus 9000 switch portfolio, and enhanced versions of the NX-OS operating system. The Nexus 9000 family, running optimized NX-OS, enables what Cisco brands as "zero-touch" operations across high performance data center networks.

The new Nexus 9000 line is intended to enable a transition from optimized NX-OS to the ACI-mode of NX-OS with a software upgrade and the addition of APIC. Using merchant silicon and custom ASICs, the portfolio delivers best of breed price performance and non-blocking port density for 1/10G to 10/40G and in the future 100G transitions in existing and next generation data centers. The Nexus 9000 portfolio includes a backplane-free modular switch.

Cisco's ecosystem of vendors supporting ACI include: BMC, CA Technologies, Citrix, EMC, Embrane, Emulex, F5, IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, OpsCode, Panduit, Puppet Labs, NIKSUN, Red Hat, SAP, Splunk, Symantec, VCE, and VMware.

The ACI offerings include real-time view of per tenant and per application health, statistics, and troubleshooting across physical and virtual infrastructure, real-time analytics driving intelligent application placement decisions.  Ability to monitor and isolate packet drops by application at a system level to accelerate problem resolution. The product line also supports an extensible application policy model for automation and visibility with hardware acceleration, open comprehensive RESTful APIs enabling integration with existing network automation tools, and open source community driven ACI extensions including OpenStack, Open Daylight, virtual switches and VXLAN.  Open APIs enable a ACI ecosystem for management, orchestration, monitoring, virtualization, network service, and storage partners.

The ACI line also offers automated virtual network policy management and telemetry with Microsoft Hyper-V, RedHat KVM, VMware vSphere and other virtualization platforms.  Cisco is also introducing the Cisco Application Virtual Switch (AVS) purpose-built for ACI virtual environments.

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