A few weeks back, I wrote a blog on software defined networking (SDN) and how it is gaining momentum in the market place. To help you recollect, SDN is a new approach to designing, building and operating networks. The control plane is decoupled from the data plane and is logically centralized in an SDN controller to provide a single abstracted view of the underlying network topology and its state. SDN is a kind of technology that takes the high-end features built into routers and switches and puts them into software that can run on cheaper hardware.
Today, Cisco’s spin-in Insieme Networks announced a breakthrough data center solution – application centric infrastructure (ACI) product portfolio that takes SDN to a completely new level and delivers a common, open platform for managing physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures. ACI architecture is built upon a “systems” approach — versus a box-by-box or traditional overlay approach — that allows for a common policy management framework to be leveraged across network, security and application teams. ACI offers a completely virtualized, self-aware and dynamic network that involves hardware using both merchant silicon and custom-built chips combined with software that addresses the challenges facing today’s data center.
The new breakthrough ACI product is a massive fabric controller that can orchestrate the entire data center, including networks, Layer 4-7 services, storage and compute. The technology helps orchestrate and integrate networks, security and network services that need to be delivered to applications. ACI leverages open APIs along with a mix of both custom Cisco and merchant silicon and ASICs.
The Cisco ACI provides a view and the ability for application developers to define the connectivity requirements from the infrastructure for their applications and it gets pushed to the infrastructure using service profiles. Once that’s defined, it’s automated throughout the infrastructure, so wherever the application lives, that application profile will follow.
With this new product, Cisco’s goal is to take a systems-based approach rather than a box-by-box approach and provide the flexibility of software with the security and performance of hardware and simplified management. This breakthrough product is a step beyond the traditional SDN. ACI makes the networks more programmable, automated and equipped to handle the new wave of business applications that are emerging from trends like big data and the Internet of Things.
Traditional SDNs are software-only overlays that result in loss of visibility between the application service and the network, lack of scalability, depend on specific hypervisors and focus on a “small subset” of programmability applicable only to “one-eighth” of the data center. With ACI, Cisco is raising the bar in the data center network by bringing the Unified Fabric and setting the new standard for any networking vendors who claim that they are providing data center switching fabric. ACI blends software with merchant silicon and custom ASICs in physical hardware that’s optimized for availability of service (physical or virtual). ACI provides an automated common operational model through a “unified” northbound/southbound RESTful API based on XML/JSON languages. This is what I call a “gamechanging” technology that simplifies the data center and network management and allows the network to be application aware and adapt accordingly. The same changes that server virtualization wrought on the hardware world years ago are now happening in networking. The launch of Cisco ACI ushers a new era of simplicity and automation for data centers worldwide. I am really excited about this new technology and the benefits it brings to our data center customers. Please share your comments and thoughts with me. Follow me on Twitter @Unicom_Architect.