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App-titude

08 Nov

So unless you were living under a rock this week, you might have heard a little something about Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) announcement. With the ongoing SDN craze, the emphasis in networking has become all about the applications, which I find amusing since, you know, previously we were building networks just because they looked cool.

But (most) snark aside, in all the tweets, blog posts, news articles, and RFC 1149 carrier pigeon delivered communications, some pretty cool tech was announced; and what it all means is likely to be hash-tagged and rehash-tagged till the proverbial cows are pingable at 127.0.0.1.

Here’s a summary just in case you missed all the excitement:

The ACI announcement  brought to the table a new switch line – the 9000 series and the APIC controller. This news represents at the very least two potentially nifty things: merchant silicon mixed with custom ASICs for a more cost-effective big ole data center switch, and a controller (dubbed APIC) that provides for what I can best describe as Service Profiles for networks, a concept extrapolated from UCS.  This isn’t too surprising since several of the instrumental developers at Insieme were also key in the development of the Cisco UCS product.

Word on the street is that the controller becomes available sometime next April and between it and the 9000 series switches, the ability to do magical things with your network will be unlimited. Well, maybe not unlimited, but certainly flirting on the boundaries of freaking awesome.

Here’s what I like about this play from Cisco – it straddles the fluidly defined SDN fence quite nicely. If you’re not ready or not sure about going all in on the Cisco SDN experience but want to build a network that could potentially play in this space, the 9000 series appears to offer that opportunity. If initial pricing estimates are to be believed (yes, that makes me giggle as well), the 9K is competitive in pricing and port density.  The concept of a Service Profile for a network is also extremely intriguing and a unique way of framing the SDN picture, a picture that morphs often enough it can feel like nailing Jello to the wall.

A couple of things I would like to see more information on: licensing and compatibility. As a recovering voice engineer, I still cringe (and twitch) every time I hear the word entitlement. It’s critical that Cisco not bog this product down with a cumbersome licensing model. That kind of beating will have engineers looking for alternatives faster than the reported line rate of the new 9K.

When we talk about compatibility, I am curious to see how engineers will leverage their current investment in existing Nexus equipment given this new switching line. The 2Ks were specifically mentioned as being part of the ACI solution, but it’s a little murkier how the 5Ks and 7Ks will play into the solution.

There are quite a few resources and fabulous content on ACI that is continuing to fill in the gaps for me, so definitely check these out:

Matt Oswalt’s three part blog series on Keeping It Classless

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure | Overview by Joe Onisick

Unicast Operation in Cisco Nexus 9000

The Cisco / Insieme ACI Launch, Part 1 by Pete Welcher

9000 Series White Papers

Class C Block – Show 12 – Insieme and the Nexus 9000

Cisco ACI Solves All Your Data Center Network Problems by Greg Ferro

Cisco Launches Its Secret Startup Insieme, Then Buys It For $863 Million

Cisco takes fight to SDNs with bold Insieme launch

Insieme’s Insides Use (Gasp!) an Overlay Protocol

Taking the Measure of Cisco’s Insieme by John Herbert

Show 167 – Cisco ACI Software Defined Networking – A First Look

Cisco Nexus 9000 and ACI: Promising P+V Architecture by Ivan Pepelnjak

Who Supports ACI and Why (Network World)

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure: Nexus 9000 by Bob McCouch

Bonus material, Cisco also announced extremely cool BiDi 40 Gbps QSFP modules, check out the details here, this is a huge deal that saves a lot of money when making that jump to 40 gig:

Migrate to a 40-Gbps Data Center with Cisco QSFP BiDi Technology

40GbE Over A Single MMF Pair? With QSFP-40G-SR-BD, You Can. by Ethan Banks

A special thanks to Tech Field Day for inviting me and to Cisco’s Amy Lewis for making all the bloggers feel at home. Special thanks to @networkingnerd who has a special gift for cat, err, geek herding.  You all rock.

Amy Awesomeness

Standard Disclaimer: Tech Field Day covered my expenses at the ACI launch, but I am a redhead, any thought that my opinions could be bought or dictated is just crazy talk. 

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