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Cisco Unveils Application-Centric Infrastructure

NEW YORK -- Cisco today begins the transformation of information technology (IT) by delivering Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), new professional services, and an open ecosystem of partners to help customers unleash their applications and enable greater business agility. With ACI, Cisco is delivering to customers the first data center and cloud solution to offer full visibility and integrated management of both physical and virtual networked IT resources, all built around the needs of applications.

During the unveiling of ACI, and in a blog post, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers discussed the imperative for IT to adapt quickly to the needs of the application economy. Applications have become the lifeblood of business. The consistent and high performance of applications is vital to CIOs’ ability to deliver new products and services, manage risk and security threats, empower employees, and drive productivity into their organizations. As billions of new valuable connections form to create an Internet of Everything that most of us will experience through applications, the focus on rapid and consistent application deployment becomes even greater.

Today, the complexity and inflexibility of IT is slowing business down. IT professionals work in separate inefficient siloes because current technology doesn’t support a shared architectural model, and there is no way to gain a single view of all the hardware and software components that impact application performance. As a result, the IT components are difficult to configure, complex to troubleshoot, and cumbersome to change.

CIOs want to break down these silos and unify all the component parts of IT– networking, storage, compute, network services, applications, security– and manage them as a single, dynamic, entity without compromise: that’s what ACI intends to accomplish. ACI couples innovations in software, hardware, systems and ASICS with a dynamic, application-aware network policy model built around open APIs to reduce application deployment from months to minutes. ACI achieves this by unifying physical and virtual networks and offering security, compliance and real-time visibility at the system, tenant, and application levels at unprecedented scale. Cisco ACI data center switching innovations allow the network to rapidly respond to application development teams, while delivering up to 75 percent total cost of ownership savings compared to merchant silicon-based switches and software-only network virtualization solutions.

ACI is comprised of the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), the Nexus 9000 portfolio, and enhanced versions of the NX-OS operating system. The Nexus 9000 family, running optimized NXOS, enables unmatched “zero-touch” operations across high performance data center networks, and can save customers millions of dollars in capital and operating expenses.

The new Nexus 9000 is also the foundation building block for the Cisco ACI solution, enabling a smooth 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, this 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 state of the art system innovations including the industry’s first backplane-free modular switch to provide investment protection, efficient power and cooling, and a simpler design leading to two times the improvement in mean time between failures.

Based on industry standards, Cisco ACI enables IT to meet business demands for new applications, rapid scale to existing ones, and automatic tear-down of applications that are no longer required. ACI accelerates application deployment cycles to drive faster business processes and improve bottom line results.

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

dwx 11/6/2013 | 12:49:50 PM
Not surprising So Cisco is using the same Trident-2 based chipsets in these switches as the other recently announced switches from Juniper and Arista.  They 1-upped Arista in coming out with a 36x40G blade for their switches instead of Arista's 32x40G blade, so they can take back the "highest density" award I suppose.  One surprising thing I saw was the 36x40G blade is not upgradeable to the "ACI" architecutre, whatever that means at this point since it's all vaporware right now.   

They also have the same 40G transceiver running over a duplex pair of MM fiber, but I cringe they named it "BiDi" since "BiDi" has traditionally been reserved for simplex fiber transceivers... 

Like I said in another post, it's the software side of things which differentiates them.  Cisco is trying to take automation to another level by opening up the configuration and access methods for the device.  The ability to use XMPP to issue commands to a group of connected devices is pretty cool.  Puppet/Chef integration (Juniper has this as well), Python scripting, etc.  Another very interesting thing is the ability to use Linux containers (LXC) so you can run your own applications in a sandbox on the device.  They mention one use is using the switch to kickstart server installs via Cobbler instead of having to setup a local Cobbler server.  

You'll notice absolutely no mention of OpenFlow in any of the switch announcements.  
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