How Cisco ACI is Transforming Enterprise Networking Strategy

  Greg LaBrie     Dec 01, 2016

cisco-aci-enterprise-networking-strategy.jpgWriter's note: Every Thursday in November and December, this blog will highlight the SDN solution, Cisco ACI. As market acceptance and adoption increases for SDN, IT professionals can count on WEI to fairly evaluate the market leading SDN solutions available today.

Today it is all about the App. Industries can be created and toppled by a simple app residing on millions of devices throughout the world. The power and influence that applications have today on the global economy makes applications the new digital currency of the world. It is the mission of IT to keep the currencies of their organizations flowing and to protect the value of that currency. It is also imperative that IT structures are designed from the ground up with these applications in mind, not just to ensure their viability and reliability, but also providing the means to allow them to evolve and adapt to the needs of their customers.

It's not just the prominence of applications today and their contribution towards the corporate bottom line that is fueling the restructuring of IT. Applications today behave differently and are developed differently. They are highly virtualized and distributed and the development process today is about rapid and continuous delivery. As a result, communication needs within the data center are shifting, resulting in a transformation of data center design and scale, as well as infrastructure management, provisioning, and consumption. Simplifying and speeding up the development process is now critical. All of this needs to be done without compromising scalability or security, of course.

Application-aware Networking and More

This is where software defined solutions come into the equation, because only SDN provides businesses the ecosystem in which applications thrive, which means that their business thrives. One of those solutions is Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure or ACI. Their revolutionary product is based around five core ideas:

  1. Open. Yes, Cisco made it open—open sources, open API’s, open ecosystems—enabling customer choice versus vendor lock-in.
  2. Automation. Cisco ACI combined with Cisco Unified Computing System reduces deployment time to minutes, resulting in a 58% reduction in deployment costs.
  3. Security. One wouldn’t necessarily equate such an open system as being secure, yet Cisco ACI has taken security to the next level with next generation intrusion and malware protection. Having the ability to automate deployments on such a grand scale would normally introduce security concerns, but endpoints are provisioned in a default block state until policy allows them connectivity.
  4. Simplicity. The whole premise of ACI is to bring all of your resources into one basket, which has the potential of vastly complicating the troubleshooting process. Instead, ACI simplifies it by offering IT support total visibility across all of your physical and virtual environments.
  5. Hardware-based gateways. Though ACI is an SDN solution, the leaf switch gateways that it commandeers are physical, which delivers faster performance than alternative solutions that depend on software gateways.

So just how does Cisco ACI accomplish this evolutionary approach to the transformation of an organization’s IT operating model in order to support future cloud and DevOps deployments? There are actually three suggested operating models for an IT department using ACI to achieve these associated organizational impact and benefits.

Model 1: Network-Centric ACI Deployment

In this scenario, customers deploy ACI fabric as their next-generation data center network to enable a 10- and 40-Gbps access and aggregation network. The network is optimized for east-west data center traffic to support virtualized, dynamic environments as well as non-virtualized workloads. This mode of ACI deployment doesn’t involve any changes to the IT organization structure or processes. It does not require new roles other than incremental training on ACI technology innovations for the network engineering and operations teams.

Model 2: Network Automation with Cisco ACI

This operating model for an IT department with ACI is suited for customers who want to automate their network provisioning for specific use cases such as complex enterprise applications or big data without significantly changing their operating model for IT. Any necessary organizational changes are minimal and doesn’t require changes to organization structures or the addition of new roles.

Model 3: Policy-Based Management with Cisco ACI

This operating model for an IT department with ACI is targeted at customer use cases such as private clouds and DevOps in which a high degree of integrated automation multiple datacenter silos is required. IT can offer self-service provisioning on demand for end users to consume ACI resources that reside on the private cloud through a simple portal.

Of course ACI is a lot more than just three operating models that will shift your enterprise networking strategy. It’s a highly flexible, policy-based networking solution to help make your IT infrastructure and operations as agile and responsive as the business demands.

To learn more about Cisco ACI and WEI’s experience implementing ACI and other SDN solutions, contact us here.

Image credit: SDxCentral

Tags  SDN Software Defined Networking Networking Cisco ACI IT Transformation

Greg LaBrie

Written by Greg LaBrie

Greg LaBrie has more than twenty years of network architecture and engineering experience designing networks that exceed technical requirements, improve operational proficiency and reduce total costs of ownership. As the Director of Technology Solutions for WEI, Greg is responsible for building WEI practices in the areas of Data Center Infrastructure, Storage, Backup & Recovery, Networking & Security and Cloud & Virtualization. Greg holds a number of technical certifications for HPE, Cisco, Fortinet, and much more.

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