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  • GTSI Editor 4:00 pm on November 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Cisco Races Ahead with Breakthrough Data Center Solution – Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) 

    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.

    aciToday, 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 ACI product portfolio has several advantages over existing data center products. ACI is based on Cisco’s more efficient and enhanced Nexus OS (NX-OS) with a reboot time of only 20 seconds instead of the normal 5 minutes. It offers high capacity 40G ports that are only 30% higher priced than the 10G ports, 20% higher port density and  1.92Tbps per slot (100G Ready). It offers 15% greater power and cooling efficiency with true front to back cooling as well as VXLAN Bridging and application policy infrastructure controller (APIC) that integrates well with Cisco UCS/Nexus 7K/9K as well as F5 and Citrix product sets and any kind of hypervisor. The technology uses a common policy operational model that is exposed via a unified API and supports standard interfaces like JavaScript Object Notation and XML. ACI supports any application, hypervisor and physical edge with the visibility of hardware and no per-VM tax. ACI portfolio offers both hardware and software, and the hardware is ASIC-based that supports both merchant and custom silicon. The solution offers 40Gig optical transceivers (BiDi Optics) that would let Cisco customers use their existing 10Gig cables. Cisco Nexus 9000 helps converge UCS servers and storage with application aware switching and ACI control/management/orchestration. Application connectivity requirement policies and data models in ACI are not tied to a physical device, but are logical; they can be dynamically provisioned and directly mapped to the infrastructure. Servers and top-of-rack switches can be changed without requiring associated re-definition of those models using service profiles.

    CIACThe 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.

  • GTSI Editor 3:01 pm on October 10, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Converged IT Infrastructure, Infrastructure, IT Trends   

    New Trends in Converged IT Infrastructure 

    Converged Infrastructures combine networking, servers and storage into a preconfigured and usually pre-engineered solution for running applications. They have been called Integrated Infrastructures, Engineered Systems amongst other things. Some converged solutions are intended for specific applications, while others are intended for generalized workloads. They have been around in one form or another since the mid-late 2000’s and their adoption is continually growing. IBM, HP, NetApp, EMC, Cisco, Oracle, Dell, Nutanix and Pivot3 are a few companies in this market.

    IDC recently reported that the second quarter 2013 revenue for the worldwide integrated infrastructure and platform market grew 50.2% over revenue for second quarter 2012 to reach $1.3 billion. Also according to IDC Oracle is the top vendor of converged infrastructure systems for, specific applications, with second quarter 2013 revenue of $306 million, up 39% over the same period as last year. IDC gives Oracle a 56.7% share of this market segment.

    For general-purpose, distributed workloads, IDC said sales for this segment reached $775.7 million, up 80.3% over last year. Leading this segment in the second quarter is the FlexPod alliance of Cisco and NetApp with sales of $203 million, up 47% over the same period last year. Close behind is VCE, a joint venture of Cisco, EMC and VMware, which saw its revenue rise 35% to $176 million.

    The trends in this space generally leverage the individual trends in the networking, storage and server markets, making those technologies available within a converged design.

    Management is a key trend in this space as all the key players: IBM, Cisco & HP have been developing greater overall management capabilities. Cisco has UCS Manager, UCS Central and UCS Director designed to increase efficiencies and integrate management for larger scale deployments. HP will be releasing HP OneView that allows data center administrators to provision, manage and monitor the operational health of HP BladeSystem servers and HP ProLiant generation 7 and 8 servers. IBM has Flex System Manager that includes management and automation capabilities to more effectively manage the performance of the environment.

    Integration of NAND based Flash technologies is a growing trend in this space with the expectation that future converged solutions will have embedded NAND Flash options that will provide centralized, distributed or shared cache capabilities within a cluster of elements. Cisco’s purchase of WhipTail is an example of this trend.

    Faster network access to the apps is another trend. 40GB to the server is available in most flavors and 100GB is not far off.

    The addition and consolidation of multi-function management capabilities in a single toolset, higher performing and denser hardware, leveraging flash technologies and faster network speeds are also driving converged infrastructures to be better suited for the underlying hardware in Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) Architectures and supporting tier 1 applications in the data center.

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