Cisco Announces its Software Defined Network – Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)

So when I did my VMworld 2013 Europe round up, I mentioned that it was strange to see that Cisco were not one of the supported partners for NSX and I hinted at the possibility of Cisco having something SDN up their sleeves (also from rumours heard from Cisco employees)…..

And so at the beginning of the month they announced their entry into the SDN arena….. Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)….

I have to hold my hands up and say I’m not a networking guy (in fact it’s pretty rare in the IT market to find someone who knows server/network/storage/virtualisation….!), so I haven’t really had a chance to read up on ACI and understand how it works and differs from VMwares’ NSX.

From what I can see, ACI is pretty much reliant on you having a Cisco switch infrastructure – and specifically their new line of Nexus 9000 switches!
So whilst VMware NSX is a proprietary software control layer which doesn’t care what the underlying switch hardware is, ACI locks you into Cisco hardware but gives you the choice of what software control layer you use via APIs (integration into OpenStack, Hyper-V, VMware, etc).
Clever tactic, as it means that whilst you maybe locked into Cisco switches, it means you can deploy any sort of hypervisor!

This obviously becomes very interesting when you start looking at the converged stacks like VCE, VSPEX and FlexPod…… if SDN is going to be implemented, it’s more than likely that Cisco’s ACI will win here just because of how open it looks!

On a side note, it turns out that ACI could be a by-product of Cisco’s stealth start-up company – Insieme Networks – funded solely by Cisco and un-surprisingly run by the same guys that brought Cisco their UCS server portfolio (Nuova) and their MDS SAN switches (Andiamo)…. There’s a very interesting article on Bloomberg about Mazzola and his motley crew of engineers!

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