Cisco Touts Application-Centric Data Center Architecture

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-06-26

Cisco Touts Application-Centric Data Center Architecture

Cisco Systems officials are unveiling a data center architecture that they say will focus on the new kinds of applications coming from the cloud and mobile worlds and deliver to businesses the tools to make their infrastructures simpler, more scalable and more cost-effective.

Announced June 26 at the company’s Cisco Live 2013 conference in Orlando, Fla., Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure is aimed at bringing greater automation, programmability and openness to data center infrastructures without having to make wholesale investments in new hardware. The first parts of the architecture will begin rolling out in the second half of the year.

At the show, Cisco also introduced enhancements to its Unified Fabric offerings, including new provisioning and management capabilities and new networking switches.

The new architecture also is the first fruits of Cisco’s investment in the spin-in company Insieme, which launched last year amid the rise of the software-defined networking (SDN) trend. Cisco owns about 85 percent of Insieme. Speculation around the new company has involved SDN, though Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior said Cisco’s new effort goes beyond SDN.

“SDN promised to meet the needs of new apps by delivering greater scale, programmability, centralized management and automation,” Warrior wrote in a June 26 post on the Cisco blog. “But SDN, to date, can’t meet the needs of applications because it mimics the old model of networking. It doesn’t unify physical and virtual. It is flow-based (focused on individual networking elements), and not object-oriented (creating a configurable system of all IT resources). It can’t offer dynamic centralized policy management [and] programmability because it is constrained by old proprietary-standards model.”

Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure will bring that management and programmability that SDN is lacking, she said.

It comes at a time when cloud computing and mobility are bringing new kinds of applications to the data center, from Hadoop and other big data applications to cloud applications like Salesforce and Cisco’s WebEx to highly scalable mobile applications like NetFlix and YouTube, Warrior said.

“The challenge with these applications in particular is that they need to be able to run across multiple servers and data centers, be able to parallel process asynchronous tasks, and be continually available, globally,” she wrote. “These applications rely on both physical and virtual infrastructures and, as a result, place new demands on the data center to deliver applications at scale, with the level of availability, quality of service and flexibility that today’s businesses demand. Through our Application Centric Infrastructure vision, we will help IT departments dramatically simplify how they provision their data center resources (networking, servers, storage and services) that are critical to the performance of their applications.”

Cisco Touts Application-Centric Data Center Architecture

According to Cisco officials, the new architecture will bring greater automation and programmability to networks, significantly reducing the deployment time of applications. At the same time, a common and open platform will bring tight integration across physical and virtual applications, and a common management framework will help bring greater automation across the infrastructure, security and applications.

Cisco’s architecture also will include open APIs to enable developers to more easily create applications to run atop the infrastructure and create a broad ecosystem of partners. The company also will leverage its own silicon as well as chips from other vendors, creating what officials called a balanced approach that will benefit customers in price, performance, density, security and power, particularly as they migrate to 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 100GbE networks.

“The Application Centric Infrastructure will give our customers the agility to deliver applications to end-users where they want, when they want, and to any device they want—securely, rapidly, and at a lower cost,” Warrior wrote.

In addition to the new architecture, Cisco officials introduced Dynamic Fabric Automation to the company's Nexus switch portfolio that offers greater efficiency, automated provisioning and the ability to scale to more than 10,000 per network, and simpler management capabilities in Cisco Prime DCNM 7.0 that includes open APIs to better integrate with cloud platforms and orchestration and automation tools.

Cisco also is adding the Nexus 7700 Series switches, which include the 10-slot Nexus 7710 and the 18-slot 7718 chassis. New I/O modules that can be used in both the Nexus 7000 and 7700 Series switches will offer 40GbE and 100GbE density and 60 percent improvement in power efficiency, according to company officials.

With the various innovations offered in the 7718, the new Cisco switch will offer up to 384 40G-bps ports and 192 100G-bps ports. The switch will bring up to 83T bps of switching capacity, according to Cisco.

The Nexus 7700 switches will ship next month, and the F3 Series I/O module will be available in the second half of the year.


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