Cisco Expands ACI Initiative With New Nexus 9000 Switches

The vendor's ACI strategy is its answer to the growing SDN trend, and the Nexus 9000 lineup are key parts of the effort.

Cisco Systems is expanding the infrastructure that supports its Application Centric Infrastructure initiative, rolling out additions to its portfolio of Nexus 9000 switches and unveiling a new Nexus 3000 switch aimed at highly scalable data center and big data center workloads.

Cisco introduced its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) initiative in November 2013. The strategy is based on technology developed by its "spin-in" company Insieme, and is Cisco's answer to the burgeoning software-defined networking (SDN) movement, where proponents tout the use of commodity hardware, with the network intelligence and services housed in software.

Instead, with ACI, Cisco officials are looking to unify both physical and virtual networks in a way that promotes the same flexibility and programmability promised in SDN, creating an infrastructure that is policy-based and that rapidly adapts to the changing workloads brought on by such trends as cloud computing, big data and mobility. Application performance is the key to ACI.

In the ACI, the underlying physical hardware is just as important as the software, and the Nexus 9000 switch, combined with Cisco's Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC)—which helps provide policy-driven automation—are key building blocks for such environments as clouds, according to company officials.

That will be important, the company has said. Its Global Cloud Index report forecasts that almost two-thirds of all workloads by 2017 will be processed in the cloud, and more than two-thirds of all data center traffic will come from the cloud. Policy-based network automation, security and visibility will be important, officials have said.

The two additions to the Nexus 9000 lineup, announced March 24 at the Cisco Partner Summit in Las Vegas, will give organizations greater choice and scalability, according to Thomas Scheibe, director of product management in Cisco's Datacenter, Switching, and Services Group.

Cisco had already offered the Nexus 9508, an eight-slot switch. With the 9516, Cisco now has a 16-slot aggregation layer switch aimed at high-end deployments and service provider environments. It offers 576 wire-speed 40 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 60T bps of throughput. It's large—21 RUs (36.75-inches)—and supports up to 2,304 10GbE ports. It can be powered by two to four ASICs from Cisco or Broadcom per line card.

The Nexus 9504 offers four slots that support either 576 10GbE ports or 144 40GbE ports in a 7 RU (12.25-inch) form factor. It also runs on two to four Cisco or Broadcom ASICs per line.

The Nexus 3164Q switch is a highly dense, high-performance switch aimed at demanding workloads in scalable data centers. The 2RU (3.5-inch) switch offers up to 256 10GbE ports or 64 40GbE ports and 5T bps of throughput, and is powered by Broadcom's widely used Trident II chip. It supports such cloud automation tools as Linux Containers, XML, JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), Python and OpenStack.

In addition to the switches, Cisco is making other moves around its ACI strategy. The networking vendor is offering new specialist certifications for business application developers, designers or architects, engineers and developers.

New consulting services are aimed at helping organizations with their ACI deployments, including Readiness Planning, Quick Start Service for Nexus 9000 and Accelerated Deployment Services for Nexus 9000.