Cisco Systems is expanding its broad software-defined networking portfolio with new programmability and automation capabilities.
At the company’s Cisco Live 2015 event in San Diego June 10, officials announced the latest release of its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) for its Nexus 9000 switches, a new release of the company’s NX-OS operating system for its Nexus 3000 and 9000 switches, and the Virtual Topology System (VTS) for software overlay and provisioning.
Cisco also is introducing new Nexus 3000 switches for scale-out environments. The new offerings and capabilities span across enterprise, mega-scale and service provider data centers, according to company officials.
The expanded portfolio comes at a time when software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) are disrupting the traditional networking market and, according to some analysts, threatening Cisco’s profitable hardware business. SDN and NFV remove the control plane and networking tasks from expensive hardware and put it into software, which can run on lower-cost commodity systems. The goal is to create networks that are more agile, programmable and automated.
Industry analysts expect the SDN market to grow rapidly in the coming years. According to Infonetics Research, the SDN space will hit $13 billion by 2019, up from $781 million last year.
Cisco, like other established networking vendors such as Juniper Networks and Hewlett-Packard, is pushing back by rapidly growing out its SDN portfolio. VMware, through its acquisition of startup Nicira and introduction of its NSX platform, also has become a significant player in the space. Cisco has answered with ACI, a combination of hardware and software designed to ensure that applications have the data resources they need.
Company officials have stressed the broad array of APIs available in the portfolio to ensure integration of third-party products as well as the partnerships with three dozen tech vendors—CliQr, which offers application dependency mapping and application deployment automation capability, is the newest ACI ecosystem partner—pushing back at criticism from competitors that ACI is closed and proprietary.
“It’s hard to think of what else we could to do make it more open,” Jacob Jensen, senior director of product management at Cisco, told eWEEK.
Jensen and other executives also point to the early success of ACI and the Nexus 9000 switch family as validation of the company’s vision. There are more than 2,655 ACI and Nexus 9000 customers worldwide, and more than 585 customers of the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), according to Jensen.
ACI is designed for the mass market, which Cisco officials said includes commercial and enterprise deployments as well as the public sector. The company announced new capabilities for the initiatives fabric software, including integration with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and System Center, a plug-in for VMware’s vCenter software, and an ACI toolkit for easier provisioning of the network. In addition, Cisco in the new release—due out this month—is introducing a “stretched” network fabric that can extend from 30km to 150km dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), Pseudo wire and 40GB dark fiber, a capability aimed at organizations building data centers over multiple sites, Jensen said.
The company also is offering a central dashboard that can show data for everything from capacity planning to heat maps, and also offers troubleshooting statistics and tools.
As part of the introduction of the new ACI capabilities, officials also touted a study by IDC analysts that found that Symantec is projecting that it will see a 441 percent return on investment from ACI in five years, and that by deploying the technology, it is speeding up application deployment by 87 percent.
Cisco Expands SDN Offerings With ACI, NX-OS Enhancements
Cisco also is introducing the VTS for service providers looking for a programmable fabric. VTS is a data center overlay provisioning and management system for Cisco’s stand-alone Nexus fabric. It supports overlays across the vendor’s entire Nexus switch portfolio—from the 2000 to the 9000 gear—and the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) EVPN for managing VXLAN overlays.
The company earlier this year introduced BGP EVPN on the Nexus 9000 switches and now is extending it to the 5600 and 7000 series switches in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Reed, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Group.
“This is really fundamental for multi-tenant cloud environments,” such as those run by service providers, Reed told eWEEK, adding that VTS will run on any switch that supports BGP EVPN.
For mega-scale data centers, Cisco is introducing a NX-OS release for the Nexus 9000 and 3000 switches that Jensen said is designed to be open. Features of the new release, which is due out in the third quarter, include enhancements to its NX-API, such as object store and model-driven API support. There also is native third-party application integration of development tools like Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Ganglia; Linux utilities support for tool integration across compute and network; and a software-development kit (SDK) for custom application integration.
In addition, later this year Cisco will introduce a common NX-API for all of its Nexus switch portfolios.
The two new Nexus 3000 switches for mega-scale data centers and cloud environments include the Nexus 3232C, a 1U (1.75-inch) 32-port spine-and-leaf switch that is powered by Broadcom’s Tomahawk silicon and can support port speeds ranging from 10G and 25G to 40G, 50G and 100G. The 3264R is a 2U (3.5-inch) 64-port switch that supports speeds of 10G and 40G that also comes in a spine-and-leaf design. The switches will be available in the third quarter starting at $35,000.