Cisco's initial offerings for its ACI efforts include a new family of Nexus 9000 switches, which offer a range of 1 Gigabit Ethernet, 10GbE and 40GbE configurations, and is ready for 100GbE when it comes to the data center, Chambers said. In addition, the CEO introduced the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), the management engine that can scale to 1 million endpoints and unifies the management of the physical and virtual environments.
Unlike SDN controllers, the APIC is independent of the switch data and control planes, allowing for greater speed and flexibility, Cisco officials said. It also can be used to manage not only networking elements of the data center, but also compute and storage.
The switches and controller are only the beginning, with future capabilities in such areas as network-wide services and greater controller capabilities, Cisco's Lloyd said.
The result of ACI will be networks that are more responsive to the needs of applications, and that will be more agile, flexible and cost-effective. It also will be open, supporting such standards efforts as OpenStack and enabling third-parties to integrate it with their own products, according to Cisco officials. At the event here, Cisco had support from a range of vendors, from Microsoft and Citrix Systems to EMC and NetApp, who said they would embrace the ICA effort in their products.
Cisco also noted that legacy technologies, like its Nexus 7000 switches, also would be able to tie into the ICA.
Officials with Hewlett-Packard, which is the world's second-largest networking vendor behind Cisco, criticized its larger rival's efforts for missing the mark laid out by SDN.
"Once again, Cisco ignores the software-defined networking (SDN) movement and instead seems to continue their focus on creating a 'hardware-defined' alternative (HDN) that locks customers into a proprietary Cisco network—denying customers the economic and game-changing simplification, automation and application development benefits promised by SDN," HP Networking CTO Dave Larson said in a statement.
Larson said HP differentiates itself with wide support for the OpenFlow protocol and solutions that support both HP as well as third-party infrastructures.