If you are one of our customers, you’ve been hearing about 7.5 since Customer Symposium last Fall. You’re also likely aware that 7.5, after much anticipation is now released. 7.5 brought groundbreaking new features such as our industry-first CloudMapper technology which you may have already seen with demonstrations around such complex environments as AWS or Flexpod. While CloudMapper may be getting all the press on the red carpet, we are also working hard on continuous improvements to the product.
7.5 also introduced Device Dashboards, which enable organizations to customize workflow based on the KPIs that are important to them when looking at infrastructure. This delivers a quick way to optimize workflow, saving you time and money. For any of your devices, you can set up a default view to show all of the most important KPIs as well as create additional pages with any metrics you may need.
A Few Examples:
Let’s say you migrated a small farm of servers to the AWS cloud. These servers are gathering metrics for AWS EC2, Host Resources, WMI’s, and New Relic Applications. Historically, that has required as many as 4 separate tools to view the data. With Device Dashboards, you can view one summary page that provides all 4 unique types of metrics on a single page.
Perhaps you also want to have a deep dive set of metrics for New Relic or WMI. No problem! Device Dashboard lets you have multiple custom pages for each type of device or App.
In the case of a Cisco Router or Switch, we now instantly provide Top-N analysis of key interface KPIs in addition to traditional availability, latency, CPU, memory, etc. Some routers might have IP-SLA MOS tests enabled to monitor your UC environment. You can now choose what IP-SLA metrics you want to automatically appear when you drill down into a router with has IP-SLA enabled – or any other KPI, for that matter.
A number of other goodies are embedded in the 7.5 release. We can’t wait for our customers to get upgraded and start using them!
My next post will focus on some of the great stuff we put into our latest minor release, 7.5.1.
Chile vs. Spain match in the 2014 Fifa World Cup, Brazil. Photo by Antonio Piraino.
1. Hesitation is the mother of all F’ups!
In a soccer match, if you are in front of the goal trying to figure out what to do, it’s already too late. You have to take the shot and trust that all those hours spent practicing will send it in the right direction. If you miss, then you miss – but you came a lot closer to a goal than if you hesitate and give the defender an opening to steal the ball. When you hesitate, life goes by you. Never hesitate, go with your heart, and take calculated risks in life and business. That’s the only way you can exponentially advance compared to your competition.
2. A little bit extra effort goes a very long way
What sets ‘world-class people’ apart from ‘good people?’ The world-class people put in just a little bit of extra effort. Growing up playing soccer, there were times when the ball would go right by me. Seconds later I would realized that if I had extended my leg just a bit further and put in just a little extra effort at that moment, I would have taken the ball – and who knows what may have come out of it from there. I used to play soccer with a group of co-workers at The Mathworks. Our CEO, Jack Little, with all due respect to him, had minimal soccer skills. However, he was always full of energy. When I had the ball, I feared him the most. Despite his lack in skills, he would come after me so aggressively that 9 out of 10 times he would screw up my plan and play. When he had the ball on attack, we couldn’t keep up with his stamina and speed. He wasn’t in better shape than us, he just made a mental decision to work hard and put in more than 100%… And he won big in soccer, as well as in life! The lesson is that you must put a little bit extra effort to succeed. The winners are those that put in 100% plus just a little bit more.
3. Once you make a decision, don’t change your mind
I learned this taking penalty kicks. I was in 8th grade and my team was playing in the finals. We played 90 minutes, then two 30 minute overtimes, and then finally penalty kicks. And then all of the sudden the game was in my hands. It all came down to me, taking the final kick. As I stared at the goalie, I decided to shoot right… But then I wavered. Perhaps it’s better to shoot left. Right? Left? How about the center? I didn’t know which side to pick and I was getting all wound up over the decision. Finally, I ran and simply shot the ball as hard as I could, without any specific decision on the direction. The ball flew high over the goal, the opposing team went bananas, and I looked over to see my entire team with their heads down. I still have my yearbook, where one of my classmates wrote: “Too bad you missed that penalty kick. We could have won the championship – Have a good summer.” I’ve never missed a penalty shot since then, because I make my decision once and I stick with it. How does this pertain to life? In life, there things you must decide on and move forward and don’t look back. Once you decide on something, actions and thoughts start moving forward. For every step you take backwards, your competition is that far ahead of you. It is more important to focus your energy on the actual execution of a decision than on the decision itself.
4. Team work is better than a single player
You’ve heard of the great soccer players who make big names for themselves. But people always forget that they would be nothing without a strong team behind them. If you take the world’s best soccer player and put them on a bad team, he or she will fail (For example, Galatasaray’s Didier Drogba’s poor performance for the Ivory Coast in the World Cup). However, if you create a team where everyone is focused on working well together (Germany, for example) then they will naturally succeed. In business, don’t count on a single person to carry the team. As a leader or a participant, make sure to build teams that are strong together, and that can win fights as a unit.
5. He who prepares the best usually wins
Pre-game preparation and a realistic understanding of your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses is one of the best ways to get a leg up on the competition. Some of my best games required a trip to watch my opponent and learn their players’ style, strengths, and weaknesses before I had to compete with them. How much you’ve worked out before the game, if you are in great shape, if you have stretched enough, and what you’ve eaten the past 24 hours are all additional pieces that lay the groundwork for delivering a great match. Maybe the corporate world won’t be judging whether or not you’re in great shape, but I can guarantee it will matter whether or not you prepared for a meeting. We spend so much time reacting to external forces and other people’s demands that we are constantly playing catch-up. Take a little time each day to sit back and look at things from a distance and prepare for what is to come. For me, that means locking myself in a room and focusing only on preparation; for a test, for an interview, for a negotiation strategy, or even how to get my future wife to say “Yes.”
Heading down to the AWS Public Sector Symposium this June meant leaving my house at O’Dark early but it also meant that Amazon was providing us breakfast. As with everything Amazon does, the breakfast was top notch.
Okay, now that I’ve covered the most important part (food), let’s move on to the real stuff. At the Day 2 breakfast (yes, food again), I had the good fortune to sit down next to two very experienced Federal IT experts.
One was a very tenured CTO that I know from a “prior life.” He provides the IT vision and road map of an organization that is using AWS to share their research data with over 25 countries. This allows the best minds around the world to collaborate continuously, in real time, on some of the most critical public health challenges. The advances in his line of work have literally saved lives by allowing them to find solutions much faster. That, to me, far outweighs just saving money; this is the real promise of what cloud computing can bring us.
The other was a Federal IT employee who was more at the operations level. He had been with his agency for years and he knows what is necessary to get the job done; he was clearly a “no-nonsense” person. For the most part, the things he shared weren’t new to me. However, it was new to hear it coming from someone the middle of an organization, where we usually encounter resistance to the adoption of cloud for fear of it “moving their cheese.” Having already gone through it, he was confident in the fact that his organization would not only still need his expertise, but allow him to focus on the parts of his job that he wanted to do.
He shared how one of Amazon’s leading partners was helping him simply be more effective at his job. Sure, he was saving on costs, but he really focused more on his newfound ability to focus on his job instead of getting mired up in all of the red tape of contracts and procurement. Simply put, he got started with just a credit card and was able to turn up the required IT infrastructure in minutes, which previously would have taken months. The final push that made his decision was the realization that “if it doesn’t work for me, I’ll just turn it off and it only cost a few thousand dollars vs. literally weeks or months and tens of thousands of dollars for the normal purchasing process.” He had seen his share of failed IT projects that wasted millions of dollars and countless months of his organization’s valuable time. This allowed him to see the kind of rapid results that we so often only find in a smaller/nimble commercial company. His story gave me hope that we will be seeing more of this no-nonsense adoption of AWS in the future – and it will help drive much-needed change for our Federal agencies in the way they purchase IT.
Finally, I was able to learn all of this while dressing up my oatmeal with all kinds of great toppings and enjoying a good cup of coffee. AWS, you sure know how to do it right.
Having just returned from the first few World Cup games in Brazil, I wanted to reflect on some of the things capturing the conversation of the locals in Rio.
To start with, how is it that a tiny country of only 4.7 million people (with all of 3 professionals in it) produced a team that makes it to the World Cup playoffs? Better yet, how is it that they have been drawn into the group of competitive nations who have all previously won the World Cup – and by all rationale measure should have beaten this little minion to a pulp? Yes, I’m talking about the small nation of Costa Rica, who placed first in the Group stages of the 2014 World Cup. Costa Rica, who just edged Greece out of the World Cup Quarterfinals, and is arguably in the process of achieving the unthinkable. To put this in context, Spain (debatably the most successful soccer nation in history) has already been eliminated.
What’s the Secret of Success?
So what is the secret of Costa Rica’s 2014 World Cup success? Amidst all of the noise comes the most rational argument to date – it comes down to the coaching and the desire of the players themselves to be coached to success. Along the way, the most successful are also (somewhat uncomfortably) embracing the modern athletic methods and tools along the way. Costa Rica’s manager, Jorge Luis Pinto, believes that one of those methods was the introduction of ‘footvolley’ – essentially volleyball without the use of hands – which helped his players build up their stamina and prepare them for the physicality of the modern game. That means learning to be agile, more efficient, and looking to Hybrid Independent Tactical (IT) alternatives to best achieve their goals. In fact, Hybrid IT is not necessarily a new topic – think about Roger Banister’s record mile run and the introduction of cross-training across all sports.
Robinho, who was hand-picked by Pele, playing footvolley last week in Praia de Barra. Photo by Piraino.
Points of Failure
Back to Spain- it’s time to endure their pain on their way out the door. Hard and fast slapshots toward the goal were layered on top of a series of even more loosely targeted shots at goal; they quickly grew frustrated by their lack of success, which only led to their complete elimination from the World Cup tournament. What caused this downward spiral? Are they old? Do they lack cadence? Is the problem simply that they have changed nothing? Are they mentally fatigued? (Granted, they have served as the proverbial ‘hamster on its wheel’ for quite a while. Although, who isn’t a hamster when in operations?)
And finally, these simple but profound words from the person monitoring it all the closest, Spain’s coach: “We were almost trying to get rid of the ball.” All too often, that hot potato mentality is what prevents operations teams from progressing with confidence; very few individuals are prepared to stop and make the correct moves, particularly when you have a lot on your plate and the easier path is to leave it to someone else… or at the very most, to just put a quick band-aid on the issue.
Unrelenting Chilean fans celebrating their victory over a descending Spain. Photo by Piraino.
At the end of it all – and for Spain this is the end of an era; winning is no longer just ‘business as usual’ for them – a fresh approach is required. IT ops folks are embracing a far more fluid and changing world on the competitive field of IT operations. Rather than burying one’s head in the sand and hoping the ‘same old, same old’ will continue to work, it is far better to embrace new techniques and work as a team to ready each other for new options. Without them, the smell of weakness is hard to resist and only serves to fuel the opponent’s fire – much like a hard-nosed customer demanding support.
This should remind us of the parallels between sports and everyday functions. Why be inefficient? Why not be coordinated in our approach and create less work for ourselves? Why not try new things beyond what we are accustomed to and use other approaches and platforms so we can do our jobs better? With regular practice, our bodies adapt to working in a different manner; leveraging leading-edge technologies to create an efficient, coordinated environment. Think more automation and new plays – think Hybrid.
Don’t just try a new approach – attack the issue
What about the excitement generated by the Dutch team? The second-highest scoring team in the World Cup to date (behind mercurial Colombia) is finally moving past their reputation as a dependable bridesmaid, thanks to two brilliant strikers, van Persie and Robben (see below).
So what could possibly still be bugging the Dutch coach? Well, the FIFA scheduling has it so that Brazil was able to monitor the Netherlands game before its own match this past weekend, potentially aiding Brazil’s strategy before the next round of play. Like any smart competitor, learning to neutralize and attack the opposition often starts in the engine room.
What other challenges do they face? They are their own worst enemy – after the thrashing they’ve dealt the likes of Spain and Chile, the Netherlands team needs to stay grounded and realistic. Otherwise, their egos may lead to complacency right as they hit the more sophisticated challenges ahead of them. ‘Good enough’ is never good enough for long; teams need to stay on their toes, constantly monitoring their level of play and staying prepared for the more advanced and rapidly changing operating terrain.
Netherlands’ striker, van Persie, outside his hotel in Rio after training practice.
But are the Dutch interested in using a Hybrid approach to win? Interestingly, the Dutch coach, van Gaal, has two former professional field hockey players on his coaching staff in Brazil. Being just 70% of the size of a soccer field, hockey fields puts large value on economical motion. Expert-close control and intelligent off-the-ball movement are key qualities, as are agility and speed – from the point of attack all the way to defense and escalation. The expertise van Gaal is bringing in through these field hockey pros lends support for the benefits of the Hybrid approach. Germany also has a very similar history using field hockey to innovate. Their adapted passing triangles and quick combinations make for a highly agile and collaborative approach. It has paid off. They bring rapid actions and changes to a fluid opposition. Both teams expect a 2% improvement from their teams in every game – a small adjustment, but often, the difference between winning and losing can be that 2% of effort, skill, etc.
So how about the US team? How do you compete with countries where every kid grows up hoofing soccer balls around on every imaginable field (i.e. sand, concrete, dirt, grass)? How do our mild-climate accustomed bodies go up against the harsh climate countries that have the legs to carry them through the heat and intensity of this Brazilian World Cup?
Friday’s loss to the strong process-driven German machinery was because of a very deep setup and failure to hold the ball enough, meaning few attack opportunities. If we’re perpetually on the defensive, it’s difficult to move forward and, inevitably failure happens. As the US enters the Tuesday playoff against a robust but poorly tested Belgium, expect a US team that is more confident on attack. For the United States, the World Cup is not theirs to lose like many of their opposition, but rather one to be gained.
Efficiency and agility has dictated the modern approach to creating effective and successful teams. Brazil and Argentina are the benchmarks of formidable soccer teams, and they both display these traits to some degree. More importantly, they know how to balance patience, efficiency, and energy to create opportunities.
If that doesn’t work for you and all else fails by the 89th minute, then do as Mr. Robben recently taught us: set your sites on getting into the box, drag your feet, drop like your life just ended, and blame the opposition. Someone with a whistle is bound to come to the rescue.
There is always time for soccer in Rio. Photo by Piraino
Looking back on the HostingCon 2014 sessions, keynotes and panels it is clear to me there is concern throughout the industry about how to compete with the large vendors like Amazon, Google and Microsoft. As an attendee, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what service provider differentiators are and are not worth pursuing.
Not on Price, Performance, or Features
Let me tell you this: the competition will not focus on beating the big fish with lower prices. I came to this conclusion while listening to Kenny Li from Cloud Spectators present his session, “Standardizing Performance in the Public Cloud Arena.” Did you know that Amazon has dropped their prices 42 times since 2006? Furthermore, their cost of an Amazon EC2 instance has decreased 56% in just the past two years.
Amazon is not the cheapest nor is it the most expensive. They are just below the average, according to Cloud Spectators, but their behavior suggests that they will continue to pass savings on to their customers – and small vendors can’t cover their costs if they attempt to match such low prices.
It will not be on performance. I say this not because the big guys are out-performing everyone else. I say this because the pace of performance improvements demonstrates that significant capital investments will be required more frequently by smaller providers if they are to keep pace with these larger vendors.
It will not be with features. During a panel discussion on tools used to build clouds, one panelist mentioned that Amazon released 240 new features in 2013 and has already released 180 new features this year. This clearly demonstrates Amazon’s continued commitment to expand and improve their cloud offering. Google and Microsoft continue to improve their services as well. This breakneck pace and huge investment in development makes it difficult for everyone, even the largest of providers, to compete on feature set.
How then? Specialization and Service
So how do service providers differentiate themselves from the large vendors? Well, the new reality is that infrastructure has become less and less important. The general consensus of HostingCon 2014 attendees seems to be that service providers must differentiate themselves by offering specialized services and delivering them with incredible customer service. During “Ask the Analyst,” it was suggested that specializing in a given vertical or technology is one way to achieve this competitive differentiation. Whether it is WordPress hosting or healthcare solutions, learning everything you can about a technology or vertical makes you far more valuable to a customer. It also allows you to keep costs down because the service can take advantage of commodity services like infrastructure as a service (IaaS). And, as the service provider moves into the role of trusted advisor, they can influence infrastructure decisions like using AWS or some other solution. A CEO that participated in the “CEO Panel” session indicated that specialization was one of the key drivers for their growth. When asked to share a few plays from their competitive playbooks, several of the CEOs mentioned moving up the stack as one of their top plays to beat Amazon. The other top play: customer service!
After just one day at HostingCon 2014 in Miami, FL, I can tell you that service delivery is still on everyone’s mind. It has been a few years since I worked directly for a service provider, but I spent the better part of ten years in the service provider field before joining ScienceLogic. Back then, we talked a lot about space and servers. Now, it is all about workloads.
Colocation…hosting…virtualization…cloud; it doesn’t really matter what we call it, they are all different versions of the same thing. However, they are not all created equal. Yesterday, I overheard someone compare the job of service providers to that of organizations in the transportation industry. Just as there are many different ways to get a shipment from Point A to Point B, there are many different ways to deliver IT services. And in both cases, they are not all created equal.
Adam Weissmuller from Internap shared some excellent information in his session, “Bringing Colo into the Cloud Era.” This graphic from his presentation paints a great picture of how it all should fit together:
Workloads, a term used to refer to technology resources (i.e. processor, memory, storage, etc.), typically follow some cyclical pattern of usage. Some applications demand a steady persistent workload, while others have spikes and lulls in consumption. The trick is to find the right solution for each particular workload. Adam proposed that the cloud is best suited for rapid, scale-out applications, whereas colocation is best suited for persistent, long-lived, or core IT applications. And, as we have all heard, striking the right balance between colocation, hosting, and cloud services (i.e. Hybrid Cloud) is what it is all about. It is clear that the cloud is not always the right fit for every application or workload, which is where the other options come in – although the cloud may be fast and easy, sometimes it is just too expensive or doesn’t provide the desired performance.
There is no doubt in my mind that the cloud has changed the expectations of the IT consumer. IT consumers now expect their services to be speedy, agile, and easy, regardless of the delivery method. Service providers and internal IT alike must adapt to make this possible, which requires having the tools in place to efficiently manage all the different service delivery options. IT consumers will find a place for their workloads with or without you, Mr./Ms. Service Provider. The reality is, today’s end users are not going to wait.
As the Gartner IT Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit comes to a close, I took a few minutes to reflect on some of the excellent sessions I attended while in Orlando this week.
IT Service Management
As the product manager, I am responsible for the IT Service Management (ITSM) capability within our platform – so I tried to attend as many sessions on IT Service Management as possible. I found the both the IT Service Management Strategic Road Map session and the I&O Leaders’ Guide to the IT Service Management Unified Framework session challenged my view of IT services. I, like many operations folks, tend to think of services in terms of how they align to specific technologies. Email is always my go-to example. However, as I scoured the slides of the presentations, I realized that I recognized none of the services.
According to Gartner Analyst Suzanne Adnams, you actually shouldn’t reference specific technologies in your IT Service Catalog. What? Puzzled by this statement, I cornered Suzanne between sessions to ask, “Where does my email service belong?” She assured me that looking at services from the technology perspective was common, but went on to challenge me to think about it from a business perspective. It seems a Collaboration Service is more business value-oriented, and it certainly encompasses more than just email.
Debra Curtis challenged another concept in my view of IT services: that each service should be independent on all other services. Well then, I wondered, where do the directory services belong? Wouldn’t a Collaboration and Workplace service require the ability for a user to log in? I later learned that this is not always possible; hence the reason that each service should be independent of all others. Clearly, my past work in IT Operations is starkly different from this new age of business value-oriented services.
The networking sessions proved extremely valuable because they provided an open forum for attendees to discuss various topics. There was no Gartner moderator in the room, just a bunch of tables and a lot of spontaneous collaboration. For example, during the Cloud Performance discussion I attended, it was clear that many of us shared a common concern: is it us, or is it them? The ability to quickly determine whether a problem occurred while inside the cloud or during transit to the cloud is crucial when one is evaluating the scope of the issue.
Another concern was how to manage the managed service providers (MSP’s), which led to a great discussion on Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). As one of the few vendors in the room, as well as one that happened to do monitoring of the hybrid cloud, I encouraged them to “trust, but verify!”
Now, as a vendor, I could not pass up the opportunity to attend the track sessions related to our business. Jonah Kowall’s session entitled The Elusive Promise of Unified Monitoring was particularly satisfying. During his presentation, he showed this road sign:
Imagine my surprise when I saw this; this is exactly what ScienceLogic has been saying for more than 10 years: agentless, multitenant, API, integration, etc. Of the thirteen items he listed, ScienceLogic does them ALL. I can’t deny that I felt a bit like a ‘proud daddy’ when ScienceLogic was listed in his presentation as one of the leading Unified Monitoring vendors. All I can say is, “Thanks, Jonah! We think so too.”
The visionary pundits at Gartner delighted during Day 1 of their IT Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit with enthusiastic speakers and interesting sessions. Professor Eddie Obeng, educator and TED speaker, kicked things off with an energetic keynote about change. If you have a few minutes, watch his “World After Midnight” (WAM) video. I found it quite thought provoking.
And if you have a few more, take the time to listen to his “5 Monkeys Fable” and then ask yourself: “Are you a monkey who has never been wet?”
Eddie Obeng was a tough act to follow, as Debra Curtis pointed out as she and Ronni Colville took the stage to present the second keynote, ”Walking in Your CIO’s Shoes.” Regardless, the pair delivered a strong follow-up. Together with Obeng, they set the tone for this year’s event; change is upon us.
To illustrate some of the changes in traditional IT Operations, the analysts offered up some interesting statistics: at least 27% of IT spending is outside of the IT organization as well as the fact that 51% of their survey respondents believe that their businesses and IT organizations are being engulfed by a torrent of digital opportunities and they can’t respond to fast enough. The Gartner recommendation? Renovate the core of IT and build bimodal capability – helping us all adapt to these rapid changes and digital demands.
For those unfamiliar with the term “bimodal capability” Peter Sondergaard recently defined it in a blog article as “operating two modes of enterprise IT at the same time; conventional, or ‘safe and steady’ IT, and a faster, more agile nonlinear mode.”
For the remainder of the day, I took the opportunity to sit in on “The Elusive Promise of Unified Monitoring” and “The IT Service Management Strategic Road Map.” I will share some of the insights I gleaned from these and other sessions in a future post. In the meantime, I encourage you to look for an opportunity to step away from your day-to-day responsibilities and attend a conference or engage in another activity that gives you time to think. These deviations from normal provide us the chance to think about what we are doing, where we are going, and how we might get there.
Reset the Net is a global movement to take our privacy back and secure the Internet to defend against mass government surveillance. According to ResetTheNet.org “The problem is the NSA is exploiting weak links in Internet security to spy on the entire world, twisting the Internet we love into something it was never meant to be: a panopticon.”
The RestTheNet.org in conjunction with Fight for the Future (A Non Profit focused on expanding the Internet’s power for good),Center for Rights (the authors of several different SOPA blackout tools), and a growing group of volunteers, including Cloudflare, launched a June 5th campaign to drive awareness and educate people and organizations how and what they can do to make a difference. Below you can see the video message:
I have been monitoring movements like this as well as others that protect mankind’s right to the internet and the power that it has. I was amazed by the one day event goal and success. Through social media avenues like ThunderClapIt, the outreach and support was impressive. More than 13 million people where reached yesterday with the message.
Beyond just awareness, Rest the Net provides a “Privacy Pack” with all the tools every single one of us can use to increase our security and privacy on the Internet. Tools like save email, IM , web browsing, password management, and many more. They have also encouraged many companies to join The Internet Defense League. According to The Internet Defense League, they “take the tactic that killed SOPA & PIPA and turns it into a permanent force for defending the internet, and making it better. Think of it like the internet’s Emergency Broadcast System, or its bat signal!”
How The Internet Defense Leagueworks:
If you have a website, the Internet Defense League will send you sample alert code to get working in advance. The next time there’s an emergency, we’ll tell you and send new code. Then it’s your decision to pull the trigger.
The Internet Defense League keep in close touch with groups like the EFF and Public Knowledge to identify threats and opportunities. They also have a subreddit. This will soon become more fomal, but for now they are working to target ACTA this month and CISPA as it re-emerges in the Senate.
The best thing we all can do is educate ourselves on our rights and the ones we choose to give up, protect, or fight to get back.
My focus at CiscoLive 2014 included one thing: attending any session that discussed Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). Cisco ACI is a comprehensive program that offers an incredibly exciting solution for the deployment and management of applications. It’s all about the application, and how the network infrastructure can be automatically configured to meet the policies specified. For example, instead of configuring access control lists (ACLs) on individual switches, you can configure one policy for the application and ACI will take care of ensuring that it is realized by the entire network. So ACI drastically speeds the deployment of the application while also providing a specification that can be deployed or replicated anywhere. What UCS did with service profiles (which enabled the mobility of physical machines), Cisco Application Performance Infrastructure (or APIC – see below for description) does with application network profiles. It provides similar functions with respect to the ability to deploy and move applications, because all the network specifications are defined as part of the application.
According to Cisco, ACI consists of the following:
Cisco Nexus 9000 series of switches – Provides a new fabric that ACI is built on and focuses on large DataCenter deployments. ACI fabric can scale to a million endpoints, 200K 10GB ports and 64K tenants. The fabric supports multiple hypervisors by normalizing NVGRE, VXLAN and VLAN networks. The fabric is based on a spine–leaf concept, where the spines only connect to the leaves, and all of the leaves connect to all of the spines. This is similar to Cisco FabricPath, but a Cisco Live speaker indicated that Cisco Nexus 9000 did not leverage FabricPath.
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure (APIC) –APIC is the brains of the solution; it translates the application-level policies into actual instructions that the network layer equipment can understand. It’s the APIC that abstracts all the network complexity and automatically provisions all of the network components to meet the policies specified. Note that this is also referred to as APIC-DC (APIC DataCenter).
Cisco Application Virtual Switch (AVS) – AVS is built on the Nexus 1000V, where the APIC replaces the VSM. Policy is pushed to AVS from APIC, effectively extending the ACI fabric to the hypervisor. Support for all leading hypervisors is provided.
Software and hardware innovations – This appears to refer to Cisco ASICs used on 9000s, along with the APIC software.
Integrated physical and virtual infrastructure – This is important since it provides full support for physical servers and physical Layer 4-7 devices, as well as for virtual servers and virtualized Layer 4-7 devices. This is definitely an advantage over VMWare’s NSX software-based overlay approach, which is optimized for a virtual infrastructure rather than physical.
An open ecosystem of network, storage, management, and orchestration vendors – Cisco has really focused on open APIs in the last year or two, and this makes it easier to integrate with other vendors’ products. With respect to ACI, the key to this integration is via APIs defined on APIC. The APIC has two Southbound APIs to allow support for third-party products. OpFlex and Device Packages provide a mechanism to push polices to third-party devices while a northbound REST API provides full integration support with Management and Orchestration systems.
Beyond Cisco’s advertised features, I thought it was worth mentioning some of the other initiatives around ACI that I learned during the CiscoLive 2014 sessions.
APIC-EM – This is a completely separate product from APIC-DC. APIC-EM is based on the OpenDaylight project, while APIC-DC comes from the Insieme acquisition. At CiscoLive, it was stated that APIC-DC and APIC-EM would have “a common policy intent framework” as well as “a common northbound API” (ONE DevKit). Southbound APIs include OpenFlow, onePK, and CLI.
UCS-Director –UCS-Director is an orchestration and management tool for UCS that currently supports non-ACI infrastructures. In Release 5.0, which was just announced, UC-Director will also support ACI infrastructures.
OpenStack – Cisco released a plug-in for OpenStack that allows it to leverage APIC to provision the ACI fabric.
Microsoft System Center – APIC integrates with System Center so that System Center instantiates the VMs and then instructs APIC to instantiate the network.
InterCloud – Cisco’s global network of clouds hosted by Cisco and partners’ data centers; will leverage ACI.
As you can see, Cisco is serious about ACI, and I believe that their strategy is spot on. They have taken the whole SDN argument to another level with ACI. That is, the APIC may be an SDN controller, but it is also a whole lot more. Though ACI may take some time to mature, I predict that eventually Cisco will get it right; it’s only a question of how long it will take. This is a large undertaking with a lot of moving parts and a lot of third parties involved. However, Cisco has an advantage here: its size and its breadth of products. If anyone can pull this off, Cisco has my vote.
Our blog’s authors aren’t just experts in their field, they’re also key contributors to our world-class monitoring platform. If you’d like to see how these topics play out in a real-world setting, please register for a free, no pressure demo: