Cisco today boasted about several service providers that are using its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), including Integra, NTT DoCoMo, and some smaller European companies. But when asked about ACI being more apt for physical networks, a Cisco executive wanted to clear up that “misunderstanding.”
Cisco touts its ACI as a software-defined networking (SDN) approach for IT departments to control both their physical and virtual network environments.
Although there is sometimes a perception that ACI is simply a value-add to customers that purchase Cisco Nexus 9000 switches, Thomas Scheibe, senior director of product management for Cisco’s Insieme Business Unit, says, “It’s important to understand that ACI is not just for physical connections, and we welcome the opportunity to help clear up that misunderstanding. ACI is an SDN solution that provides network and security policy automation for, not only physical, but also virtual workloads.”
But perhaps the misunderstanding stems from the fact that ACI, itself, has a hardware element. It’s based on Cisco’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) as well as the Cisco ACI Fabric (based on Cisco Nexus 9000 Series switches).
SDxCentral recently spoke with IT leaders at the Hutto Independent School District in Texas who are using ACI in conjunction with VMware’s NSX. They said they needed to replace their aging switches anyway and chose Cisco’s Nexus 9000 Series switches, which also included ACI.
In today’s announcement Cisco also points out that ACI is not just for large customers.
“ACI is equally useful for large and small service providers,” says Scheibe. “We want to reassure [potential customers] that you don’t have to be a huge company to afford ACI.”
Named ACI Customers
Integra, a telecom provider in the western United States, built two new data centers where it deployed Cisco ACI. Key factors in its selection included ACI’s ability to provide unified control of both physical and virtual environments, security policy automation, and the ability to scale services quickly.
Japan’s NTT DoCoMo selected the product to improve overall efficiency: DoCoMo can repurpose the network as subscribers and applications change, and improve subscriber experience during network recovery and congestion periods by adjusting fabric operations based on application policy.
Hutchinson Networks, based in the UK, has deployed Cisco ACI for its Fabrix service, which lets users provision automated virtual environments tailored to the specific needs of their organizations, scaling up and down whenever they want. ACI supports bare metal connections, which is important for many Hutchinson customers that want to connect their bare metal servers to the Fabrix platform.
Sweden-based Tele2 decided to move its network and IT functions to the cloud, using network functions virtualization (NFV), and it selected Cisco’s SDN product for the entire data center, which will be built on a spine/leaf network with 25- and 100-Gb/s connectivity. Tele2 expects to have its first live application in the form of a virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) in the cloud by the third quarter of this year as it lays the groundwork for 5G.
In late 2015, Manx Telecom, based on the Isle of Man, migrated 50,000 fixed voice customers to a virtualized IMS core provided by Metaswitch. The project used an underlying platform, which consisted of Cisco ACI, Cisco UCS cloud-based compute infrastructure, and virtualization provided by VMware.