Competitors love to criticize Cisco‘s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) as “hardware-based networking.” They’ll have more ammo once the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) starts to ship, because it will ship in hardware form.
The APIC itself is software, but it has to run on something — and it turns out Cisco will be providing that something. APIC is considered an appliance and will ship on a Cisco-provided server, a Cisco spokesman confirms.
Why would Cisco do it that way? It might be that Cisco did some chip-level tinkering, so that a commodity switch won’t work. Or, maybe the reason is on the business side; maybe Cisco doesn’t want to sell APIC purely as a license or doesn’t want to see its flagship software-defined networking (SDN) product running on the hardware of an SDN competitor like HP.
If you put your conspiracy-theory hat on, you can go a step further and speculate that each APIC server would add to Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) shipments. UCS’ market share has become a point of pride for Cisco, especially now that it’s claimed the No. 1 spot in x86 blade servers, at least for a quarter. I have to stress that we don’t know if APIC would even count as a UCS shipment, but it’s an intriguing thought.
We’ll have to wait a while to get the gory details. Cisco had initially projected a June release date for APIC, but during Cisco Live in May, executives modified the timeline to “this summer.” Until the launch happens, we’ll be left guessing about certain APIC details, particularly on the business side — although we do have this Cisco white paper to flesh out some of the technical side.