Here we list some items that were rumored to be — or were expected to be — part of last week’s Insieme launch but didn’t make the cut.
In some cases, Cisco might not have had time to give details, considering the Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) included a lot of pieces. Others might be rumors that aren’t going to pan out. Still others, though, seem to be key elements that weren’t ready or are being poised for the even wider launch in the second quarter of 2014, when the bulk of ACI becomes available.
Based on discussions before and after the Insieme event, here’s what we think was left unsaid.
Some sources expected a storage angle to Insieme, although it might not involve any product that the spin-in itself is developing.
Here’s a possibility floated by one source. In May, EMC announced ViPR, a software-defined-storage platform, and Cisco has been working on integrating it into the MDS storage-networking system. The theory is that Cisco has a separate, Ethernet-based storage play that connects ViPR with Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). This would be all-Ethernet storage, leaving out Fibre Channel.
Whatever that is might not integrate so well with Insieme, though, so it’s possible this is a separate technology thread.
For a long time, it’s been rumored that Insieme’s ASIC or ASICs is/are late. That theory would seem validated by the fact that Insieme is shipping only a few switches and doesn’t have the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) available.
In his Interop keynote in October, Cisco CEO John Chambers hinted at an access-network angle to Insieme, and sources at the New York event said they caught references to it as well. (We’re think we’re talking about the access layer of data-center or enterprise networks, although Chambers sure made it sound like he meant broadband access to your house.) It’s possible there’s another piece here waiting to be revealed.
More about that virtual switch
ACI includes the Application Virtual Switch (AVS), a new virtual switch that’s different from the Nexus 1000v because — well, that’s something Cisco didn’t articulate much, but it does appear the Nexus 1000v can’t provide all the functionality ACI intends.
Here’s one difference we can point to: One management system can operate both AVS and physical switches, whereas the 1000v had its own management system, as Cisco explains in this video. Maybe that’s all there is to it.
A lot of competitors’ arguments against ACI are the usual gripes about Cisco’s tactics for locking customers into proprietary products. (Their points are valid, just tiresome.) But Juniper brought up something interesting: ACI doesn’t address what you do to connect one data center to another. Again, Chambers’ Interop keynote indicated something like this is in development.
Of course, Juniper mentioned this because it’s got a product that addresses the issue. The MetaFabric architecture, announced the week before Insieme’s launch, includes data-center-to-data-center connectivity.
Many sources predicted the Nexus 9000 prices would be extremely low, specifically to torpedo Arista. Cisco didn’t say much about pricing, though, except for a slide suggesting that the cheapest Nexus 9000s run at $75,000.
More generally, Cisco said the pricing is going to be flexible and modular. What might that mean? If the switches are inexpensive, Cisco will probably want to make up margin elsewhere. ACI software would be the logical place — so maybe we should expect cheap switches and expensive software?
It’s also possible Cisco is still struggling with this weird new world where port counts aren’t everything.
“Especially with the APIC, I don’t think they know what the commercial model is yet,” says Dana Cooperson, an analyst with Ovum. “The more I talk to different vendors, it’s clear everybody’s making this up as they go along. They’re not really sure how they’re going to sell SDN.”