What is Cisco APIC? is part two of SDxCentral’s series to explain the Cisco ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) framework. Check out Part 1 and Part 3 that detail the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller or Cisco APIC.
Industry shifts are redefining IT at every level, creating a need for application agility to enable businesses to address changes quickly which is why we have Cisco APIC. Traditional methods use a silo’d operational stance, with no common operational model for applications, networks, security, and cloud teams. A common operational model offers simpler operations, better performance, and scalability.
To address these needs, Cisco introduced its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). It resides in the data center and is built with centralized automation and policy-driven application profiles. Cisco positions ACI as offering the flexibility of software with the scalability of hardware performance.
Along with the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches and the Cisco Application Virtual Switch (AVS), a major component of Cisco ACI is the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). APIC is the single point of automation and management in both physical and virtual environments, allowing operators to build fully automated and multi-tenant networks with scalability. The main function of Cisco APIC is to offer policy authority and resolution methods for the Cisco ACI, as well as devices attached to Cisco ACI.
Cisco APIC Features
- The capability to build and enforce application-centric network policies.
- An open standards framework, with the support of northbound and southbound application program interfaces (APIs).
- Integration of third-party Layer 4-7 services, virtualization, and management.
- Scalable security for multitenant environments.
- A common policy platform for physical, virtual, and cloud computing
The Cisco APIC uses Cisco OpFlex, a southbound protocol in software-defined networking (SDN), to enable policies to be applied across physical and virtual switches.
The OpFlex approach differs from the OpenFlow communications protocol, which is one of the first and most widely deployed SDN standards, in that it focuses mainly on ensuring consistent policy enforcement across the underlying infrastructure. While OpFlex centralizes policies, OpenFlow looks to centralize all functions on the SDN Controller. OpFlex creators believe this shift will allow the Controller to offer greater resiliency, availability, and scalability, by moving some of the intelligence to hardware devices, using established network protocols.
With the Cisco APIC, northbound APIs allow for swift integration with existing management and orchestration frameworks. It is also compatible with OpenStack, which is developing an open cloud operating system to control the compute, storage and networking resources across the organization. This provides consistency across physical, virtual, and cloud environments when using the Cisco ACI policy. Southbound APIs enable users to extend the Cisco ACI policies to existing virtualization and Layer 4-7 services, as well as networking components.