Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is Cisco’s version of software-defined networking. It’s a customizable, centralized automation solution for data centers and cloud networks. In Cisco’s language, it “allows application requirements to define the network.” Cisco ACI features a management and group policy framework along with an underlying fabric protocol. The group policies allow IT administrators to manage information at group endpoints versus regulating each individual endpoint.
The controller for ACI is the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), which is an open framework using both northbound application program interfaces (API) and southbound APIs. It manages the policies set by the network administrator on the ACI fabric’s switches. The controller is also key to performance management as its graphic user interface (GUI) collects statistics and data on network performance. Cisco notes that the APIC “provides the ability to proactively monitor your entire environment without all of the hassles of maintaining a third party monitoring tool.” A network administrator may alter the default setup and specify the retention periods for the logs, including for audit logs, event logs, health logs, and fault logs for the controllers on the fabric.
It’s crucial for enterprises to keep a pulse on performance management. Performance management is the task and protocols associated with detecting issues that bog down a network and potentially upend the user’s experience with the product, whether it is a network or an application. Enterprises tend to use several performance management tools to monitor their services, including application performance management (APM), network performance management (NPM), or unified performance management (UPM). Cisco ACI comes with default performance management tracking to pinpoint areas that hinder the network’s performance. Plus, third-party vendors offer their own performance management solutions that operate with the ACI framework.
Cisco ACI Performance Management Options
In a Cisco book about its ACI and APIC products, it lists the default Cisco ACI performance management policies (which refers to the policies that an administrator may override with a specific policy of their choosing).
The APIC includes the following four classes of default monitoring policies:
“monCommonPol (uni/fabric/moncommon): applies to both fabric and access infrastructure hierarchies
monFabricPol (uni/fabric/monfab-default): applies to fabric hierarchies
monInfraPol (uni/infra/monifra-default): applies to the access infrastructure hierarchy
monEPGPol (uni/tn-common/monepg-default): applies to tenant hierarchies”
Also, enterprises may employ NetFlow Technology with the ACI for other network management and monitoring tasks. Those tasks include network traffic accounting, usage-based billing, network planning, denial of services monitoring, NPM, outbound marketing, and data mining. Keep in mind that NetFlow does have a few limitations — view them here.
In addition to the default and programmable monitoring policies within the controller, third-party companies offer performance management tools that work with Cisco’s ACI. These tools detect the different components of the ACI and monitor those components for any issues that might harm a network’s performance, such as network bottlenecks. Some of the third-party companies include: