Moving to give IT organizations more flexibility in terms of how to make the shift to a new era of programmable software-defined networks (SDN), Cisco today announced that it is adding support for the Border Gateway Protocol – Ethernet Virtual Private Network (BGP EVPN) standard in Cisco switches, stewarded by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
Mike Cohen, director of product management for Cisco, says support for BGP EVPN will be provided as an alternative to the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) approach to creating the overlay network that is a foundational component of any SDN platform.
Support for BGP EVPN in the Cisco Nexus 9000 will be available in February 2015, with support for Cisco Nexus 7000 series switches and Cisco ASR 9000 series routers scheduled to arrive in the second quarter of this year.
While there is no doubt that Cisco favors the ACI framework that it developed, Cohen says it does not want to prevent organizations that have standardized on BGP EVPN from running Cisco switches and routers. In fact, Cohen notes that it is probable that large organizations will have a mix of switches and routers supporting both ACI and BGP EVPN. Cohen also notes that Cisco contributed to the draft of the BGP EVPN standard.
Cohen says ACI and BGP EVPN for VXLAN both create a network overlay for creating virtual networks through which organizations can isolate multiple tenants, but the core difference is that ACI provides policy-based automation of the physical and virtual environment on top of a virtual network (VXLAN).
At the end of the day, much of the battle over the future of SDNs is going to be fought over the merits of standards such as BGP EVPN versus more proprietary frameworks such as ACI. How that battle will turn out is still unclear. But it is certain that Cisco is now at least hedging its bets in both directions.