For some time now, Cisco has been making the case for an Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) approach to software-defined networking (SDN) that can support multiple classes of application workloads. Cisco today extended that effort with an update to ACI that not only adds support for Docker containers, but enables IT organizations to “microsegment” network services based on both bare-metal servers as well as virtual servers based on VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines.
At the same time, Cisco is now making it possible to extend SDNs based on ACI across multiple data centers, while also giving IT organizations the option of continuing to use command line interfaces (CLIs) in conjunction with the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC).
Finally, Cisco is adding support for cloud automation tools such as VMware vRealize Automation and frameworks such as OpenStack, including support for the open source OpFlex policy engine running on top of Open vSwitch (OVS).
Srinivas Kotamraju, director of product management for Cisco, says that when it comes to networking, Cisco is focused on making sure open application programming interfaces (APIs) can be easily invoked by any class of application workloads, now including Docker containers via support for an open source Project Contiv initiative that defines operational infrastructure policies for containers.
Thus far, Katamraju says Cisco has 5,000 customers that have deployed Cisco Nexus 9000 switches that are capable of running its ACI software. While those customers have implemented SDN software to varying degrees, Katamraju says the end goal is to protect investments in networking infrastructure at a time when IT organizations are coping with multiple classes of legacy and emerging applications.
Of course, Cisco has a significant fight on its hands with the rise of open networking initiatives based on open source network operating systems using derivatives of Linux and white box networking gear based on x86 or commercial silicon processors. But long term, Cisco is betting that most enterprise IT organizations are going to be a lot more interested in interoperability than they are necessarily in integrating and configuring the network infrastructure that enables that interoperability they actually value.