In a series of announcements at its Cisco Live! customer gathering in Barcelona, the tech giant sought to expand its data centre-influence by extending its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to the cloud, extending its hyper-converged HyperFlex offering to the edge and bolstering the management capabilities of its CloudCenter offering.
ACI is Cisco’s software-defined networking (SDN) data centre package, but it also delivers the company’s Intent-Based Networking technology, which brings customers the ability to automatically implement network and policy changes on the fly and ensure data delivery.
Cisco has now extended ACI with ACI Anywhere to the cloud – specifically Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure environments.
The idea is that customers will have the flexibility to run and control applications anywhere they want across private or public clouds or at the edge and while maintaining consistent network policies across their entire domain.
“There is nothing centred about data centres anymore,” said Roland Acra, senior vice president and general manager for Cisco’s Data Center Networking business.
“IT teams have been forced to make a hard choice: stay with their on-premises data centres with a rich set of tools of their choice for automation or assurance or security; or move to the cloud, where a different set of capabilities can make consistent compliance a true challenge.
"ACI Anywhere removes that challenge and places workloads where it makes the most sense regardless of the platform or hypervisor."
ACI Anywhere would, for example, let policies configured through Cisco’s SDN APIC (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller) use native APIs offered by a public-cloud provider to orchestrate changes within both the private and public cloud environments, Cisco said.
“This approach offers consistent policy and automation using an established ACI interface without compromising performance or access to a rich array of cloud-native public cloud services," Acra added.
"In addition, on-premises Cisco ACI orchestrates a consistent hybrid cloud experience that balances flexibility and control, while delivering hardware driven performance."
Easing the control mechanisms of cloud and hybrid cloud environments is a clutch move by Cisco analysts said.
“As organisations look to scale their hybrid cloud environments, it will be critical to leverage solutions that help improve productivity and processes,” said Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.
“The ability to leverage the same solution, like Cisco’s ACI, in your own private-cloud environment as well as across multiple public clouds will enable organisations to successfully scale their cloud environments.”
Cisco is developing a consistent operations model for clients that have significant exposure to both public cloud and on-prem infrastructure, said Naveen Chhabra, a senior analyst with Forrester.
“We have talked of siloed operations in the past. There have been number of efforts to reduce silos, cloud has not helped customers at all. It has only increased silos, and we are far from being optimal.”
Cisco is taking customers a step closer to that mission of reducing siloes and driving innovation to manage the infrastructure, services, operations in a better way Chhabra said.
HyperFlex for Branch
Also extending its data-centre control planes is a new release of Cisco’s Hyperflex package which is the company’s converged infrastructure that offers computing, networking and storage resources in a single data-centre system.
Cisco has added HyperFlex for Branch or Hyperflex 4.0, which will let customers extend the system to branch offices or the edge of a customer network.
In other words, it moves data-centre-class application performance and management to branch offices and remote sites, enabling analytics and intelligent services at the enterprise edge, Cisco said.
The new HyperFlex release also brings with it integration with Cisco’s Cloud-based management package that includes support for automation analytics as well as a remediation engine that can help customers spot and quickly fix problems.
The idea is to let customers simplify operation by deploy a single and simplified hyper-converged architecture across their core, hybrid cloud, and edge, Acra stated.
“[Remote branch offices] require a scaled-down model but with higher resilience that HyperFlex can deliver,” Forrester’s Chhabra said. “What Cisco can do is manage these HyperFlex installs from a single location, which is great and reduces burden on on-site engineers.
"It can also ensure consistent policy management across all sites. What is yet to be seen is the policy management comprehensive enough for all use-cases.”
ESG’s Laliberte added: “We are also at the start of a pendulum swing, from consolidated to distributed, so yes we expect to see more compute distributed not only in the cloud, but also at the edge. Think IoT initiatives driving the need to perform real-time analytics at the edge.”
Cisco CloudCenter upgrade
Also announced this week was an upgrade to Cisco’s CloudCenter multi-cloud management suite. Cisco said the new CloudCenter Suite includes full application lifecycle management and greater workflow automation.
The package also helps customers optimise cloud-workload costs more easily.
Cisco also announced that it was making it easier for customers to buy its data-centre software with a program called the Cisco Enterprise Agreement.
With CEA customers can purchase software in single standardised three- or five-year licensing agreements. The Cisco EA provides customers with choice in deployment models and license portability across physical, virtual or cloud deployments.
Cloud ACI and HyperFlex 4.0 with Cisco Insight will be available in the second quarter. The CloudCenter Suite subscription on-premises will be available in first quarter and a SaaS version is planned as well. Cisco EAs will be available in the first quarter.