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Cisco singing a different ACI tune

It's now the "most complete SDN" there is

Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure is SDN after all, the company now says. This, after claiming it was not SDN at last fall’s Interop conference in New York.

At that time, Frank D’Agostino, senior vice president of technical marketing in Cisco’s Insieme Business Unit, described how ACI is not SDN because of its focus on abstracting application policy for physical and virtual infrastructure vs. virtualizing the network infrastructure. During a call with Deutsche Bank this week however, D’Agostino is singing a different ACI tune:

“Cisco is the complete solution for SDN in the marketplace.”

The mixed messaging continues a pattern established just before the launch of ACI and the Nexus 9000 switching line that accompanies it. In some cases, it has led to frustration and exasperation on the part of Cisco marketers and engineers, including D’Agostino.

Regardless, he now says competitive SDN solutions in the market provide only a subset of ACI functionality, which he defines as a container for accelerated application delivery on a network without sacrificing visibility into that application. Networking is an extension of the application under ACI, he claims, instead of automation in a network context like first generation SDN solutions are.

Cisco provides equal software capability in ACI to VMware’s NSX, without the “per-VM tax” levied by that product, D’Agostino says. Bare metal white box switches and disaggregated hardware/software models are 38% more expensive than Cisco’s ACI, he asserts.

And both scenarios – software-only LAN Emulation virtual network overlays and disaggregated hardware/software implementations -- can both be deployed with Cisco Nexus 9000 switches and then upgraded to ACI with just a software update, D’Agostino said on the Deutsche Bank call.

“ACI is software-defined, and hardware-enabled,” he said. “Cisco provides the most complete solution.”

Even for VMware ESX hypervisor environments, D’Agostino claims. ACI provides the same performance profile as NSX in ESX environments, he says. The difference is, there’s “0 dollars per VM” levied in those, and in Red Hat, Xen and Open vSwitch implementations.

“That’s not the case with NSX,” D’Agostino claims

And application visibility? Since ESX and NSX network management interfaces are separate, there’s no per-tenant visibility in NSX and no way of correlating a logical tenant with a physical event on the network, which, he says, are critical to SLAs.

“They don’t have to buy NSX for SDN, they get that from Cisco,” D’Agostino says of ESX shops. “There is no deployment model, none, where a customer should deploy NSX vs. ACI.”

D’Agostino reiterated that ACI’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller – APIC – will ship this summer.

VMware declined comment on D’Agostino’s claims, which he and other Cisco officials have made before and VMware responded to previously. Only, they didn’t call ACI an SDN.

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