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Cisco, Insieme tout 'penalty-free' fabric architecture

At Cisco Live, Insieme articulates vision but shows no products; Cisco launches Nexus 7700 and fabric automation enhancements

By , Network World
June 27, 2013 08:16 AM ET

Network World - ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cisco this week significantly extended its data center networking portfolio with a new fabric architecture, an enhancement to another and, as expected, an extension to its Nexus core switching line.

The new fabric architecture is the concept of Insieme Networks, the Cisco spin-in company believed to be developing programmable data center switches. There was speculation last week that Insieme would unveil new hardware at Cisco Live this week in addition to its fabric vision, but the hardware won’t come until the fall.

[GIVE US A BREAK: Breaking down Cisco’s new data center strategy]

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The other is an extension to Cisco’s existing Unified Fabric for Cisco’s Nexus switches, including the new Nexus 7700. The Nexus Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) extension is intended to automate the configuration and provisioning of those switches.

Insieme’s Application-Centric Infrastructure is designed to simplify and speed application provisioning for IT shops, while DFA is designed to essentially do the same for the network infrastructure, in addition to simplifying fabric management and improving scale.  DFA works with the new Nexus 7700 switch and the existing Nexus 7000, but equipped with new 40/100G F3 modules that also debuted this week.

Attributes of the Insieme Application-Centric Infrastructure include integration of physical, virtual and cloud resources with consistent endpoint access and visibility of hardware. It is designed to provide systemwide integration of infrastructure, services and security, with real-time telemetry and expansion for future services.

The SDN overlay model for network virtualization actually adds more complexity to the network by attacking only a specific task and limiting the view of the network to individual elements, Insieme officials claim. It limits performance, scale and visibility, and leads to architectural rigidity, they say.

Application-Centric Infrastructure “is a systems-based approach and not box approach,” said Insieme Senior Vice President Soni Jiandani, even though many SDN strategies from established and start-up vendors purport to do the same thing as the Insieme architecture. “This is penalty-free network virtualization.”

Application-Centric Infrastructure is designed to allow applications to define networking requirements based on service profiles similar to those Cisco developed for its Unified Computing System server and storage access platform. It is intended to reduce provisioning time from weeks to minutes, Insieme officials say.

The architecture is also intended to provide a common policy management and operational procedures for automation across network, security and application administration, and will include compute and storage in the future, Insieme officials said.

“Simplification of the infrastructure – this is where we will automate,” Jiandani said.

The architecture will support multi-tenancy with varying service-level agreements, Jiandani said. It will support firewalls and load balancing services, various encapsulation schemes -- like VXLAN, NVGRE and 802.1X -- without requiring gateways between them, and any hypervisor, she said.

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