Ahead of the Cisco Live curve: Avi Networks announces Cisco ACI integration

Before Cisco Live 2015 even kicked off, startup Avi Networks announced integration with Cisco ACI.

Next week Cisco holds its annual user conference, Cisco Live, in San Diego. Cisco Live is a great show for customers to get educated on the latest and greatest Cisco technology available to them and how it can fit into their environment. Another benefit of Cisco Live is that customers can find technology partners that have developed solutions that work in conjunction with Cisco solutions.

One vendor that jumped the gun and announced a solution early is the application delivery controller start up Avi Networks. I actually wrote about Avi earlier this year in this blog. I'm guessing that Avi Networks wanted to get ahead of the flurry of press releases that I'm expecting next week, and I'm glad they did as this seems like a compelling solution.

One of the hottest topics at the 2015 edition of Live will be Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and APIC controller. Based on customer conversations, there's a tremendous amount of interest in ACI, and I'm expecting to see Cisco have dominant share in this market.

See also: Avi Networks' analytics tools can be a network engineer's best ally

One of the challenges with SDNs in general (and ACI is no exception), is how to integrate third-party infrastructure into the "stack." Cisco has an excellent partner program to enable third parties to integrate into ACI. This morning, Avi Networks announced that its Cloud Application Delivery Platform (CADP) now works with ACI.

At first glance, it appears the CADP is one of many virtual ADCs available on the market today. However, the AVI product is actually, what I believe to be, the first controller-based ADC. With traditional ADCs (physical or virtual), the controller (such as APIC) has a point of interaction with each appliance/virtual ADC. Just because something is virtual doesn't really make it SDN-ready – its just running in software instead of hardware.

Avi's CADP was built for the SDN era, meaning it has full separation of control and data plane that replicates Cisco's APIC architecture. The advantage of this is that there is a single point of integration between APIC and the Avi platform. Now if a change needs to be made, it's done once in APIC, pushed out to the Avi controller, and every instance of the ADC is reconfigured. This has the obvious benefit of quick and rapid provisioning of new services. However, it also enables true zero-touch lifecycle management and self-service capabilities for layer 4-7 services.

Avi designed the product so that 100% of its features are supported through REST APIs so there's no feature or function that can't be reached from the Cisco APIC. Developing full-featured REST APIs can be a challenge with older infrastructure, as it was never really designed to work in a software-defined environment.

Also, Avi's analytic capabilities will become available to ACI customers. This strong analytic capability was the focus of the previous post I wrote on the company. Avi can provide rich analytic information such as user activity, log analytics, application health metrics, and anomaly detection. This data can be used to improve application performance and security posture.

Cisco designed ACI to have a broad and deep ecosystem of partners, which I believe will be one of its long-term differentiators over all of the other SDN products. It's nice to see a startup like Avi Networks, which shares the same vision of the agile, automated data center, be able to quickly integrate into ACI.

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