Cisco Data Centre Architecture Looks To The App

Cisco claims to have a better data centre approach than SDN, with its new application-focused architecture

Cisco Systems has unveiled its next-generation data centre architecture which officials say will focus on the new kinds of applications coming from the cloud and mobile worlds.

Cisco believes this approach will deliver to businesses the tools to make their infrastructures simpler, more scalable and more cost-effective.

DC Architecture

Announced 26 June at the company’s Cisco Live 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida, Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure is aimed at bringing greater automation, programmability and openness to data centre infrastructures without having to make wholesale investments in new hardware. The first parts of the architecture will begin rolling out in the second half of the year.

Cisco UCSAt the show, Cisco also introduced enhancements to its Unified Fabric offerings, including new provisioning and management capabilities and new networking switches.

The new architecture also is the first fruits of Cisco’s investment in the spin-in company Insieme, which launched last year amid the rise of the software-defined networking (SDN) trend.

Cisco owns about 85 percent of Insieme. Speculation around the new company has involved SDN, though Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior said Cisco’s new effort goes beyond SDN.

SDN Beater?

“SDN promised to meet the needs of new apps by delivering greater scale, programmability, centralized management and automation,” Warrior wrote in a 26 June post on the Cisco blog. “But SDN, to date, can’t meet the needs of applications because it mimics the old model of networking. It doesn’t unify physical and virtual. It is flow-based (focused on individual networking elements), and not object-oriented (creating a configurable system of all IT resources). It can’t offer dynamic centralised policy management [and] programmability because it is constrained by old proprietary-standards model.”

Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure will bring that management and programmability that SDN is lacking, she said.

It comes at a time when cloud computing and mobility are bringing new kinds of applications to the data centre, from Hadoop and other big data applications to cloud applications like Salesforce and Cisco’s WebEx to highly scalable mobile applications like NetFlix and YouTube, Warrior said.

“The challenge with these applications in particular is that they need to be able to run across multiple servers and data centres, be able to parallel process asynchronous tasks, and be continually available, globally,” she wrote. “These applications rely on both physical and virtual infrastructures and, as a result, place new demands on the data centre to deliver applications at scale, with the level of availability, quality of service and flexibility that today’s businesses demand. Through our Application Centric Infrastructure vision, we will help IT departments dramatically simplify how they provision their data centre resources (networking, servers, storage and services) that are critical to the performance of their applications.”

Customer Agility

According to Cisco officials, the new architecture will bring greater automation and programmability to networks, significantly reducing the deployment time of applications. At the same time, a common and open platform will bring tight integration across physical and virtual applications, and a common management framework will help bring greater automation across the infrastructure, security and applications.