Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure

SDN for Dummies

A gentle introduction to software defined networking and Cisco ACI for the rest of us. (PDF - 4.0 MB)

SDN for Dummies

Cisco Developer Network for ACI

Facilitate rapid systems integration and customization for network services, monitoring, management, and orchestration.
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Software Defined Networking

SDN delivers speed and agility when you deploy applications and business services. Flexibility, policy, and programmability are the hallmarks of our SDN solutions. See how Cisco can handle today's most demanding networking needs. Learn more about software defined networking.

Unleashing IT: A Special Edition

Early adopters explain why they are implementing Cisco ACI.

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An Open Ecosystem

ACI's broad ecosystem extends the data center platform, rich services and management.

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Real Customers, Real Success

See how organizations are using Cisco ACI to realize successful business outcomes.

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ACI: Addressing The Changing Landscape

Industry shifts are redefining IT at all levels. On-premise IT consumption models are shifting to cloud-based services. IT as a service (IaaS) is supplanted by applications as a service. Separate development and operations are moving toward integrated development and operations (DevOps). Box-centric management models are migrating to application-centric management.

Business agility requires application agility, so IT teams need to provision applications in hours instead of months. Resources need to scale up (or down) in minutes, not hours.

Traditional approaches take a siloed operational view, with no common operational model between the application, network, security, and cloud teams. A common operational model delivers application agility, simplified operations, assured performance, and scale.

The Solution: An Application-Centric Approach to Managing Your Infrastructure

Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) in the data center is a holistic architecture with centralized automation and policy-driven application profiles. ACI delivers software flexibility with the scalability of hardware performance.

Cisco ACI consists of:

Key characteristics of ACI include:

  • Simplified automation by an application-driven policy model
  • Centralized visibility with real-time, application health monitoring
  • Open software flexibility for DevOps teams and ecosystem partner integration
  • Scalable performance and multi-tenancy in hardware

The future of networking with ACI is about providing a network that is deployed, monitored, and managed in a fashion that supports DevOps and rapid application change. ACI does so through the reduction of complexity and a common policy framework that can automate provisioning and managing of resources.

Role Advantages Benefits
Application Owners and Lines of Business Dramatic reduction in time to service delivery (days to minutes)

On-demand scale-out and tear-down lead to more predictable application and IT spending better aligned to business activity

End-to-end application health score helps meet service level agreements (SLAs)
Applications delivered in business time

Optimized cost structure

Higher availability
Server, Storage, and Virtualization Teams Central deployment model accelerates network and security infrastructure configuration

Helps enable an any-workload, anywhere deployment model
Operational efficiency

Rapid deployment

Higher availability, and increased customer satisfaction
Network Team Automated network provisioning reduces overhead and errors, accelerates deployment, and allows application owners to self-service and scale

Automated remediation reduces overhead and promotes optimal network performance for all apps 24 hours daily. Visibility across physical and virtual infrastructures shortens MTTR.

Provides real-time telemetry correlation between the virtual and physical infrastructure
Greater productivity, accuracy, and easier scaling

Higher availability

Increased customer satisfaction
Security Team Automates security policy while allowing security teams to retain control over policies for compliance

Automated insertion of virtual security services simplifies app deployments
Improved security with faster provisioning

Simplified operations
Cloud Team ACI promotes consistency of policies and services for on-premise and cloud apps

No app dependencies on underlying infrastructure supports cloud-ready apps with minimal additional effort, making them easier to manage, deploy, and migrate
Consistency and agility across infrastructure

Flexible deployment, easier scaling, and lower TCO
Deployment Models Advantages Benefits
Massively Scalable Data Center Open programmability across all popular, common tool sets

Designed and optimized for scalability:
  • 10 Gb, 40 Gb, and 100 Gb-ready
  • Up to one million IP addresses and 64,000 tenants
  • Hardware VXLAN routing and gateway
Real-time telemetry across all network elements, providing app health visibility and quick problem resolution
Flexibility, control, and customization

Massively scalable multi-tenancy

Faster troubleshooting
Service Provider and Cloud Data Centers Large-scale multi-tenancy and application security in hardware

Advanced fabric telemetry and health scoring for apps, customers, and infrastructure

Self-service automated provisioning of apps, network services, and security
Highly secure multi-tenancy

Proactive problem resolution

Simplified operations
Enterprise Fully-deployable private-cloud solution with visibility, troubleshooting, and mobility for physical, virtual, and distributed apps

Helps ensure completion of service level agreements and performance requirements
Apps delivered in business time

Cisco at Networking Field Day

Follow along with Joe Onisick’s whiteboard illustration of ACI concepts. (27:59 min)

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A Leap Forward for Data Centers

ACI enters general availability: What you can expect.

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TechWiseTV: ACI Momentum Accelerates

Take an inside look at the new APIC interface, ACI fabric, and OpFlex protocol. (0:43 sec)

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ACI is an innovative, highly secure architecture based upon a number of different elements, outlined below.

Application-Focused Fabric

Combine hardware, software, and ASIC innovations into an integrated systems approach to take advantage of standard Ethernet and IP protocols.

The extensible, object-oriented OS offers comprehensive programmability.

Application-level health scores, counters, and policies for both physical and virtual applications simplify troubleshooting and provide visibility.

Centralized Management, Automation, and Orchestration

A common management framework for network, application, security, and virtualization teams makes IT more agile.

ACI automates all fabric management tasks, including image management, configuration, and stitching of other networking infrastructure services such as firewalls and load balancers.

Mixed Workload and Migration Optimization for Any Application, Anywhere, Anytime

Facilitate provisioning of applications while promoting performance and visibility correlation between logical and physical networks.

Normalize physical and virtual server transport between different hypervisors and bare metal servers to ease migration from virtual to physical, or virtual to virtual.

Highly Secure Multi-Tenant Environment

Advance proper isolation and SLAs for different tenants while providing a consistent security policy across physical and virtual applications.

Data center teams define security and networking policies using a common policy language abstraction. This helps security teams to provide robust policy definitions independent of the network topology.

Extensibility and Openness

ACI supports an open ecosystem embracing open APIs, open source, and open standards. This provides the broadest choice in data center management and infrastructure.

ACI supports embracing open APIs, open source, and open standards. This provides the broadest choice in data center management and infrastructure.

A well-documented set of northbound and southbound APIs, available through the Cisco Developer Network, support rapid system integration and flexibility for:

  • Layer 4-7 services
  • Virtual network infrastructure
  • Monitoring
  • Management
  • Orchestration services

Investment Protection – People and Infrastructure

Take advantage of existing IT teams' skillsets and infrastructure to lower overall TCO.

Innovative 40 Gb bi-directional optics allow for the reuse of current 10 Gb cabling to reduce costly fiber upgrades.

Customers can run Cisco Nexus 9000 switches in a standalone deployment or migrate to full ACI fabric mode with a software upgrade. This approach, combined with open interfaces to support existing infrastructure, provides investment protection across the entire portfolio.


ACI can enable agile deployment of applications across enterprises and service provider organizations. Its fabric foundation is built for telemetry, efficiency, scale, and application awareness, leading to lower TCO. The next-generation data center will be built upon ACI principles that are designed for current and future applications.

APIC software download

Accelerate application deployment with Cisco APIC.

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Watch Demonstration

See how Cisco APIC simplifies and automates network infrastructure.

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ACI Compatibility Matrix

Ecosystem compatibility list for APIC Integration.

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Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches bring new, industry-leading performance, power, port density, and open programmability innovations. Products include:

Cisco Application Virtual Switch (AVS) provides a consistent virtual switch infrastructure between ACI fabrics and the Cisco Nexus 1000V virtual switch for existing data center fabrics.

Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) programmatically automates network provisioning and control based on application requirements and policies.

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure Security for data centers solves many complexities in customer environments. ACI Security treats firewalls as a pool of resources and intelligently stitches them according to application network policies. ACI Security offers full acceleration dynamically in hardware and directly integrates into ACI.

Delivered by Cisco and our Cisco Certified Partners, service engagements result in measurable business gains for our customers with benefits such as 15-20% faster acceleration to revenue; 30% lower infrastructure costs; 50% faster disaster recovery; and 90% reduction in deployment time.

Cisco Services for ACI

Read more about Cisco Services for Application Centric Infrastructure and Nexus 9000 Series Switches.

Cisco Data Center Strategy and Analysis Service for Cisco ACI: Helps you develop a technology strategy for adopting Cisco ACI based on business and technology needs.

Cisco Data Center Assessment Service for Cisco ACI: Provides operations readiness, migration strategy, and process for future migrations.

Cisco Data Center Validation Service for Cisco ACI: Pilots the Cisco ACI solution with a simulator so you understand its capabilities and gain experience to reduce deployment risk.

Cisco Data Center Design Service for Cisco ACI: Helps you design a data center environment based on Cisco ACI, including infrastructure, fabric POD planning, and design with application policy templates.

Cisco Solution Support for Cisco ACI: Offers a “one-stop shop” to reduce duration and effects of disruptions by adding solution-level perspective along with SMARTnet® product support to your device-level service contracts.

Cisco Services for Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches

Cisco Data Center Quick Start Service for Cisco Nexus 9000: Provides consulting services that include technical advice and assistance to help deploy Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches.

Cisco Data Center Accelerated Deployment Service for Cisco Nexus 9000: Delivers planning, design, and implementation expertise to bring your project into production.

Cisco Migration Service for Cisco Nexus 9000: Helps you migrate from Cisco Catalyst® 6000 Series Switches to Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches.

Cisco Product Support: Is available globally 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for Cisco software and hardware products and technologies associated with Cisco Nexus 9000. Enhanced support options delivered by Cisco also include Solution Support for ACI, Cisco SMARTnet Service or Cisco Smart Net Total Care*.

For more information on Cisco Services, contact your Cisco Sales representative or email

*Cisco products only

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