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Automotive Services Leader Consolidates 53 Data Centers with ACI

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Updated:August 27, 2020

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    (738.7 KB)
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Updated:August 27, 2020
 

 

Cox Automotive Inc. aligns 26 brands and consolidates 53 data centers with Cisco ACI, achieving 10x network performance improvement at a lower cost.

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Challenge: Align and modernize a diversified business

With unmatched expertise in vehicle remarketing services and a comprehensive portfolio of software solutions for automotive dealers, Cox Automotive is deeply entrenched in every aspect of car acquisition, retail, ownership, and use.

But after decades of acquisitions that netted 26 leading brands—and a wide array of disparate technologies—it was time for Cox Automotive to further align and modernize its business.

“We had 53 data centers, and we wanted to consolidate them down to three,” says Jason Juenger, lead network engineer at Cox Automotive. “We also wanted to refresh our network and find a platform that could help us simplify technology management, reduce our costs, and better serve the needs of our brands.”

After evaluating several options—both traditional and modern—Cox Automotive chose Cisco ACI, the industry’s leading software-defined networking (SDN) solution.

“Cisco ACI offered the best support for both physical and virtual workloads,” Juenger says. “It was less expensive than the other SDN options we considered, and API access was really big for us.”

Cisco ACI is now the foundation of the company’s primary data center in Atlanta, and a Cisco ACI Multi-Pod design is supporting two network fabrics in its Las Vegas data center. A total of 12 spines and roughly 100 leaves are supporting nearly 20,000 virtual machines in the two facilities.

“Cisco ACI has given us a 10x bandwidth improvement at a lower cost than what we had before,” Juenger says.

“Cisco ACI has given us a 10x bandwidth improvement at a lower cost than what we had before.”

- Jason Juenger, Lead Network Engineer, Cox Automotive

Cox Automotive

Size: 34,000 employees – Industry: Automotive – Location: Atlanta, GA

Challenges

  Support the technology needs of 26 subsidiaries
  Consolidate 53 data centers down to three
  Establish a common, software-defined network infrastructure

Solutions

  Cisco® Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI TM) Multi-Pod
  Cisco Nexus® 9000 Series switches

Results

  Achieved 10x network performance improvement at a lower cost
  Automated 95 percent of data center migration processes
  Accelerated new tenant deployments from weeks to minutes

Leveraging script-based automation

Every Cox Automotive subsidiary has its own unique applications and computing needs. The challenge for the parent company’s IT staff was finding a way to support each subsidiary in a standardized yet bespoke fashion.

“Programmability, automation, and multitenancy were key factors in our decision to go with Cisco ACI,” Juenger says. “They allow us to deliver a common platform at scale, tailor that platform to everyone’s needs, and keep all of our brands separate.”

Cox Automotive is using the Cisco ACI Multi-Pod design and Ansible modules to simplify and accelerate migrations from its legacy data centers to the consolidated facilities in Atlanta and Las Vegas.

“In the past, we had to rebuild all of the subnets and manually configure the servers when doing migrations,” Juenger says. “Now we just replicate our existing Cisco ACI design and spin up a new pod, which maintains Layer 2 and ensures consistency with our other fabrics. You can’t do that with legacy networks.”

The company is also leveraging Cisco ACI modules for Ansible—which cover more than 1500 individual configuration tasks—to automate routine configuration and deployment processes.

“We built the first tenant environment from scratch, which took us about a month,” Juenger says. “It became clear that we could automate 95 percent of the process with Ansible, which we’ve been doing ever since. Today, it only takes us about 15 minutes with Cisco ACI modules to configure a new tenant environment, and Ansible does the rest.”

Cox Automotive has also aligned its Cisco ACI environment with VMware® and Splunk® software.

“We’ve integrated with VMware vCenter® and automated a lot of things that used to cause us problems, like ensuring VLANs were tagged everywhere a new vCenter cluster could pop up. And the Cisco ACI App for Splunk® Enterprise gives us a more granular view of our logs,” Juenger explains. “The Cisco ACI integrations are very helpful for gaining a single source of truth, simplifying network management, and implementing additional automation.”

According to Juenger, the new data center network has not only improved technology performance, cost efficiency, and management— it has also helped renew the relationship between Cox Automotive’s central IT team and its subsidiaries.

“We deploy a virtual switch and set up a cluster for each business unit, and then they’re able to do most things on their own,” Juenger says. “We still help them with new subnets, but they’re in control of the VMs and servers that go into the cluster. It’s a lot more efficient for everyone.”

“Programmability, automation, and multitenancy were key factors in our decision to go with Cisco ACI. They allow us to deliver a common platform at scale, tailor that platform to everyone’s needs, and keep all of our brands separate.”

- Jason Juenger, Lead Network Engineer, Cox Automotive

Looking ahead

Moving forward, Cox Automotive is planning to provide additional Ansible tools and front-end APIs that will further empower its subsidiaries, without disrupting data center standardization or security.

“We’ll allow them to make more network changes, like creating subnets, and we’ll expose some custom CI/CD tooling,” Juenger explains. “Without Cisco ACI, we couldn’t do most of this.”

The company is also planning to extend the network environment to its third data center, and will use Ansible to further align its on-premises and cloud-based network and application policies.

“Our configuration is code, so we can translate and reconcile our Cisco ACI policies with our AWS policies,” Juenger says, noting the integration between Cisco ACI Anywhere and AWS cloud services. “Across the board, Cisco ACI helps us with consistency, security, and operational efficiency.”

“The Cisco ACI integrations are very helpful for gaining a single source of truth, simplifying network management, and implementing additional automation.”

- Jason Juenger, Lead Network Engineer, Cox Automotive

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