Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)

Transform Your Data Center

See how ACI radically simplifies and accelerates application deployment. (5:36 min)

Cisco Developer Network for ACI

Facilitate rapid systems integration and customization for network services, monitoring, management, and orchestration.
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The Open ACI Ecosystem

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

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TechWiseTV: Inside the ACI

Join Cisco experts for a technical discussion into ACI.

Support for Open Networking

ACI delivers on the Cisco Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) strategy.

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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) 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

Program and Automate Network Demands

Promote flexible control of network infrastructure with Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches.

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Build Large Multitenant Networks

Support VXLAN functions with hardware-based performance with Nexus 9000 Series Switches.

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Zero-Cost Fiber Migration

Reuse 10 Gb cabling for 40 Gb device connectivity with Cisco QSFP BiDi technology.

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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 the Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE) strategy, 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.

Simplify Fabric Deployments

Get a switch and physical infrastructure solution built for superior performance.

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Build an ACI

Cisco Nexus 9000 Series Switches offer leading performance, power, port density, and more.

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Cisco ACI Webcast

Our new ACI products optimize your data center for cloud, mobile, and big data.


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

Cisco Business Strategy capabilities develop the business case and master plan for Application Centric Infrastructure.

Cisco Readiness Planning capabilities transform data centers to an Application Centric Infrastructure.

Cisco Quick Start Service for Nexus 9000 provides consulting for deployment.

Cisco Accelerated Deployment Services for Nexus 9000 support rapid transition to an application-centric architecture.

Cisco Data Center Services for Operations Enablement prepare your environment for ACI while addressing all stages of the operations lifecycle.

Cisco Product Support is available globally 24 hours daily for Cisco software and hardware products associated with the Cisco Nexus 9000. Enhanced Cisco-delivered support also includes Cisco SMARTnet or Cisco Smart Net Total Care*.

Cisco Services to Secure Data Center Infrastructure

Cisco Data Center Security Design Assessment Service helps you understand your security infrastructure design and how it aligns with your security policy.

Cisco Data Center Security ASA Migration Service helps you migrate your third-party or Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) platform, including configurations and firewall rules, to a virtualized environment.

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

*Cisco products only

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