Cisco is advancing its hybrid cloud computing strategy with release of version 5.0 of Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), a software-defined networking (SDN) that can be deployed on cloud platforms or networking equipment deployed in an on-premises IT environment.
The latest version of Cisco ACI adds support for a transit gateway between virtual private cloud (VPC) instances on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud to provide a more efficient means of routing traffic across east-west and north-south cloud computing environments.
Cisco is also extending the networking services it provides for the Microsoft Azure cloud to include VNET peering within the Azure Virtual Network, shared service deployments, additional service automation functions.
Via ACI 5.0, IT teams are now provided a centralized view of cloud resource inventory within AWS and Microsoft Azure along with status indicators and a set of wizards to simplify configurations.
Cisco also has deepened the level of integration between Cisco ACI and Kubernetes as well, to increase the level of scale that can be achieved in IT environments based on platforms such as VMware vSphere.
Finally, Cisco has added support for role-based access control (RBAC) in multi-tenancy environments along with two-factor authentication (TFA) capabilities enabled by the Cisco DUO platform. Cisco also added a more flexible policy construct, dubbed Endpoint Security Group (ESG), that can be employed to group endpoints based on L3 attributes and apply contracts between ESGs.
Srinivas Kotamraju, senior director for product management for Cisco ACI, said the latest update to the SDN platform provides IT teams with the equivalent of many of the same networking services that Cisco historically has provided in an on-premises IT environment.
Cisco has been making the case for a hybrid cloud computing approach to delivering network services that enables IT teams to manage those services via a central console. Rather than having to manage networking services provided by each cloud service provider, Cisco ACI makes it possible to deploy the same SDN across multiple clouds and on-premises IT environments. Cisco contends that approach ultimately serves to reduce the total cost of delivering networking services by both centralizing management and making it easier to automate the management of networking services across multiple IT environments.
There are two primary ways Cisco exposes those networking services. DevOps teams can take advantage of application programming interfaces (APIs) to programmatically invoke ACI services. Alternatively, Cisco provides network managers access to a graphical user interface (GUI) through which they can access a command-line interface (CLI) to configure a specific router or switch.
Kotamraju said with the rise of DevOps the number of organizations giving developer programmatic control over networking services continues to rise. It’s too early to say to what degree NetOps and DevOps teams might ultimately converge; however, Kotamraju said finding ways to meld those two groups is being discussed more frequently within many IT organizations as applications become more distributed.
Of course, the biggest challenge when it comes to achieving that goal will be more cultural than technical. However, as networking services become more accessible via APIs, it’s now more a question of when and how than if.