Cisco Improves SDN Support For Rival VMware; Adds Docker Containers

Cisco is striving to shed its image as a purely proprietary company by launching a software release for its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) that extends integration with its software-defined networking rival VMware as well as in Microsoft environments. The San Jose, Calif.-based networking leader is also adding support for Docker containers.

"More openness is what Cisco needs," said Matt Duncan, director of GDT Labs at General Datatech, a Cisco Gold partner ranked No. 45 on CRN's 2015 Solution Provider 500. "It's in their best interest to support these other vendors to ensure they're not totally losing the game and market share when it comes to these technologies and solutions. … It's great what Cisco is doing here with their ACI."

The new software capabilities enhance ACI with microsegmentation for both physical applications and multivendor virtualized applications -- such as VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) and Microsoft Hyper-V -- and extends ACI across multi-site environments to deliver policy-driven automation across multiple data centers, according to a release.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Ex-Cisco President Moore Talks About Why He Left, His New Roles With Hot Security Vendors And Being Disruptive]

Sponsored post

Cisco is also adding new support for cloud automation tools like VMware vRealize Automation and OpenStack, including open standards-based Opflex support with Open vSwitch.

Another key unveiling about ACI is its new integration with Docker containers through its Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). San Francisco-based startup Docker offers an open source platform for running distributed applications in Linux containers.

"Docker definitely represents a nice, open solution for application mobility in a way that, while VMware is nice, this is far more relevant in the long run and where we need to go as a technology," said General Datatech's Duncan.

ACI consists of software, Nexus switches and its APIC that manages, stores and enforces network polices. Cisco says it has more than 5,000 Nexus 9000 "ACI-ready" customers. VMware recently reported it has around 900 customers for its NSX SDN platform.

The networking giant is enhancing its ACI security by providing new micro-segmentation support for VMware VDS, Microsoft Hyper-V and bare-metal applications, which according to Cisco provide better endpoint security enforcement. The company said customers can now enforce forwarding and security policies and quarantine compromised or rogue endpoints.

Cisco has added four new companies to its ACI Ecosystem -- Apprenda, KillerIT, One Convergence and ScienceLogic -- which now includes a total of 47 members. The new members will enable the automation of entire application suites, including Platform-as-a-Service and Software-as-a-Service, to help organizations automate across their application and infrastructure teams.

"Customers tell me that only 5 to 10 percent of their networks are automated today," said Soni Jiandani, senior vice president of marketing for Cisco's Insieme business unit. "They are eager to adopt comprehensive automation for their networks and network services through a single pane of management, while improving security for east-west traffic, multi-cloud traffic and bare metal applications in a consistent manner."

"Policy-based automation, consistent network security and central compliance support are critical for IT efficiency, business agility, and competitive advantage," Jiandani continued. "Several ACI customers have achieved full automation of the network and are focusing on automation across their Layer 4-7 network services, security and application groups as the next step."

Duncan said there are many companies that still have a long way to go before they're ready to automate and take advantage of new features rolling out.

"But there are companies that are ready today, and this solution definitely plays into their ability to deliver solutions fast internally," said Duncan.