Cisco Unveils Insieme Plans: Application-Centric Infrastructure

Cisco's Nexus 9000 family is a big part of its Insieme Application-Centric Infrastructure PlayCisco Systems believes it’s leapfrogging the current generation of software-defined networking players with the launch of what it calls application-centric infrastructure powered by its spin-in Insieme Networks.

The company Wednesday both introduced the first major projects to come out of Insieme, and announced that it was purchasing the remaining interest in the company for $863 million, making the spin-in officially part of Cisco. Prior to the deal, Cisco already held 85 percent of Insieme.

The company’s offering will become the heart of Cisco’s SDN play, a play that the networking giant says goes beyond what most people think of when it comes to the nascent networking technology.

“The concept of software-defined networks is really interesting because it talks about programmability and flexibility,” Cisco CEO John Chambers said. “But as you really look into it, how you use software-defined networks is just one element that is part of your underlying strategy.”

The Insieme approach “embraces SDN concepts – the fabric, the overlays, the concept of any workload or any application anywhere, and extends it to the edge,” said Frank D’Agostino, senior director of marketing for solutions engineering at Insieme.

The company’s approach allows for a greater level of abstraction because it works at a system-wide level, instead of requiring management at a “box-by-box” level. D’Agostino said that device centricity has been one of the big distractors from SDN, introducing too much complexity and making it difficult to troubleshoot in real time.

Insieme’s technology will first see the light in the form of updates to the Cisco Nexus 9000 family of routers, which will feature the new ACI operating system, and will really speed up with the launch of the company’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) next year. D’Agostino said APIC will be different from first-generation SDN controllers because it doesn’t serve as a LAN emulator to make SDN come to life, requiring a great deal of horsepower on the controller, and introducing additional fees for virtual machines. D’Agostino characterizes the move in other SDN plays to use existing infrastructure, but rely heavily on additional virtual machines to make it all work as “the big myth in SDN,” a move that lowers the acquisition cost of hardware, but increases the cost considerably. Cisco quotes the range for such “traditional” SDN deployments as between $154 and $554 dollars per port per month, while saying its own ACI approach will bring that figure down to $40 per port per month.

ACI can, and will, look very familiar to a lot of solution providers, said John Growdon, senior director of channel business development for the data center business at Cisco. The technology can run in two modes – a standalone mode where hardware will look to a customer and partner like a very high-density switch running the familiar NX-OS, making it easy for partners already selling and servicing Nexus hardware to get started. From there, once the controller and other technologies are in market, it can be converted into the full fabric and ACI mode. Channel training will be available to Nexus partners to get them ready for ACI by early next year, Growdon said.

The technology will serve solution providers looking to catch in on the current cycle of data center upgrades and the move towards the cloud, Growdon said, and the ACI approach can help partner add to both their top and bottom lines.

“If you look at what we’re doing here, we started with networking, then moved into compute – we are working our way up the stack in terms of relevance,” Growdwon said. “Now we’re delivering new value to the folks delivering applications. Partners will be able to deliver agility to the application folks they never could before, and that makes them even more relevant across the IT infrastructure.”