For disaster recovery, political, and organizational reasons, enterprises like to have multiple datacenters, and now they are going hybrid with public cloud capacity adding in the mix. Having networks scattered across the globe brings operational challenges, from being able to easily migrate and manage workloads across the multiple sites and increased complexity around networks, security to adopting emerging datacenter technologies like containers.

As the world becomes more cloud-centric, organizations are looking for ways to gain greater visibility and scalability across their environments, automate as many processes as possible and manage all these sites as a single entity.

Cisco Systems is putting new features into the latest release of its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) software that they say can address many of those problems, including more easily managing multiple ACI network fabrics in different geographical locations and integrating Kubernetes for better container management.

ACI 3.0 is the latest version of the software that drives Cisco’s software-defined networking (SDN) strategy. The networking giant unveiled ACI in late 2013 as an answer to the growing network virtualization trend that was being driven by the likes of VMware (with its NSX technology inherited when it bought Nicira), smaller startups, and open source projects. The idea was to create a network architecture that responded to the demands of applications, ensuring the necessary resources were available. The response has been good. The company has more than 4,000 ACI customers, and in Cisco’s fiscal fourth quarter, ACI revenue grew 38 percent year-over-year.

In addition, earlier this year, Cisco unveiled an initiative called Network Intuitive, which is designed to drive the development of intent-based networks that are intelligent enough through machine learning and advanced analytics to anticipate needed actions, offer predictive network analysis, address security threats before they become a problem and essentially evolve by learning over time. Intent-based networks are a key part of Cisco’s larger efforts to address customer needs in an increasingly multi-cloud world, CEO Chuck Robbins said during a conference call in August to discuss the quarterly numbers.


“We are helping our customers take full advantage of a multi-cloud world that has become the norm in managing their applications and hybrid cloud solutions,” Robbins explained, noting the combination of ACI with the company’s Unified Compute Systems (UCS) as well as the new intent-based network.  “Our goal is to deliver the best multi-cloud platform built on an intelligent Intuitive Network enabling faster automated and highly secured delivery of applications in the cloud.”

ACI 3.0 is the latest step in that direction. A key new feature is Multi-Site Management, which enables ACI customers to more seamlessly connect and manage multiple ACI fabrics, whether they’re scattered across multiple datacenter or private cloud sites or within the same on-premises environment but running on multiple clusters. Much of the work, from connectivity to policy management, can be automated, according to Srini Kotamraju, director of product management for Cisco datacenter networking. Using traditional datacenter interconnect technologies in such distributed environments is difficult, complex and expensive.