Rising demand has put pressure on datacentres, leading Cisco to introduce a new approach to network control. Fiona McLeod looks at what skills organisations will need to implement ACI.


• Nov 24 2022

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)

3 min read

As the world has moved increasingly online over the past couple of years, data centres have found it challenging to meet the need for quick access to information. During the pandemic, they were faced with increased demand from ecommerce and remote working, alongside rising demand from areas like IoT, cloud services and Machine Learning (ML). This has highlighted the crucial role that data centres play in the day-to-day operations of both users and IT corporations. In 2020, the market for data centre services was worth $48.9 billion. It is predicted that this amount will reach $105.6 billion by 2026. In the first half of 2022, there have already been double the number of data centre infrastructure deals, rising from $10.6 billion in 2021 to $21.3 billion in the same period of 2022. This growth trend appears to be continuing despite the current economic and political struggles.

Due to the rise in datacentre technology, our clients have been asking us to source an increasing number of specialists, particularly experts in Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). But what is Cisco ACI?

ACI vs SDN: why a new way to control devices was needed

Before discussing ACI, it is important to understand why it was needed when there was already a robust, simple mechanism to control devices within the network in the form of Software-Defined Networking (SDN).

SDN is a network management technology introduced to virtualise networks, making them more dynamic and programmatically efficient for network configuration. Network administrators can have a view of the network from the control plane while constant monitoring also helps to improve network performance. However, the SDN standard introduced was complex and lacked scalability, security and visibility. Therefore, Cisco introduced a new approach and architecture driven from SDN called ACI.

ACI is essentially a data centre network architecture that makes it possible for applications to be deployed and managed in a way that is both flexible and efficient. It allows easier management of complex application environments, as it is responsive and easy to configure. It provides a single point of control for both virtual and physical networks and greater network transparency. Cisco ACI is used by businesses to enhance the security of their data centres, and both private and public clouds.

The benefits of ACI

Using ACI, many of the tasks that were previously performed manually – and therefore prone to human error – can now be automated, increasing productivity and efficiency. For example, ACI can detect and fix errors in application setups, automatically provision new applications on the infrastructure, and dynamically adapt network resources to shifting application requirements.

On top of increasing productivity and efficiency, ACI’s inbuilt security features provide greater protection against security threats and improved compliance capabilities. It does this through inbuilt firewalls and intrusion detection systems. ACI also allows administrators greater visibility of network traffic, therefore increasing their ability to quickly identify and prevent an attack.

In summary, ACI is a network architecture for data centres that allows for more flexible and effective application deployment and management. Agile, efficient, secure, and compliant operations can all be enhanced in the data centre with ACI.

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