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Cisco breaks out of physical datacentres to support app-based future

At Cisco Live Europe, extending datacentre capabilities beyond the confines of the physical site to enable app innovation formed the core of a swathe of announcements made by the networking kingpin

Extending the broad technological capabilities of the datacentre beyond the physical confines of the real-world datacentre will be essential to support innovation around applications, according to Cisco.

At its annual customer and partner event in Barcelona, it set out a “datacentre anywhere” vision and introduced a range of innovations spanning networks, hyperconvergence, security and automation.

Cisco said the “new era” of applications was redefining what datacentres actually are, what they support and, most importantly, what they must be capable of supporting. In this world, the datacentre ceases to be a place, as such, rather it exists wherever data is being created, processed and used.

“Enterprises should be able to deploy applications based on the needs of their business, not the limitations of their technology,” said Roland Acra, senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s Datacentre Business Group.

“Customers want to deploy applications and manage data across a range of diverse platforms, from on-premise to cloud-based. That is why we are taking the ‘centre’ out of the datacentre. Today, Cisco is helping our customers expand their reach into every cloud, every datacentre and every branch.”

Cisco plans to capitalise on this with three major launches. First, it is to make its Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) intent-based networking (IBN) suite available in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, fully integrating with their infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) environments and extending ACI’s headline capabilities – around areas such as simplifying network operations and increasing application agility – in a more open manner, enabling ACI to run any workload, in any location, in any cloud.

The second launch, HyperFlex for Branch, extends Cisco’s hyperconverged infrastructure proposition to multiple sites to offer distributed compute and storage from customers’ core datacentres to the edge of their operations. It said this would deliver “datacentre-class application performance for digital innovation in branch offices and remote sites, enabling analytics and intelligent services at the enterprise edge”.

The third launch enhances Cisco’s CloudCenter Suite by adding application lifecycle management, workflow automation, and cost optimisation and governance to the picture, to help customers deal with the complexity and cost of managing applications across multiple public and private clouds.

In addition to this, Cisco has introduced a new enterprise purchasing framework, giving customers a single, standardised three- or five-year licensing agreement across seven product suites – including ACI and HyperFlex – and has integrated ACI with its AppDynamics monitoring suite to correlate application performance and network health, and Cisco’s DNA Center and Identity Services Engine for security.

BT Global Services general manager of dynamic network services, Adrian Comley, was already using Cisco ACI as the basis for the service provider’s recently launched SD-Fabric managed service to extend software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities into the datacentre.

“With ACI, we can offer customers full automation, central policy control and built-in security,” said Comley. “We’re working with Cisco as it extends ACI policy to AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud services. We’re enabling customers to rapidly deploy fabric extensions and provision applications anywhere with a repeatable, proven design for operational simplicity and better security.”

Looking at the potential new use cases for BT Global Services’ enterprise customers, Comley zeroed in on the needs of those that wanted to go all-in on the cloud but maybe couldn’t move all their workloads or applications for security or regulatory reasons, for example.

“Cisco ACI now lets them manage that environment as if it was in a public cloud. Extending that control is really exciting for BT and our customers,” he said.

David Goeckeler, executive vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s networking and security business, termed the firm’s latest announcements as “reinventing networking”, the result of an 18-month conversation in Cisco’s organisation.

“Traditional networking wasn’t built for this environment,” he said. “It’s a much more dynamic environment. This is causing us to rethink every single networking domain there is.”

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