What is Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)

Cisco ACI is a new data center architecture designed to address the requirements of today’s traditional networks, as well as to meet emerging demands that new computing trends and business factors are placing on the network.

Application-Centric Policy Model Using Group-Based Policy

To provide agility and simplicity in data center infrastructure, a new language describing the abstracted intent of connectivity is required so that the end user doesn’t need significant networking knowledge to describe the requirements for connectivity. Additionally, this intent should be decoupled from network forwarding semantics so that the end user can describe the policy in such a way that a change in policy need not affect forwarding behavior, and the converse.

Because this abstracted, decoupled policy model did not exist prior to Cisco ACI, Cisco created such a model. It is called group-based policy (GBP) and is a working project in OpenStack and OpenDaylight.

This approach offers a number of advantages, including:

Application-Centric Policy Model

Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller

Cisco APIC serves as the single point of automation and fabric element management in both physical and virtual environments. As a result, operators can build fully automated and scalable multitenant networks.

Cisco APIC is a unified point for policy-based configuration expressed through group-based policy

Cisco APIC attributes and features include the following:

Cisco APIC communicates with the Cisco ACI fabric to distribute policies to the points of attachment and provide several critical administrative functions to the fabric. Cisco APIC is not directly involved in data-plane forwarding, so a complete failure or disconnection of all Cisco APIC elements in a cluster will not result in any loss of forwarding capabilities, increasing overall system reliability.

In general, policies are distributed to nodes as needed on endpoint attachment or by an administrative static binding, allowing greater scalability across the entire fabric.

Cisco APIC also provides full native support for multitenancy so that multiple interested groups (internal or external to the organization) can share the Cisco ACI fabric securely, yet still be allowed access to shared resources if required. Cisco APIC also has full, detailed support for role-based access control (RBAC) down to each managed object in the system, so that privileges (read, write, or both) can be granted per role across the entire fabric.

Cisco APIC also has completely open APIs so that users can use Representational State Transfer (REST)-based calls (through XML or JavaScript Object Notation [JSON]) to provision, manage, monitor, or troubleshoot the system. Additionally, Cisco APIC includes a CLI and a GUI as central points of management for the entire Cisco ACI fabric.

Cisco ACI Fabric

The Cisco ACI Fabric is build around a set of hardware to provide the most scalable, extensible, simple, flexible, and efficient network in the industry. The Cisco ACI fabric is designed to address both today's and tomorrow's requirements:

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