Network integration and policy federation, everywhere

Network integration and policy federation, everywhere

IDC analyst Brad Casemore discusses the alignment of multiple data centers and cloud environments to support globally distributed business operations.

The modern enterprise is always available for its customers. It delivers consistent, synchronized engagements and transactions. Through a number of channels. Anytime, anywhere.

And that’s not easy.

Countless enterprises have long supported operations and customers around the globe. But most are just now learning how to stitch together those operations and deliver a truly seamless customer experience.

“Applications are at the center of it all,” says Brad Casemore, research director for data center networks at IDC. “They have become the lifeblood of business, and they aren’t simply systems of record, but systems of engagement. They are more distributed and critical than ever.”

Business continuity is now dependent on application availability, he explains, which is reliant on network availability. And that can be exceedingly difficult to maintain when hardware and software systems are dispersed among a number of data centers, branch offices, and cloud environments.

“Every company needs availability, reliability, and flexibility in their data center. That’s not new,” Casemore says. “What’s new is the need to deliver these attributes across multiple sites and clouds in a consistent and simplified way.”

Connecting multiple sites

Data center interconnects (DCIs) are the most common glue for integrating multiple data centers. But the technology can be “painful” to implement and manage, Casemore warns.

“DCIs are complex, difficult to scale, and costly,” he says. “An easier, more flexible alternative is needed—a common network fabric that is both highly distributed and capable of delivering policy federation and control.”

  • Cisco® Application Centric Infrastructure (Cisco ACI™) offers just that.
  • As the industry’s leading software-defined networking (SDN) solution, Cisco ACI can securely connect multiple data centers and cloud environments to achieve massive scale.
  • It uses policy federation to deliver network and service consistency despite the differences—and locations—of underlying systems.
  • Cisco Nexus® 9000 Series Switches, based on Intel® Xeon® processors, provide the foundation for Cisco ACI.

“Federation is the critical component that drives flexibility and simplicity,” Casemore says. “You can define or augment network and application policies centrally and then push them across all sites.”

Fault isolation via availability zones

Aligning multiple data centers and cloud environments can’t come at the expense of data security or network availability, of course, which is why Cisco ACI provides exceptional fault isolation.

  • Instead of creating a single network, Cisco ACI interconnects multiple independent network fabrics.
  • These fabrics become availability zones—or fault domains—and multiple zones can be established within a single fabric.
  • If one zone is compromised or goes down, it can’t impact the others.

“You don’t want a problem in one data center to affect other sites,” says Casemore. “Cisco has learned from the hyperscale world as well as their own ACI deployments how to simplify and connect a distributed network fabric without expanding the attack or fault surface.”

Learn more
To learn more about the industry’s leading SDN solution, visit the Cisco ACI resources page or download the Cisco ACI Multi-Site Architecture white paper.

With Cisco ACI, each availability zone—and its data and control planes—remains isolated. But there is end-to-end visibility and policy control across all zones, which improves application monitoring, management, and troubleshooting.

Policy federation at the edge

Applications, processing power, and data resources that were once contained within a single server have now expanded beyond the data center. And with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning models, they will continue to spread and proliferate.

What may sound like science fiction is closer to reality than many perceive.

“Our research shows digital transformation isn’t hype. It’s real, and it’s an absolute imperative,” Casemore says. “The evolution of the distributed edge will push applications further into the field and closer to the customer. And that will necessitate network integration and policy federation everywhere, at every endpoint.”


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