How Cisco ACI Works and How it is Beneficial

When Cisco introduced its ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) in 2013, it turned out to be a pioneer SDN (Software Defined Networking) solution for data centers. Throughout these years, there was a crucial need of having an effective networking device configuring method in place for networking firms. This need arose because enterprises were demanding a less complicated method to configure the networking system in order to eliminate the need of having to configure each router and switch manually. The way how data centers used to configure before the release of Cisco ACI has completely changed and has now become more efficient, reliable and seamless. Whereas a traditional SDN infrastructure lacks an application-optimized approach. They are much focused on the complex networking modules and thus lacks the supreme ease of functionality.

How Does Cisco ACI Work?

ACI being a policy-based networking solution combines the goodness of software and hardware capabilities. The Nexus 9000 switches form up the ACI’s hardware side and components like data center policy engine and additional data center pod contributes to its software environment. Network administrators and policymakers can now mold the ACI’s policy in order to operate the virtual switches by using Cisco AVS (Application Virtual Switch).

On a bigger picture, Cisco ACI’s is more or less identical to other solutions that were being used by enterprises in the past few years. But if we distinguish it from other solution providers, its policy and management infrastructure is truly exceptional. And since the infrastructure integrates with the networking protocols, enterprise data centers can now make full use of their data fabric.

Cisco offers a built-in Layer 3 IP mechanism that is compatible with ECMP (Equal Cost Multi-Path) routing which makes it easier and more reliable to sustain a network between two different endpoints. However, it utilizes the overlay protocols, for example, the VXLAN (Virtual Extensible Local Area Network) under the hood which allows any sort of workload to operate within the network despite without the need of having the network configured at a physical location. Its overlay protocols make data-fabric more functional which allows networking technicians to operate both physical and virtual machines in the same pattern. Layer 2 domain and Layer 3 routing can be executed simultaneously without causing a conflict between them.

The support for VLAN and VXLAN makes it far less complicated for networking engineers to host a functional network or domain as per the requirement. Also, the NV-GRE (network virtualization routing encapsulation) further eases the process.

For I.T. & networking managers, ACI’s central SDN integrated with APIC (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller) organizes and sets up the network policy on every switch that operates within the ACI module. Further to that, the need of having to configure the hardware eliminates with ACI. This way, the networking engineers do not have to configure the device manually. The APIC functions as a hub source for all the policies together with offering the capability to position and re-position the hardware components.

Enterprises can also integrate Cisco ACI with various kinds of cloud-environments, thus making it more functional and powerful. Crucial components like managing the data security, balancing the workloads and monitoring the progress has become more streamlined, thanks to the Cisco ACI.

The Benefits of Cisco ACI

  • Highly responsive and easy to configure
  • Ease of configuration using GUI & REST API under a single dashboard
  • Interoperability of physical and virtual workloads
  • Integration of virtual machine monitor setup (without having to add the relevant software for hypervisors)
  • Positioning convenience with an enhanced level of speed
  • Bespoke automation of modules with multi-tenancy feature
  • Ease of creating portable structure templates
  • No fabric flood
  • Ease of integrating and automating network firewall and workload balancers
  • Ease of allocating application infrastructures within the network environment

By implementing Cisco ACI, you get to integrate and make the most out of its three uniquely-combined hardware areas:

  • Nexus 9000 Switch Family gives the ability to connect every leaf, simultaneously.
  • The interconnected leaves link all the servers within the ACI fabric.
  • APIC serves as the central processing unit for Cisco ACI. It combines 3-5 networking servers that ease the process of organizing and managing network performance. Users can also automate the network with the help of APIC.

Rather than configuring and organizing multiple data-center switches, the ACI works as a center-point which hosts all the switches and routers under one roof. And since there is only a single logical network hub being operated, it becomes far less-complicated and more manageable for networking engineers to monitor different switches and routers. However, the engineers are required to acquire a Cisco certification or must go through different Cisco training modules in order to operate the ACI at its full potential.

Although the Nexus 9000 switches offer bespoke physical networking constituent, Cisco ACI is capable of configuring and automating the software side of the networking including the automation of Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESXi, and OpenStack. Also, the Cisco AVS has integrated the Nexus 1000v virtual switch family to provide robust ACI support and interoperability which is driven by its progressive telemetry configurations.

Moreover, Cisco ACI’s emerging ecosystem associates are incorporating workload balancers, firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and SSL offload engines to the platform. This means that there’s an overgrowing list of networking products on the desk.


The enhanced level of functionality and supreme agility are the two major reasons why enterprise data centers should deploy Cisco ACI. However, you need to provide a sufficient amount of Cisco certification training to your networking engineers for enabling them to operate the Cisco ACI fabric.

Get in touch with one of our Cisco experts today.

About The Author
Associate Instructor

Muhammad Uzair

Muhammad Uzair a new addition to the team but has a wide range of expertise including technologies including Cisco Security Cisco Wireless LAN Controllers, Cisco Routers and Switches, Windows Server 2008/2012, where he has a multitude of practical and theoretical knowledge.

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