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Cisco outlines application-centric networking, says it trumps SDN

Cisco outlined an architecture dubbed Application-Centric Infrastructure, which is designed to integrate cloud computing and data center management, and argued it goes beyond software-defined networking.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Cisco outlined a data center networking architecture that aims to revolve around applications and software. The move is an answer to software-defined networking.

Specifically, Cisco outlined an architecture dubbed Application-Centric Infrastructure, which is designed to integrate cloud computing and data center management. This architecture will start rolling out in the second half of 2013. 

The application strategy revolves around Cisco's investment in Insieme Networks. Cisco's strategy revolves around open, programmable and automated infrastructure and developing a broader partner ecosystem. 

Cisco's application-focused infrastructure will revolve around the following:

  • Workloads that can be run anywhere and that can be automated. 
  • An open platform for physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure. 
  • Holistic integration of systems. 
  • A common policy management framework and operational model. 
  • Open APIs, open source and a broad ecosystem of vendors.

In a blog post, Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior (bottom right) noted:

We’ll only meet future demands when we can bridge the gap between applications and infrastructure, in addition to unifying the siloes of infrastructure. The fabric is extremely valuable in bringing together disparate systems, and the logical next step would be convergence for applications deployment and performance.

Warrior also distanced the application-centric architecture from software-defined networking. She said:

SDN promised to meet the needs of new apps by delivering greater scale, programmability, centralized management and automation. But SDN, to date, can’t meet the needs of applications because it mimics the old model of networking. It doesn’t unify physical and virtual. It is flow-based (focused on individual networking elements), and not object-oriented (creating a configurable system of all IT resources). It can’t offer dynamic centralized policy management programmability because it is constrained by old proprietary-standards model.


Cisco also added updates to its Nexus routing portfolio to include dynamic fabric automation, which can accommodate multi-tenant networks.

The company also added open APIs for provisioning, network automation and fabric management. Cisco also outlined its Prime Data Center Network Manager 7.0 software and a network services controller update.

On the hardware front, Cisco outlined new Nexus 7700 Series switches with 10 slot and 18 slot chassis. The switches will ship in July and new I/O modules will be available in the second half.

At Cisco Live on Tuesday, the company also outlined new Catalyst switches as well as additions to the Cisco ONE Enterprise Network Architecture, which is the company's answer to SDN. 

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