Published on 6 November 2013 by

Today, Cisco announced the launch of its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) architecture, a data center and cloud solution built around an application-aware network policy model. In a nutshell, an ACI architecture closes the gap between the configuration needs of a given application and the network on which it runs.

Cisco ACI combines innovation in software, hardware, systems and ASICs into an application-aware network policy model to simplify and accelerate application deployment.

The foundation for ACI is the new Nexus 9000 family of switches, which introduces NX-OS with an embedded Puppet agent that enables network provisioning, configuration and management. The embedded Puppet agent gives operations teams greater agility because they can use Puppet Enterprise to extend automation to network devices.

Why this new model for IT and why now? John Chambers, CEO at Cisco, explains:

“Applications have become the lifeblood of our economy. They are how business is done; how partners and suppliers interact; how employees connect; how consumers share, learn and buy. Every business is becoming an applications business. Every industry is becoming an application-centric industry, and the business model shift is only accelerating. We all truly live in an application economy now.”

We’re really excited to be a part of this announcement because it speaks to how far IT operations has come since Puppet Labs was founded in 2005 and how much room there is to grow.

Today’s datacenter is a heterogenous mix of physical and virtual compute, networking, and storage resources. Server automation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to realizing the full benefits of virtualization and cloud. After all, what’s the point of spinning up 100 virtual machines in five minutes, if you have to wait two weeks for a network connection? Automation needs to be a part of the entire application lifecycle in order for businesses to realize true operational agility and efficiency.

A Longstanding Partnership

The story of Cisco and Puppet Labs’ strategic partnership started back in 2011 when Cisco became an investor in our Series C financing. As both a provider and consumer of IT services, Cisco uses Puppet Labs’ technologies to ensure that services are delivered reliably to internal and external customers. For example, Puppet Labs’ technologies are used together with Cisco Intelligent Automation for Cloud (IAC) for managing cloud environments for customers.

Cisco implemented CIAC internally for their own private cloud — code named Cisco IT Elastic Infrastructure Services, or CITEIS for short — and uses Puppet to automate the deployment and management of nearly 27,000 servers across seven data centers.

On the consumer side, Cisco WebEx serves over 10 million users and processes billions of call minutes each month, making it one of the largest SaaS implementations after salesforce.com. Reinhardt Quelle, Cloud Services Architect in the Cloud Collaboration Applications group at Cisco, gave a keynote at PuppetConf 2013 about how Cisco uses Puppet Enterprise to deliver services at scale with 100% uptime.

Around Puppet Labs, we sometimes talk about the IT automation community as a little boat in a big ocean. We're thrilled whenever new folks come aboard, and we're excited to see a company of Cisco's stature adopting automation as an integral part of its business strategy, for internal and external customers alike.

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