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Cisco ACI software licensing model part of a retooled SDN push

Cisco unveils a new ACI sales model that bundles and licenses the products and services users might need to deploy the vendor's SDN strategy.

Cisco put another piece of its Application Centric Infrastructure SDN technology in view last week as the vendor continues to fine-tune its next-stage strategy.

In a presentation to reporters, the vendor unveiled a new Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) licensing model that incorporates its newly expanded Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) within the Cisco ONE software platform. The model splits Cisco's SDN products into four offerings, and customers can license the products on a package basis if they wish, Cisco President Rob Lloyd said.

We had a bunch of products. We are going to turn those products into licenses.
Rob Lloydpresident, Cisco

The packages:

  • Cisco ONE Essentials, which includes APIC, the 1000V virtual switch, application programming interfaces, and northbound and southbound software developer kits.
  • Cisco ONE Foundation, which includes Cisco Prime, ACI fabric, Layer 2 and Layer 3 services, and infrastructure management.
  • Cisco ONE Application Services, which includes policy-based and optimized application delivery across the WAN. The first new product to be placed in that suite is InterCloud, which, among other capabilities, allows policies to be deployed across multiple cloud infrastructures.
  • Cisco ONE Advanced Security Services, which includes network security and threat protection defense capabilities, fueled by software from by SourceFire, which Cisco acquired last year.

"We had a bunch of products. We are going to turn those products into licenses," Lloyd said. "We will create a data center suite; you'll see the product become much less important than a simplified way for our customers to license capabilities. We will have an enterprise WAN capability. We'll have access and wireless security. What you will see from Cisco is a licensing mechanism to allow our customers to consume the full capability from Cisco from the domain or across the enterprise.

"The APIC controller is fundamental to all of those domains, and now the controller is the platform for the enterprise."

Cisco ACI engineered to permit policies to be deployed throughout customer networks

Cisco, which just recently extended APIC so it can oversee campus and branch networks as well as data centers, is weaving that capability with a policy-based approach that Lloyd said will differentiate Cisco from its SDN competitors. "When you hear about SDN today, most of the conversation is about the controller in the data center. We actually think that's interesting and we think there is value that will be exposed, but we think it's more interesting when you actually define that policy of the application across the network."

Pricing and other details about ACI and the various Cisco ONE suites will be released during Cisco Live in San Francisco, Lloyd said, but he said every customer that buys Cisco switches, routing and data center infrastructure -- along with service and support -- will be offered the components included in Cisco One Essentials.

"Our customers are looking for simplicity," Lloyd said, touting Cisco's SDN strategy. "A marketing view that something is going to change, when in fact we haven't really seen [SDN] use cases outside of very large software companies – platforms -- who are actually software developers writing to their own APIs [application programming interfaces] and developments. That is happening, so we would never disagree that SDN at the very largest companies is underway.

"But most of the enterprise customers we serve every day want simplicity, and there is [a] shift toward engineered systems and away from self-integration. APIC is a nice upper-level controller. We love the idea of the controller; it makes a lot of sense. The idea of creating policies deployed by that controller that are pushed end to end is fantastic."

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Will Cisco's licensing approach persuade you to give ACI another look?