Cisco Systems' Management Presents at the JMP Securities' Technology Research Conference (Transcript)

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Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) JMP Securities' Technology Research Conference March 3, 2014 2:00 PM ET


Soni Jiandani - SVP, Marketing


Erik Suppiger - JMP Securities

Erik Suppiger - JMP Securities

Okay. So we’re going to kick it off. Thank you all very much for joining us. For those of you don’t know me, I’m Erik Suppiger, the Networking and Security Analyst for JMP. And with us is Soni Jiandani, the Senior VP of Marketing for Cisco. And this is going to be an hour long session. This is entirely a fireside chat format. The object here is to keep you engaged with questions. So please do feel free to ask whatever questions you have. The reason we wanted to set aside an hour for this is because rarely do you have such a major transition going on in a market as big as what SDN could possibly be and for Cisco ACI. And so I really wanted to give us the time and attention to get into some of the nitty-gritty on Cisco’s positioning here.

So I’m going to start this off. Soni has some slides, but for the most part this is a Q&A session and I do invite all of you to ask as many questions as you have. So I’m going to just start it off. I want to make sure that people have a good grasp of Cisco’s perspective on what ACI means. So, there is a lot of different views of what Software Defined Networking is, I don’t think everybody has an in-depth understanding of Application Centric Infrastructure, that’s ACI, for Cisco. So could you just basically describe what does Cisco, what does ACI mean to Cisco and what does the Nexus switching platform address in terms of SDN?

Soni Jiandani

Very well, thank you. So if you take a look at the traditional networks that we have seen built over the last 2.5 decades, they have been built keeping in mind the focus on large scale networks that can -- that are stable in nature and that deal with static connections that are made between your applications and your servers and your storage devices across a more of a static IP network. And that fundamentally has been the approach for networking over the last 2.5 decades.

Now it becomes physically important to recognize with the evolution towards cloud and evolution towards mobility, the applications are very quickly evolving in this new paradigm. And as you construct customer datacenters and you look at both the emerging applications that are coming into their environments as well as a traditional applications, you need a new model. And the new model has been attempted by some companies that are purely software based approaches, which try to apply the constructs of SDN, which includes network virtualization on top of an existing IP network which is static, basically. And they try to recreate another network on top of an existing network using a software only approach, and that is what I would call the approaches that are taken by companies like Viscera/VMware is trying to construction an overlay network, all in software to ride on top of an existing network.

And you are recreating all the problems that you already have now in another network which is running purely in software because you are recreating the networking constructs all over again. We tried that about 15 years ago with ATM LAN Emulation. We try to emulate Ethernet on top of ATM and our customers told us you’re not solving any of my problems, you’re now giving me two separate networks to go run and manage, then you’re trying to bridge the gap between these two underlying technologies. And you continue to stay within the constraints in the process of trying to have a network abstraction layer, or what’s called network virtualization.

It became very clear to Cisco as we were looking at the transformation required that we have to keep the application at the center of this transformation because you wouldn’t even have datacenters if you didn’t have applications. You wouldn’t need servers if you didn’t have applications. You wouldn’t need storage if you didn’t have applications. And you wouldn’t need a network frankly if you didn’t have application. But the language that is spoken by the application teams is very different. They think about how can I rapidly provision applications or decommission applications across this datacenter, across this infrastructure, which is compute network and storage. They think about the notion of where do I locate this application, where do I place it, what types of compliance and security requirements does that application have for my business. Those are the things that application teams think about.

The network language on the other hand has been focused around how do I deliver a highly scalable infrastructure, how do I deliver highly stable network in a very consistent manner that can move packets around and can deliver traffic across point A to point B, whether it’s the market data application to run Wall Street applications or whether it is Mission Critical Oracle Database applications or Mission Critical SAP/ERP applications or the emerging HANA applications or the upcoming virtualized or Big Data applications.

But the network has been primarily focused on reliability, performance, scale and stability. What needed to happen is that the connection needs to be made where you can drive this next generation of an architecture, of a network transformation that can have an application centric view, that can now provide an abstractions, which is not just network centric, but is application centric. And it transcends beyond having to recreate the network all over again at a different layer.

And so our approach really has been to not necessarily drive the same software defined models on existing networks but is to look at where we can focus on applications, where can we focus on bringing application centric abstraction on top of networks that we can make highly efficient, highly programmatic and to enable application agility across this infrastructure day one by providing ACI which is network focused but day two, that is expandable beyond networks and can encompass compute and storage, because the datacenter is a collection of these three elements in the infrastructure. It’s not just the network alone. So ACI transcends beyond the network and is expandable to go beyond networking and to go and encompass compute and storage as well from an architectural perspective.

So in summary, what is our day one vision with ACI? Our day one vision with ACI is to enable the rapid deployment of applications, both virtualized applications and mission-critical bare metal applications across networks and deliver it with full scale, full security and complete visibility. And when I talk about visibility I just don’t talk about visibility associated with the network and its troubleshooting characteristics. I also talk about allowing for an application person to determine where to place an application, where to decommission applications from, because if I don’t have that visibility, I'm frankly running blind across that overlay network. So full visibility of physical and virtual.

And there are really three key elements to ACI. The first key element is a controller and that controller is going to be the central point of management and policy repository information. It will provide the ability through which you can assure that your applications are deployed with the right security, with the right SLAs across this highly programmatic network. And this network has to continue to deliver the best of great price, performance, port density, programmability options and it has to be highly programmatic and meet the needs of the diverse applications on the policies that get pushed into this network in a distributed manner. And this application centric network abstraction has to map to applications and cannot just map to the network alone because if it does not map into the way customers are deploying that applications, we will fall short in terms of truly delivering value to the datacenter consumers, maybe applications are sitting at the heart of it.

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