ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) is a Cisco solution for SDN (Software Defined Network). Cisco ACI works as the combination of software and hardware. ACI components consist of switches and controllers (APIC, UCS - C servers). Switches are based on the Cisco Nexus 9000 family.
- Same platform for managing physical and virtual environments
- Real – time network monitoring
- Scalable performance
ACI allow you to configure, manage multiple switches at the same time, saving you the time spent on configuring each switch individually. It is used in the well known Spine – Leaf architecture.
Spine – Leaf architecture
In the Spine – Leaf architecture we can’t cable a Leaf to a Leaf or a Spine to a Spine. We configure the network to be either a Leaf or a Spine. All host devices such as servers are connected to Leaf devices. The MCP (Miss Cabling Protocol) is a protocol that warns you about this error.
When the whole network is configured, the network itself is controlled through APIC (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller). APIC is a part of ACI that is used as a controller for managing, monitoring the performance of the network, it allows us to manage devices from a single location.
Cisco ACI goes for the solution that there should be a minimum of 3 APIC controllers. In the case of 2 APIC controllers, if the connection is lost between the controllers, the secondary controller will seek to become the primary one without knowing that the primary APIC is still active, and in case of 3 APICs, if we want to make a change 2 of 3 APICs need to agree for a change to be made.
One of the components that ACI uses is so – called EPG (End Point Groups) containers. In ACI we don’t place policies based on IP, but we place them in the correct EPG. Devices that are located in the same EPG don’t need to have the same subnet id and don’t need to be in the same VLAN. So – called endpoints that are located in the containers can be defined by the physical port, IP address, DNS name etc.
In the picture below you can see one of the ways how the EPG works. It shows how the containers work by the functionality of the application.
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