IM Realize the Full Potential of Your Cisco ACI Deployments
Comprehensive, easy and intuitive network monitoring should never take a back seat to new technology deployments
November 02, 2018

Jeremy Rossbach
CA Technologies

SDN is changing today's networks. A lot of IT and NetOps budget is being spent on software defined architectures and Cisco ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) plays a big part in all of this. More than 3,500 customers have over 12,000 Nexus 9000 switches already installed in today's marketplace. Software defined networking (SDN) is taking hold and these numbers prove it.

Automation and programmability in the data center is really what Cisco ACI is all about. Removing all the manual steps it takes to run a datacenter network along with centralization of the configuration of the network and abstraction that makes programming the network easier. Finally, it delivers infrastructure that is agile enough to allow the application experience to flow freely through the data center and to the end user. Applications are the identity of today's data center and "application profiles" is how Cisco ACI was designed to configure the network – for optimal application experiences.

New NetOps Challenges

1. The Cisco APIC GUI (Element Management System) is great for the network engineers designing and deploying the network but doesn't offer network operations any advantages to troubleshooting the network. It lacks monitoring scale required by SDN along with easy operational troubleshooting workflows and triage scenarios.

2. Cisco ACI abstracts the physical network into virtual and logical layers and entities. Which means a lot more devices and interfaces on the network then there ever has been before. Moving around and sucking up data center resources with the click of a mouse.

3. Cisco ACI centralization and abstraction can also mean a lot more noise on the network. This technology has 23,000 events defined in it with hundreds of unique messages and alarms. This many events and faults can flood your network and an operations team's ability to troubleshoot efficiently. If you can't get ahead of the noise, your NOC will be inundated.

Ensure a Successful Handoff of Production ACI Deployments to the NOC

A successful transfer of a production Cisco ACI environment from engineering teams to the network operations teams (NOC) depends on making ACI monitoring easy, scalable, and manageable for the NOC and depends on the following:

Operationalizing SDN - the NOC needs out-of-the-box (OOTB) standard operations workflows with less clicks to troubleshooting and triaging complex SDN environments like Cisco ACI.

Enabling "relationship triage" - ACI introduces new inventories and new topologies that need to be auto-discovered, understood and visualized to be managed effectively.

Figure 1: CA's industry recognized Cisco ACI relationship mapping with performance alerts for easy triage and service deployment validation - click on image for larger version

Monitoring multiple data sources like flow packet, SNMP, performance, REST, non-snmp, etc, because there are many languages being spoken in today's data center based on a variety of vendor technologies.

Correlating network impact to applications and critical business services via high speed and high scale packet analysis. Cisco ACI makes it difficult to access packet data and the large amount of traffic generated by this technology demands advanced monitoring scalability.

Correlating ACI events, reducing the noise and dumping none-critical alarms to allow the NOC to focus on the real pain point of any outage for faster triage.

Delivering a single operations experience with easy OOTB dashboards for NOC personnel to correlate network health with faults and events for modern technologies like ACI, SD-WAN, vCPE to traditional SNMP performance, flow and traffic analysis and TCP/Application transport one unified platform.

Figure 2: Correlate network health with faults and events for modern technologies like Cisco ACI in a single dashboard experience - click on image for larger version

A full stack network monitoring platform needs to feed an intelligent analytics backplane for advanced network triage and network automation possibilities.

CA Technologies has been providing advanced, comprehensive network monitoring solutions for several decades and has continuously advanced their monitoring platform and analytics to meet the evolution of networking innovations and technologies. We continue to provide advanced capabilities to deploy and monitor new technologies like Cisco ACI and SD-WAN while delivering the network visibility needed to ensure optimal performance and availability.

For more information, download the joint Cisco and CA solution brief on Comprehensive Cisco ACI Assurance.

Jeremy Rossbach is Sr. Principal Product Marketing Manager, Network Operations and Analytics, at CA Technologies
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