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Category: ACI

Is Cisco ACI Too Different?

A friend of mine involved in multiple Cisco ACI installations sent me this comment on their tenant connectivity model:

I’m a bit allergic to ACI. The abstraction is mis-aligned with familiar configurations, in particular contracts being independent of and over-riding routing, tenants, etc. You can really make a mess with that, and I’ve seen some! One needs to impose some structure, naming conventions…, and most people don’t seem to get that done.

As I noticed in the NSX-or-ACI webinar, it’s interesting how NSX decided to stay with the familiar VLAN/routing/filtering paradigm (more details), whereas the designers of Cisco ACI decided to go down a totally different path.

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Cloud Networking Architectures

There’s one thing no cloud vendor ever managed to change: virtual machines running on top of cloud infrastructure expect to have Ethernet interfaces.

It doesn’t matter if the virtual Ethernet Network Interface Cards (NICs) are implemented with software emulation of actual hardware (VMware emulated the ancient Novell NE1000 NIC) or with paravirtual drivers - the virtual machines expect to send and receive Ethernet frames. What happens beyond the Ethernet NIC depends on the cloud implementation details.

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Upcoming Workshops: NSX, ACI, VXLAN, EVPN, DCI and More

I’m running two workshops in Zurich in the next 10 days:

I published the slide deck for the NSX versus ACI workshop a few days ago (and you can already download it if you have a paid ipSpace.net subscription) and it’s full of new goodness like ACI vPod, multi-pod ACI, multi-site ACI, ACI-on-AWS, and multi-site NSX-V and NSX-T.

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Making Cisco ACI REST API Transactional

This is a guest blog post by Dave Crown, Lead Data Center Engineer at the State of Delaware. He can be found automating things when he's not in meetings or fighting technical debt.


In a recent blog post, Ivan postulated “You’d execute a REST API call. Any one of those calls might fail. Now what? ... You’ll have absolutely no help from the orchestration system because REST API is not transactional so there’s no rollback.” Well, that depends on the orchestration system in use.

The promise of controller-based solutions (ACI, NSX, etc.) is that your unicorn powered network controller should be an all seeing, all knowing platform managing your network. We all have hopefully learned about the importance of backups very early on our careers. Backup and, more importantly, restore should be table stakes; a fundamental feature of any network device, let alone a networking system managed by a controller imbued with magical powers (if the vendor is to be believed).

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Automating Cisco ACI Environment with Python and Ansible

This is a guest blog post by Dave Crown, Lead Data Center Engineer at the State of Delaware. He can be found automating things when he's not in meetings or fighting technical debt.


Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve been working on building a solution to deploy and manage Cisco’s ACI using Ansible and Git, with Python to spackle in cracks. The goal I started with was to take the plain-text description of our network from a Git server, pull in any requirements, and use the solution to configure the fabric, and lastly, update our IPAM, Netbox. All this without using the GUI or CLI to make changes. Most importantly, I want to run it with a simple invocation so that others can run it and it could be moved into Ansible Tower when ready.

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Cross-Data-Center L4-7 Services with Cisco ACI

Craig Weinhold sent me his thoughts on using Cisco ACI to implement cross-data-center L4-7 services. While we both believe this is not the way to do things (because you should start with proper application architecture), you might find his insights useful if you have to deal with legacy environments that believe in Santa Claus and solving application problems with networking infrastructure.


An “easy button” for multi-DC is like the quest for the holy grail. I explain to my clients that the answer is right in front of them – local IP addressing, L3 routing, and DNS. But they refuse to accept that, draw their swords, and engage in a fruitless war against common sense. Asymmetry, stateful inspection, ingress routing, split-brain, quorums, host mobility, cache coherency, non-RFC complaint ARP, etc.  

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Operating Cisco ACI the Right Way

This is a guest blog post by Andrea Dainese, senior network and security architect, and author of UNetLab (now EVE-NG) and  Route Reflector Labs. These days you’ll find him busy automating Cisco ACI deployments.


In this post we’ll focus on a simple question that arises in numerous chats I have with colleagues and customers: how should a network engineer operate Cisco ACI? A lot of them don’t use any sort of network automation and manage their Cisco ACI deployments using the Web Interface. Is that good or evil? As you’ll see we have a definite answer and it’s not “it depends”.

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Tech Field Day Extra @ CLEUR19 Recap

I spent most of last week with a great team of fellow networking and security engineers in a windowless room listening to good, bad and plain boring presentations from (mostly) Cisco presenters describing new technologies and solutions – the yearly Tech Field Day Extra @ Cisco Live Europe event.

This year’s hit rate (the percentage of good presentations) was about 50% and these are the ones I found worth watching (in chronological order):

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Automation Win: Configure Cisco ACI with an Ansible Playbook

This blog post was initially sent to subscribers of my mailing list. Subscribe here.

Following on his previous work with Cisco ACI Dirk Feldhaus decided to create an Ansible playbook that would create and configure a new tenant and provision a vSRX firewall for the tenant when working on the Create Network Services hands-on exercise in the Building Network Automation Solutions online course.

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Traditional Leaf-and-Spine Fabric Versus Cisco ACI

One of my subscribers wondered whether it would make sense to build a traditional leaf-and-spine fabric or go for Cisco ACI. He started his email with:

One option is a "standalone" Spine/Leaf VXLAN-with EVPN deployment based on Nexus equipment. This approach could probably be accompanied by some kind of automation like Ansible to ease operation/maintenance of the network.

This is what I would do these days if the customer feels comfortable investing at least the minimum amount of work into an automation solution. Having simpler technology + well-understood automation solution is (in my biased opinion) better than having a complex black box.

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Automation Win: Document Cisco ACI Configuration

This blog post was initially sent to the subscribers of my SDN and Network Automation mailing list. Subscribe here.

A while ago I complained how the GUI- or API-based orchestration (or intent-based) systems make it hard to figure out what exactly has been configured because they can’t give you a single text configuration file that you could track with version-control software.

Dirk Feldhaus found the situation so ridiculous that he decided to create an Ansible playbook that collects and dumps tenant parameters configured on a Cisco ACI tenant as a homework assignment in the Building Network Automation Solutions online course. As he explained the problem:

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Mini-RSA in Zurich, NSX, ACI, Automation…

I’ll be doing several on-site workshops in the next two months. Here’s a brief summary of where you could meet me in person.

A bit of manual geolocation first: if you’re from Europe, check out the first few entries, if you’re from US, there’s important information for you at the bottom, and if you don’t want to travel Europe or US, there’s an online course starting in September ;)

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