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Network World test reveals Cisco's application centric infrastructure (ACI) as being barely-baked

"The Nexus 9000 series was not quite ready for production deployment, as management interfaces crashed and we jumped from device to device to get the 'right' software build for each of the scripted demos. With a barely-baked ACI technology... the Nexus 9500 and 9300 are not going to win any market share for a long time to come."

Hummelstown, PA:   Mon, 3/3/14 - 11:59pm    View comments

Update 3/5/2014 - 5:00am:

Received the following observation from a network industry superstar with regard to Monday's Network World story:

"A vendor sponsored/supported test whose result is 'this is not ready for production' and 'it doesn't even switch packets'?

"That's like writing your own final exam and then failing miserably."


Network WorldCisco3-months ago Cisco announced it had finally completed its highly touted $863 million acquisition of Insieme Networks.

Then a little more than 2-weeks ago, Cisco CEO John Chambers bragged during Cisco's Q2'FY14 earnings conference call:

"We were very pleased with the first shipping quarter of the Nexus 9000 as the booking pipeline from the beginning to end of the quarter nearly tripled.

"If you watch and you see the Nexus 9000, as an example, our product pipeline is up to 522 customers. That's almost a 2.9% increase quarter-over-quarter. Our win rate is extremely good versus traditional players and new challengers."

Cisco Nexus 9508

Cisco Nexus 9508

Deutsche BankBrian ModoffTellingly, Deutsche Bank Managing Director Brian Modoff was not impressed with Chambers' Nexus 9000 rollout script:

"John, hi. Switching to the Nexus 9000 order ramp. Will you see that this quarter? Our checks continue to get more evaluation phase in the products still."

Chambers' response?

"Let me go to the Nexus piece. Literally, I review almost every other week with the team where we are on this, reminding everyone this team has never missed...

"The volumes are small. We won one, for example today.

"I feel very comfortable with the product ramps on this and as you begin to see the Nexus 7000 and 9000 both available market then you will move through perhaps a little bit of pause where a customer is saying which way I would go and I have a hesitation here."

Network World's Cisco application centric infrastructure (ACI) test results:

"It's hard to test something that doesn't exist outside of the labs, so offering a verdict on the ACI mode Nexus 9000 doesn't make a lot of sense right now.

"With a barely-baked ACI technology, one announced chassis (the eight-slot) and one configuration of ACI line card (in copper and SFP flavors), the Nexus 9500 and 9300 are not going to win any market share for a long time to come.

"We're looking at the very beginning of a long road."

"We spent a little time looking at the extended management tools, entirely as demonstrations scripted by Cisco technical team members.

"When things went right -- which they did more than half of the time -- we saw an impressive array of options to enable different techniques for configuration distribution, control and patching.

"However, we were reminded that the Nexus 9000 series was not quite ready for production deployment, as management interfaces crashed and we jumped from device to device to get the 'right' software build for each of the scripted demos."

"Cisco doesn't have the switching code ready quite yet, but claims that when the Nexus 9000 is switching instead of routing, performance will remain at line rate."

"Latencies jumped by about 50% over the inter-card latency, with a range of 2,412 nanoseconds (for 64-octet frames) to 6,007 nanoseconds (for 1518-octet frames) and a high of 26,928 nanoseconds (for jumbogram frames of 9216 octets)."

"Making use of commodity switch components where they could (in particular, Broadcom's Trident II switching chips) and minimizing component count, the 9500 has an elegant design."

"If you don't need that much throughput, save some money -- those fabric modules have a list price of $16,000."

"The Nexus 9000 has a stripped-down profile that really only makes it suitable for data center environments."

"There will never be functional blades for the Nexus 9000 similar to the Catalyst series: firewalls, wireless LAN concentrators, and so on, because of the backplane-free architecture."

"The Nexus 9000 offers even less than the Nexus 7000 in terms of features -- Fibre Channel over Ethernet, MPLS, and Data-Center Interconnect have all been dropped out."

"So, where does the Nexus 9000 series fit into Cisco's world?

"Does it overlap with the Nexus 7000 and 5000 series?

"Is it a replacement?

"The answer, unfortunately, is it's complicated."

"The line cards are different in a critical way: they add custom Cisco chips (Application Leaf Engines, or ALE) that bring both additional smarts and additional buffering to the NX-OS line cards. (Cisco says that ACI-mode line cards can also be used in NX-OS mode, but the additional capabilities of the cards will not be accessible to NX-OS.) "

"There's no way to configure a Nexus 9000 in ACI mode without an APIC.

"For Cisco switching and routing loyalists, ACI could be a difficult pill to swallow."

"When the Nexus 9500 and 9300 are running in ACI mode, network architectures are considerably different."

Related documents:

Lippis Report: Cisco Nexus 9508 Switch Performance Test

Lippis Report: Cisco Nexus 9508 Power Efficiency

Lippis Report: Why the Nexus 9000 Switching Series Offers the Highest Availability and Reliability Measured in MTBF

Lippis Report: Cisco Nexus 9000 Series

Lippis Report: Nexus 9000 Programmable Network Environment

Cisco Nexus 9508 Switch Power and Performance

Cisco Nexus 9508 Switch

Related stories:

Network World - First Look: Cisco Nexus 9000

Cisco CCIE emeritus star Greg Ferro SLAMS Cisco's SDN platform: Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)

Are Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero killing Cisco's ability to innovate?

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