Cisco ACI Review

Our clients can implement one tool and have a unified visual picture of the health of the network

What is our primary use case?

We implement customized Cisco ACI for our clients as a networking solution for a variety of purposes.

How has it helped my organization?

My organization specifically implements Cisco ACI for other companies, so the product is basically our business model.

For clients, a visible GUI dashboard provides a unified view of the network. In order to do that before, clients may have had to implement multiple tools depending on the structure of the network. Now they can implement one tool and have a unified visual picture of the health of the network.

What is most valuable?

In a very general way, the ease of access, ease of use, and ease of connecting the system is a valuable feature in itself. The solution doesn't really increase detection rates as that is not what it was created for. Threat prevention comes from other devices that might be connected to the Cisco ACI that monitors external traffic. The ACI solution maintains what end-of-life products would be doing and offers other opportunities to unify solutions.

What needs improvement?

There has not been a single implementation we have done where the client wants to use all the features that are in the product currently. Contemplating new features seems out of order. Every product can benefit from new features as long as they are desired and add functionality that is useful. Most of the features that are there now are good and Cisco is doing a really good job at staying ahead of the curve with their competition. They are implementing new features before companies are even ready to use them or know that there might be a need for them.

Figuring out how to implement the product for clients is the area we struggle with the most every day. Perhaps an enhancement would be artificially intelligent solutions, but that would be further down the road.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product itself is very stable. As long as it is deployed with care and solid core objects it will remain stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is extremely scalable in ways that pure hardware solutions were incapable of.

How are customer service and technical support?

I think the customer service is really good. I call Cisco any time and I can usually get someone to help me with whatever I need at whatever time I call.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

A portion of Cisco's equipment is going end-of-life. Most of the companies that we implement for are using Cisco Nexus 7K, 5K, 2K so they have 752 implementations and some of their 7K's are going end-of-life. The newer equipment that's becoming available is cheaper. Sometimes Cisco will essentially give it away.

How was the initial setup?

Initial setup can be straightforward or complex depending on who you're implementing the solution for and what they want to do with it. If the client's network is extremely complex, they have a lot of different things that can bring information into and out of their network. Implementation can become significantly more complex as there is more to consider. If the client's network is really simple, then the deployment is straightforward.

We do sometimes experience some issues with integration and in trying to satisfy some of the things that the client wants to do. There are some hidden issues that don't surface until you implement the solution in the network. Some of the issues are client-facing where the client causes the issues. In other words, the issues are not necessarily a problem with the system.

You still have to spend time to try to go through everything and make it work optimally. When you are implementing new features, there's almost always a learning curve if the features are not performing with objects that have already been built.

What about the implementation team?

We are the integrator and reseller, so the implementation is always excellent and the expertise is superior.

What was our ROI?

I think it has a fairly good time to value. While it takes time to implement, once it's implemented the ability to make changes and adopt new functionality to the system becomes very easy. That saves more money over time because changes are implemented using fewer internal resources.

I've seen some ROI for clients. Clients don't normally share that information with me, but I see how clients have benefited from implemented ACI and how the speed of implementing changes on their network improves over time. The ability to quickly make changes in the network is the biggest benefit that I've seen.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We don't license the products ourselves. The clients that we implement for also license it with Cisco.

As it stands right now, the licensing structure hasn't been fully fleshed out for ACI. So, if Cisco hasn't fully fleshed it out, I'm not sure what the cost is going to be yet.

What other advice do I have?

I would rate the solution as a nine out of ten. It is a great product, but there are issues with it. It's not perfect and it would have to be to get a ten. The issues that are there are easily mitigated but that also requires effort.

The analytics are pretty good. The built-in dashboard essentially provides analytics out of the box. There are other plug-ins that you can use to make the solution work better for you as a company. You have the option of developing other tools and utilities to use with it because it's an API.

When you are first building the system, it takes longer because you have to build all the objects that you expect to reuse. But because you're building reusable objects it makes adding other functionality easier because of the simple fact that you've already built those reusable objects. When you're doing new things it gets easier.

I think one thing that most people do is avoid reading manuals for anything. Read, read, read and consider doing research. Not all the information you find will be good, but you will discover things you don't know.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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