Cisco ACI Overview

Cisco ACI is the #2 ranked solution in our list of top Network Virtualization tools. It is most often compared to VMware NSX: Cisco ACI vs VMware NSX

What is Cisco ACI?
Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) reduces TCO, automates IT tasks, and accelerates data center application deployments. It accomplishes this using a business-relevant Software Defined Networking (SDN) policy model across networks, servers, storage, security, and services.
Cisco ACI Buyer's Guide

Download the Cisco ACI Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: June 2021

Cisco ACI Customers
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GC
Data Center Implementation Engineer at a consultancy with 1-10 employees
Real User
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.

Pros and Cons

  • "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 in from other devices that might be connected into the Cisco ACI that monitors external traffic. It maintains what end-of-life products would be doing and offers other opportunities to unify solutions."
  • "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 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…
JB
Systems Network Manager at a non-tech company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Easy to install and scale, but there is a steep learning curve attached

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use for this solution is in our data center.

Pros and Cons

  • "It is a complete re-write of everything that you've ever thought of from a networking standpoint."
  • "It would be nice if I could specify network-centric in my design, and the system would organize and set itself up in that way."

What other advice do I have?

We are currently testing this solution in a lab, preparing for our deployment into production. We are not ready to approach this solution in an application-centric way. It's a great overall architecture, good scalability-wise, easy to configure, and a central configuration, but there are too many knobs to turn. We were originally going to use ACI for everything. However, after we really started looking at the design and having conversations with our Cisco advanced services team, we saw that it made sense to use a hybrid solution. My advice for anybody interested in implementing this solution…
Learn what your peers think about Cisco ACI. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: June 2021.
511,307 professionals have used our research since 2012.
Mark Hayden
Lead Network Engineer at a consultancy with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Has improved the static configuration of our data center switching environment, but it's hard to manage 

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case for Cisco ACI is for managing our data center and network switches. We will use it for the whole data center environment eventually.

Pros and Cons

  • "It's improved the static configuration of our data center switching environment. But it's added some challenges to our ability to operationalize it and make it easier for people to manage."
  • "So far we've had very few issues, a couple of routing things that were glitches within ACI."

What other advice do I have?

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this product in the five to six range. It is a good product. It will be solid as it matures. It's technically challenging for anyone. One guy has stood up most of our environment. We are trying to use him to train all the rest of our staff. But it's a slow process. Understanding how to get in under the hood and make ACI work is not a simple task unless you're in and out of it regularly. Even the gentleman who installed it and works on it most of the time has to go back and play with it on his own before he makes changes. Just to remember how things are…
SS
Senior Network Engineer at a pharma/biotech company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Modern and easy to configure but it needs a type of way to baseline the system in a network-centric fashion

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is for the data center.

Pros and Cons

  • "With ACI, if you need more capacity you can just buy more and plug them in without needing to do anything else. All of the sudden that infrastructure is there for me to use, configure, and add stuff to."
  • "In terms of improvement, I would like to see some sort of way to baseline the system in a network-centric fashion."

What other advice do I have?

I would rate this solution a seven out of ten. I would really love that network-centric philosophy of configuration to be a little bit easier to do and the learning curve is steep. Being somebody who has been working with traditional Cisco IOS this is not bad at all. This is a complete rewrite of everything that you ever thought of from the networking standpoint. The advice I would give to someone considering this solution is that you have to look at your data center. You have to look at your infrastructure. Not only that but you also have to look at the operational and support teams that are…
Byron Hooper
Senior Network Engineer at a insurance company with 201-500 employees
Real User
Our data center backbone that enables us to segment out everything and get more visibility into our virtual environment

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for this solution is to use it as our data center backbone. We've got multiple tenants built on it in a network-centric design. We have our Dev\QA Tenant, User Acceptance Tenant, Production Tenant, DMZ, and then UserEdge, where everything basically comes in and goes out. We have Firepower firewalls in-between, but we're basically using Cisco ACI to microsegment between the networks within the tenants. But intra-tenant traffic goes through the firewalls.

Pros and Cons

  • "The features we find most valuable is the integration with the virtual switches of our UCS platform."
  • "The initial setup was fairly complex and it looks terrifying when you first log in. That's one thing about ACI. It takes a bit to wrap your mind around how it works. It's not overly complicated once you understand the concepts, but someone who has never worked with anything like ACI, will initially find it difficult to grasp the complexity of it."

What other advice do I have?

Not many people up in the northeast are familiar with Cisco ACI. It's kind of new and scary, so a lot of people are a little wary of it. Now that I've worked on it for a while, I find it very powerful. Getting direct access into the virtual switches is a huge advantage. I'm not the kind of person who rates nines and tens under many circumstances. So I rate this solution an eight out of ten. My advice to others would be to take a good long look at it. It's great for segmenting your network and doing a little micro-segmentation in your data center. If you're familiar with the Nexus OS and the…
Dinesh Thathanath
Sr Manager at Cognizant
Real User
Provides a lot of intuitive data to know how our application stack is performing

What is our primary use case?

We are transforming from an old legacy, non-Cisco network to a state-of-the-art data center. Cisco ACI is reducing a lot of competence on the network. We are reducing a lot of assets, a footprint itself. It has one single pane of glass management. We use it to support our clients.

Pros and Cons

  • "The efficiency in terms of the data center latency has been reduced by around 20-30%. Our applications function a lot better. We get a lot of intuitive data to know how our application stack is performing."
  • "The additional features I would like to see included in the next releases are support for our policy-based routing. There are endpoint issues that are there now in the code. Hopefully, these will get fixed in the future code."

What other advice do I have?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this product at an 8 to leave a little bit of room for improvement. I would advise someone considering this solution to do your homework. If you are trying to consolidate your data center, Cisco ACI is probably the best product out there.
Dash Brousseau
Network Engineer at a financial services firm with 51-200 employees
Real User
Offers a simple dashboard that can connect all of my devices

What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for Cisco ACI in our company is to have a central point to manage our network and to do API automation. Those are the two main focuses to automate.

Pros and Cons

    • "My complaint about this is: We purchased the ACI gear, but to do monitoring, to do stats, to do telemetry statistics, etc. we have to purchase another product from Cisco."

    What other advice do I have?

    On a scale of one to ten, I would rate Cisco ACI with a nine. Some of the features should be built in. If you think you know ACI, you don't. Get more training.
    ML
    Network Engineer at a healthcare company with 10,001+ employees
    Real User
    Gives us a genuine single pane of glass to look through to manage all of our devices

    What is our primary use case?

    It is an upgrade from our previous data center technology.

    Pros and Cons

    • "Centralized management and control of the entire data center environment and its architecture."
    • "We're still in the process of doing the migration. We haven't migrated completely all of our applications out of our legacy into it yet. It was challenging at first, but getting easier now that we're starting to get into it."

    What other advice do I have?

    In rating the product, I'd give it an eight out of ten. It is a pretty stable product and gives us really good central management structure. It was challenging at first, but getting easier now that we're starting to get into it.
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    Buyer's Guide
    Download our free Cisco ACI Report and get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions.