The ACI Journey

When fully configured and integrated with your business processes, ACI can deliver a fantastic number of features, from automation to granular security and the list goes on…

Commentary – So many times, I’ve seen ACI customers who have been “sold a bill of goods” that promises all the wonderful benefits, but due to lack of detail on the execution plan, the project goals and timelines are not realistic.

However, there is both a learning curve to understand ACI, it uses a new paradigm of network objects and constructs, and then are a series of milestones along the journey from the traditional model to a fully application-centric model, where all of the benefits of ACI are available.

One of the biggest business challenges of ACI, is that the journey from initial purchase to being able to deliver those new world benefits is not clearly defined and expectations are set without a clear picture of the path that the ACI project would need to take in order to be successful.

Commentary – While there are many approaches that can be used to reach a successful outcome, what follows is one example of the milestones of a successful ACI deployment.

ACI Milestones

  1. Design Phase
    1. Architecture Training
    2. Design Session / Workshop
    3. Lab Purchase
    4. Project Team Training
    5. Lab Deployment
    6. Testing & Design Changes
  2. Production Deployment Phase
    1. Production Purchase
    2. Production Deployment
    3. Operations Training
  3. Application Migration Phase (Network-Centric)
    1. Migration to Network-Centric Models (Brownfield & Greenfield Applications)
  4. Application Migration Phase (Application-Centric)
    1. Deployment to Application-Centric Model (Greenfield Applications)
    2. Migration to Application-Centric Model (Brownfield Applications)
  5. Automation Phase*

Commentary – Automation can be implemented at any time once the ACI controller is deployed, but sticking with the Crawl/Walk/Run mentality, it’s easier to deploy the applications via a manual process to ensure the requirements are met with the existing series of steps, prior to automating the process.

Critical Success Factors

Design Phase

The two most critical items that should occur in the Design Phase are the Design Workshop and the initial training of basic ACI concepts prior to the Design Workshop. The Design session should identify some use-cases or applications and both the physical and logical design of the environment. In a perfect scenario, the output of the Design Workshop is an architecture document that can be implemented in a lab, tested with any integration required with other systems, and validate that the design should be replicated in the Production environment. Finally, if the project team that will be implementing and testing ACI in the Lab environment is different from the initial team, they should be trained on the ACI concepts as well.

“Failure to plan is planning to fail” -Benjamin Franklin

Production Deployment Phase

While the deployment of ACI into Production has several important steps, one of the most overlooked steps is training the Operations staff on ACI with a focus on troubleshooting. Ensuring that the team that will take ownership of the environment is comfortable and has a working knowledge of the technology will lessen the impact of issues that might arise after the deployment.


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