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Cisco ACI OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

Cisco ACI is #2 ranked solution in top Network Virtualization tools. IT Central Station users give Cisco ACI an average rating of 8 out of 10. Cisco ACI is most commonly compared to VMware NSX:Cisco ACI vs VMware NSX. The top industry researching this solution are professionals from a comms service provider, accounting for 38% of all views.
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: November 2021

Cisco ACI Customers
Bowling Green State University, du, Qatar University
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Pricing Advice

What users are saying about Cisco ACI pricing:
  • "Once you sign for the start kit implementation, you have to go all the way through to the implementation, even if you are experiences issues."
  • "It is quite expensive. It is not at all on the cheap or medium side."
  • "This is an expensive solution."
  • "I don't believe there is any licensing required."

Cisco ACI Reviews

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EE
Senior Data Scientist & Analytics at Paj Networks
Real User
Top 5
Stable, scalable, and easy to manage

Pros and Cons

  • "The most important aspect of Cisco ACI in my opinion is the ease of management. Other solutions, like traditional solutions and pricier solutions—or even fabric and PAT—you have to do many configurations on a box-to-box basis, With Cisco ACI, you go on the AP and do some "next, next finish" installer."
  • "Before version 5, you could manage your firewall or load balancer from the AP. It was very basic and now they removed the whole features in the new version, so you cannot manage your load balance or firewall from your AP on L2, L4, and L7 services."

What is our primary use case?

In the last nine months, I have done two projects with Cisco ACI. Both of them were banking systems. I'm capable of selling, installing, and deploying Cisco ACI, so I know all the licenses and prices as well as how to compare the prices and establish a pre-sales team and also doing the deployment and supporting the ACA solutions. 

What is most valuable?

The most important aspect of Cisco ACI in my opinion is the ease of management. Other solutions, like traditional solutions and pricier solutions—or even fabric and PAT—you have to do many configurations on a box-to-box basis, With Cisco ACI, you go on the AP and do some "next, next finish" installer. Everything is done without having to know about the VXLAN, AVPN, MP-BGP, or ISI. In previous solutions, you had to know all these things and deploy all of them yourself, so you needed a deep knowledge of VRF and all the other BGP things. You would have to remember everything about the detail configuration, but now we just do some clicks and everything is there.

The other benefit to me is the white-listing solution that the ACI can handle. It's important to have a good knowledge of IPS and DDoS things. I always prefer to stop traffic mid-way instead of putting everything on the firewall and blocking it on the firewall. In my opinion, a firewall has very limited resources and it is possible to run out of resources easily with a simple attack, like HPing. But when you do white-listing, you just greenlight your needed traffic, not all the traffic. So this is a very big difference. And also of course, nowadays everyone is talking about the ACR tool Heat that allows customized configuration to style. These are the major things and some other things like very low latency and few hops. 

What needs improvement?

Before version 5, you could manage your firewall or load balancer from the AP. It was very basic and now they removed the whole features in the new version, so you cannot manage your load balance or firewall from your AP on L2, L4, and L7 services. They can improve this because it's a little bit hard to send traffic with PBR or EPB to the box. They're returning back. That's one area where they could improve.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've mostly worked with Cisco solutions in the last 15 or 17 years. I do everything from deploying enterprise solutions and developing data centers to building cloud applications with Cisco ACI or data solutions at the center, like MPP, GPU, AVPN, and VXLANs. Security-wise, I started with ASA and IPS then upgraded to Five Power and Snort. I also have a lot of experience with Ice and Identity solutions as well as ESA and WSA.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I believe that Cisco ACI is highly scalable. Anytime that you want to add bandwidth, you just need to add a spine and anytime you need more ports, you just need to add that. And the very cool feature is the different typology that ACI can support now. Before that, it was a stretch, especially the typology. Nowadays, everyone is talking about the IPN and the multi-part.

For bigger operations with different data centers in different locations, you can deploy multi-site and it also offers some support remotely. I've never deployed it, but you can use a virtual peak that gives this and also enables a multi-tier. That's also very helpful with customers that don't want to spend a lot of money for the cable or transceivers. And the hardware is massive. I really love the hardware. The MTBF is huge. Everything is stable.

How are customer service and support?

I was also in Malaysia for many years as a CTO at a company before COVID and was a Cisco partner. So I know how to create tickets. I've experienced how they respond and escalate tickets. I was the business owner and promised stability and availability to my customers. I asked and they opened a ticket for me, and I'd give it to my friend. I only needed to interact with Cisco techs very few times. But for licensing things and hosting, I use support all the time.

How was the initial setup?

In most cases, you just plug in the cables and it even has the cable cave, a guard system, attached spine to spine. In my opinion, the initial part that involves creating the overlay is very easy compared to an MP-BGP or VPN solution. So in that case, it definitely takes hours, especially if the site that you are working with ACI is multi-tenant. If it's multi-tenant and you are not using ACI or an MPG EVP solution, then it's hard for you to take care of the road fillers. And a BGP road target must be very accurate, but here you don't deal with anything. This is also very great about ACI, which takes less networking. There's no port. Everything is tied to the object. So that's very easy. I believe that it is exactly the same environment and same thing that we face with the Cisco Blade system. You can create a foreign device and attach it to any server on the Blade and everything works fine. 

What other advice do I have?

I would rate Cisco ACI nine out of 10. I'm always trying to push customers to use Cisco solutions. When I'm talking to my clients or anyone else who is thinking about using Cisco solutions, I always say 10 out of 10, but I believe that there is some space for improvement. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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KL
Solution Consultant at a computer software company with 10,001+ employees
Consultant
Top 20
Stable with good baseline functionalities but requires better flexibility

Pros and Cons

  • "The stability is quite good."
  • "Technical support needs to be more helpful. It's rare that you get a knowledgeable person."

What is our primary use case?

Primarily, what we like is the ability to do micro-segmentation. We have many different application endpoints, and one of the key use cases for us was to be able to classify the application endpoints into arbitrary buckets of different silos. We need to be able to ensure that different endpoints will go into, let's say, a production silo, versus a development silo, versus a test silo. That was one of the use cases.

The function above and beyond that is that you get things like automation as part of the SDN framework. Therefore, you get the data center overlay that is built automatically and provisioned automatically from the automation capability that's built-in.

What is most valuable?

The solution has all of the baseline functionalities for any sort of SDN capability. 

The stability is quite good.

The initial setup is straightforward.

What needs improvement?

One of the areas that need work is feature flexibility. If you want to do things like routing policies it's not cookie-cutter, however, you want to customize routing policies. It becomes a little bit more constrained due to the feature set, the routing policy feature set within ACI, doesn't allow for you to get very customized when it comes to, let's say, failover type scenarios. However, that's just an artifact of the product maturity. It's going to take some time before the product becomes mature and they have the ability to have more customized features enabled. At version 4.0, these features were not yet available. We ended up having to basically export the routing functionality, the more advanced routing functions, outside of ACI and just put it into the routing infrastructure around it.

The initial setup is not intuitive.

Technical support needs to be more helpful. It's rare that you get a knowledgeable person.

It would be nice for them to provide visibility at a cheaper price point. Visibility is something that everybody wants to achieve with their workload. One of the benefits of SDN is supposedly the ability to collect all that telemetry and correlate it to something that is actionable and meaningful. That's a key requirement, however, the bar is so high in terms of costs. In our environment, we opted out of it as it's so expensive, however, it would be nice, as, if you don't have visibility, then how do you properly segment your workload? The minute you start segmenting, you kind of cut off workload communication. If your goal is micro-segmentation and putting your workload into arbitrary silos, and if you don't have the visibility, then it will be very difficult to achieve. Therefore, if you don't have visibility and you want micro-segmentation and you don't want to pay, then ACI is not your solution.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for two years at this point.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is stable. We don't have issues with it crashing or freezing.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

While supposedly it's scalable, the program is not. I don't have any data point that I can provide for scalability within ACI, as our environment is fairly small.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is hit or miss. Sometimes you can open a ticket and you will not have to escalate it three or four different times before you get somebody that is competent. I would say that's 85% of the time, however, the other 15% of the time you get lucky and you get somebody that knows what they're talking about.

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

I have some experience with VMware. I'd describe it as more intuitive and easier to configure, however, it's a different solution as it's software-based as opposed to ACI which is hardware-based. 

How was the initial setup?

The solution's initial setup is straightforward. It is not difficult. One other area that I would say is a negative is the way that they have their setup. It's not intuitive. It's very complicated and if you want to provision an interface or something like that and get that interface, it requires a bunch of steps that are very counter-intuitive. It's not user-friendly.

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

The pricing could be a bit cheaper.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

If I compare ACI to a VMware NSX-T type solution, I don't know if there's a differentiator there compared to NSX. I will say that NSX has much higher numbers of differentiation, as they have visibility into the workload at the hypervisor. Having used ACI, we were looking at solution sets that will give us specific capabilities beyond that. The value of NSX is it will give you the visibility component.

What other advice do I have?

The version that I was working on is a 40 version, however, the company is at a 50 version at this point.

If you are looking for a solution that will give you the ability to have really good visibility into your workload, how your workload performs and functions, ACI doesn't give you that level of granularity as compared to, for instance, a solution like VMware NSX. For them to provide visibility, you're going to have to spend a lot of money on Tetration, which is another solution that they try to force on you. If visibility is one of your key requirements, then you might want to rethink your data center SDN solution for ACI.

I'd rate the solution at a six out of ten.

Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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Learn what your peers think about Cisco ACI. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: November 2021.
554,382 professionals have used our research since 2012.
SA
Director Design, Architecture & Security at Syntax Systems GmbH & Co KG
Real User
Update run wihtout impact. New features are helping to move completly to ACI

Pros and Cons

  • "We had different networks and combined them with ACI so we could have the control of one controller-based network. Also, everything is combined now."
  • "Our company had a lot of issues with the starter kit."
  • "I would like to be able to test the upgrades in a simulation before implementing them in production because not everyone has a lab."

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case was to implement SDN in the data center to bring new technology for the application team.

How has it helped my organization?

We had different networks and combined them with ACI so we could have the control of one controller-based network. Also, everything is combined now. Automation is running so that the operational effort was reduct massivley.

What is most valuable?

We have the flexibility to bring an application from wherever it is located from one end of application to the other. It has overlay at the end.

What needs improvement?

I don't like the idea that Cisco is bringing in different machines or dashboards. This does not allow us to have one solution. We are viewing the DNA Center, ACI, and Meraki. A link from another system may have you end up in the Meraki dashboard, that's not what I expect. I want to have one single pane of glass where I can see and do the changes on every thing.

I would like to be able to test the upgrades in a simulation before implementing them in production because not everyone has a lab.

Nexus Dashboard could bring us a hugh step forward to become more felxible and agile.

For how long have I used the solution?

2,5 years

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In the beginning, the stability was not that good. However, the code now seems to be stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We like its scalability because we have use its paths to bring all the networks into ACI. Therefore, we need to be able to scale.

How are customer service and technical support?

I like the technical support. It is great. We have a good team on the other end of the line. We also have good support from our sales engineer (SE).

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

We started with Cisco solutions and are now switching to ACI, which is the new solution. If it doesn't work how I expect, I will consider exchanging it.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is straightforward, as it has a network-centric approach.

What about the implementation team?

I joined the team after they did the integration, but I know that they bought the starter kit from Cisco. Our company had a lot of issues with the starter kit.

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

Once you sign for the start kit implementation, you have to go all the way through to the implementation, even if you are experiences issues.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I do not know who was on the shortlist.

For me, Cisco is the best solution.

What other advice do I have?

I would tell someone considering this solution to talk to an account manager from Cisco and some technical people. Then, go to a Cisco conference and discuss the product with people, e.g., ask them how they did the implementation. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
HS
Network Architect at a computer software company with 10,001+ employees
Real User
Top 20
Reliable, very scalable, and makes it easy to do global configurations

Pros and Cons

  • "It is very easy to do the configuration after you know how to work with the product. It is global, so you change one interface, and changes are reflected on every switch."
  • "Its graphical user interface (GUI) is not as user-friendly as it could be."

What is our primary use case?

This is software-defined networking. So, all the configuration done on a customer network is done with this application.

I am using the version before the latest version.

What is most valuable?

It is very easy to do the configuration after you know how to work with the product. It is global, so you change one interface, and changes are reflected on every switch.

What needs improvement?

Its graphical user interface (GUI) is not as user-friendly as it could be.

It is quite expensive.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for about a month.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is stable and reliable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is quite scalable. It is one of the most scalable products we have come across.

We have five people who are using it in our company in Portugal.

How are customer service and technical support?

We haven't had any need.

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

We were using a different solution, but it was not for software-defined networking. It was for a different type of networking.

How was the initial setup?

It is very complex. All the configuration that needs to be done on the Cisco ACI is very complex. We have to create base policies for all the network devices and then implement it. Afterward, it is rather easy, but the implementation part is a long and complex process.

After it is deployed, it is rather easy because all the configuration is done automatically. You only need to do regular visits to see that it is working and do some regular tests. It is not that difficult.

What about the implementation team?

We took Cisco's help.

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

It is quite expensive. It is not at all on the cheap or medium side.

What other advice do I have?

I am quite new to this product, and I am still learning it. My recommendation would depend upon the size of the organization. It is one of the flagship products of Cisco, but it is not a product that you can implement for any customer. It is more suitable for medium to large enterprises.

I would rate Cisco ACI an eight out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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TM
Technology Consultant at a tech services company with 51-200 employees
Real User
Top 20
Good performance throughput and technical support

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable feature is the throughput that it offers."
  • "Training for this product is available from institutions but it is not available online where you can get users trained easily."

What is our primary use case?

I am a technology consultant and my company is implementing this product for data center networking.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the throughput that it offers.

What needs improvement?

Training for this product is available from institutions but it is not available online where you can get users trained easily. It would be better if the training for our users was easier to get.

Cisco ACI should have better integration with a hypervisor such as VMware, Hyper-V, or KVM. This would give us a one-window solution for our networking, compute, and storage.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Cisco ACI for about two years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Our customers are very much satisfied with the stability. We do not have any issues with it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is scalable, although it depends on the design and the customer.

This is not a product for small-scale users. If we have customers with large data center requirements, we offer them Cisco ACI. For example, it is not for small enterprises without a lot of services running in their data center.

Scaling is easy because we can add, as required. While it depends on the design, scalability is not normally an issue.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have received technical support when required and we are pretty satisfied with the support we get.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is okay. It is not very complex, although I would not say it is very user-friendly because it is different from what we have been using. The best way to put it is that for me, it is new and it is straightforward.

A complete deployment, including the migration from their existing system, will take approximately two months.

What about the implementation team?

Initially, we had Professional Services assist with hour deployment.

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

This is an expensive solution.

What other advice do I have?

Overall, this is a good product but if it had better integration then I would rate it a full ten out of ten.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten. 

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: partner
SA
Senior Network Engineer at a computer software company with 1,001-5,000 employees
MSP
Top 20
A policy-driven solution that integrates software and hardware

What is our primary use case?

I am an implementer. Whenever a customer purchases this solution, I go on-site and deploy it for them.

What needs improvement?

From my point of view, troubleshooting issues relating to ACI can be a little bit complicated to perform.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Cisco ACI for roughly six months.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This solution is both scalable and stable.

How are customer service and technical support?

Cisco's technical support team is very good.

How was the initial setup?

If you know the steps, then the initial setup is quite straightforward. You need to know how to configure it. You're looking at a minimum of at least five working days to build the infrastructure. After…

What is our primary use case?

I am an implementer. Whenever a customer purchases this solution, I go on-site and deploy it for them.

What needs improvement?

From my point of view, troubleshooting issues relating to ACI can be a little bit complicated to perform.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Cisco ACI for roughly six months.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This solution is both scalable and stable.

How are customer service and technical support?

Cisco's technical support team is very good.

How was the initial setup?

If you know the steps, then the initial setup is quite straightforward. You need to know how to configure it. You're looking at a minimum of at least five working days to build the infrastructure. After that, it depends on how many devices you want to connect.

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

I don't believe there is any licensing required.

What other advice do I have?

Normally ACI is implemented in the data-center — It's not an end-user product.

I would absolutely recommend this solution. 

On a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of eight.

There are some issues regarding the orchestration of vendors and integration that need to be addressed.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Implementer
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