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VMware, Cisco SDNs bring home the bacon

Jim Duffy | Jan. 28, 2016
Both play key roles in food processor SugarCreek's data centers.

sdn control

In the scramble for SDN supremacy, Cisco and VMware usually bark about users who opt for one of their solutions over the other.

In all the noise, it’s rare to hear from one that plans to implement both.

But that’s what SugarCreek, a $650 million, privately-held food processing and packing company based in Washington Court House, OH, is doing in its software-defined data centers (SDDC). VMware’s NSX network virtualization software will be used to secure and automate the VMware-virtualized server environment, while Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) will be deployed to manage the physical network infrastructure.

“There’s a tremendous amount of noise in the industry on this subject, primarily viewing these solutions as ‘either/or,’ with a lot of comparisons and arguments about which methodology is best,” says Edward Rodden, SugarCreek CIO. “In the end, we chose to view them as complementary technologies and that by putting them both in place it would best position us to take advantage of innovations from either as time proceeds. ACI seemed the best choice up through the physical layer as we are primarily Cisco on hardware, VMWare, for now, within the data center as an extension of our already virtualized infrastructure.”

The ability to use Palo Alto firewalls tightly integrated to the VMware SDDC was also a factor in these choices, Rodden says. Cisco ASA firewalls are protecting the network perimeter.

SugarCreek, renowned for its bacon products, will implement NSX and ACI in the March/April timeframe in two data centers for microsegmentation and automation. The company plans to segment its different applications into groups, or pods. A pod will include multiple web servers, presentation servers and at least one database server.

Each pod will utilize NSX to load balance the web servers and presentation servers. The Palo Alto firewalls will be used to secure traffic within the VMware hosts. SugarCreek plans to create scripts to automate the creation of new application pods and to burst pods to the cloud.

ACI will be used at the hardware layer to manage the leaf and spine architecture of Cisco Nexus 9000 switches. When SugarCreek needs to expand its datacenter, ACI will automate the addition and configuration of leaf switches.

ACI will not be used nearly to its full application policy potential, SugarCreek admits, due in part to VMware’s incumbency as the company’s server virtualization vendor. ACI is designed to allow the Cisco network to adapt its configuration based on the access, security and service level policies of the particular application, or applications, be they on physical or virtual hosts, including bare metal servers.

“We are a VMware shop,” Rodden says. “We won’t be running any bare metal. Who better to understand VMware traffic than VMware?”


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