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How Cisco ACI and AppDynamics Deliver a Great End-User Experience

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Summary
Cisco ACI-AppDynamics integration helps business-critical applications run flawlessly. By providing deep visibility and powerful correlation across the application and network, this seamless interaction enables teams to deliver a positive end-user experience.

More enterprises today are distributing applications across datacenters and multiple clouds, creating a rapidly expanding—and increasingly complex—application footprint. And as companies demand better end-to-end performance for business success, highly distributed and scalable applications must be more reliable than ever.

Despite the vast complexities of these distributed environments, however, application and network teams too often operate in silos. This disconnect can lead to application slowdowns and longer outage-resolution times that negatively impact users—and the business. The costs of downtime continue to rise, too, with business losses ranging from $100,000 to more than $500,000 per hour, according to studies from Gartner and IDC. And a recent AppDynamics survey of 6,000 global IT leaders found the average outage in the United States and United Kingdom costs $402,542 USD and $212,254 USD, respectively. (For an in-depth look at the pain points associated with the lack of application and network correlation, read our blog on the benefits of correlating APM with underlying network visibility and monitoring.)

The solution is to build an environment that integrates two powerful technologies: Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) to simplify network policy management, and AppDynamics to monitor application and business performance at a code level. Together, Cisco ACI and AppDynamics enable teams to quickly identify application services impacted by network issues. In addition to providing faster root cause analysis and remediation, this solution gives teams a shared understanding of the dependencies between applications and connections to network endpoints, which helps reduce unexpected outages when changes to the network are made.

Deep Insights into Complex Environments

Cisco ACI and AppDynamics provide an integrated application-to-network view—from code to underlying infrastructure—of business applications running across multiple clouds and datacenters. This seamless integration enables both AppOps and NetOps admins to have comprehensive visibility of the environment.

Let’s take a closer look at how this integration works in the datacenter, enabling admins to gain this end-to-end view.

In AppDynamics, an application consists of one or more nodes, while nodes with a similar logical function are classified as a tier. The logical topology of the application within the Cisco ACI Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) consists of an app profile, endpoint groups within this app profile, and contracts associated between them.

This application-to-network construct enables teams to quickly triage and troubleshoot issues. It also gives the NetOps admin visibility into the application and associated metrics running on ACI—a level of insight previously unavailable.

To demonstrate how this integration enables the fastest RCA, we’ll use a simple ecommerce web app, one with several tiers running in an infrastructure on top of the ACI fabric and APIC controller. (Go here for a video version of this demo.)

The AppDynamics Dashboard (below) shows a map of the application topology. With a quick glance, an AppOps admin can see if the application is healthy:

Below, the AppDynamics Network Dashboard shows the network connectivity between these services is healthy as well:

This view is reinforced for the NetOps admin, who can visualize the application services and their health mapped to the relevant ACI constructs—in this case, endpoints, endpoint groups, and application profiles, along with the contract.

Let’s say the NetOps admin makes a scheduled contract change on the Order EPG. Soon after this change, the admin sees new errors on the application dashboard. The nodes and tiers are now in red:

To triage this issue before it impacts end users, the AppOps admin must first determine if the issue is rooted in the application or the network. By viewing the AppDynamics Network Dashboard, the admin can see if any network-related errors are impacting the app.

The links between application services running on the ACI fabric have turned red. This insight gives the admin sufficient information to determine that something at the network level is impacting the performance of the Order Tier-to-Payment Tier connection:

The AppOps admin then cross-launches into the ACI Troubleshooting Wizard for details on  the relevant endpoints and associated network faults, metrics and errors. This level of visibility creates a seamless handoff between the application and network teams for faster remediation.

On the network side, the admin can see the degraded application health on APIC. Armed with the right information, she quickly identifies that  the problem is due to the recent contract change. The NetOps admin reverts the contract changes, which should fix the application issue.

In the ACI dashboard, the NetOps admin confirms the application’s health is back to normal, and can inform the  AppOps admin that the issue was due to the contract change state, which has been fixed.

The faults and errors are now gone from the AppDynamics Network Dashboard. Similarly on the Application Dashboard, the nodes and tiers look healthy again:

AppDynamics for Cisco ACI  unlocks additional value by helping applications run flawlessly. By providing deep visibility and seamless collaboration across across the application and network, teams can deliver a positive end user experience with the greatest business impact.