ACI APIC – Building a Fabric

Getting started with the Cisco ACI APIC

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is a brand new way of networking that allows network engineers and architects to not only implement network virtualization within their data center, but also manage their physical network from the same management console. For more information please check out the Cisco documentation here. In this article I’m going to use the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller, or APIC, to create an ACI Fabric and start using ACI.

The APIC is essentially the brain of the ACI solution. Most, if not all, of your configuration will be done through the APIC either via the GUI or some other sort of orchestration tool accessing the APIC. The APIC is available now and while it’s a software solution, currently it is shipping on a hardened Cisco UCS C220 M3 server. Every fabric should have at least three APICs in any production environment to provide for redundancy, though you could get away with one APIC in a testing environment.

Fabric Discovery:

To get started with Fabric Discovery, which literally means finding the leaf and spine nodes we need to start with connecting an APIC to a leaf node. We can do this manually or programmatically using the APIs. Let’s go through the manual process here. First we’ll need to login to the APIC by opening a browser and going to the APIC. We’ll then click on the Fabric menu at the top as shown in the figure below.


Now follow these steps to find the rest of the connected leaf and spine switches.

  1. Click on Inventory in the sub-header menu
  2. Click on Fabric Membership in the menu on the left.
  3. Specify the Node ID and Node Name of the leaf the APIC is connected to. You may also specify the Rack Name if you like.
  4. Once the Node ID and Name of the first leaf has been specified it should automatically start populating the leaf and spine switches. We can then specify the Node IDs and Names for these switches.

As I said, the fabric should automatically build itself once everything is physically connected. It will also assign which role belongs to each switch and an IP address.

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