The new release numbering scheme for Cisco ACI releases

Everybody who is using ACI for a few years now knows there are long term support releases and ‘other’ releases. The long term support releases have been the x.2 releases for the last few releases. So 3.2, 4.2 and 5.2 are (or have been) long term support releases. Of these there were always two current releases. At the time of writing this post those are currently ACI 4.2 and ACI 5.2.

These long term support releases generally don’t get many new features. Updates are aimed at improving stability and security. In most cases companies are best off using these long term support releases unless they specifically need a new feature which isn’t available in the current long term support version.

This numbering scheme and release cadence has been changed since the introduction of ACI 6.0. Nowadays each release goes through several phases:

  • Development Cycle (Feature releases)
  • Maintenance Cycle (Bugfix releases)
  • Extended support Cycle (Security fixes)
  • TAC support phase (no releases)

That means that starting ACI 6.0 there are no long term support releases anymore. There are just some releases which are somewhere in their life cycle. At least one of which will be in the Maintenance phase.

ACI release cadence

As can be seen in the image the goal is to attain a dependable release cycle and a clear path forward. The two long lived releases will disappear, but at the same time there will always be at least one release that is in a stable phase.

The idea is that there will be three feature releases in a major train before the maintenance release is made available. That takes about a year. After this the second phase for this release will begin in which it will receive maintenance releases. At more or less the same time the next version of ACI will be released. In the case of the image that will be version 6.1.

Keep in mind that these timelines are likely estimates and it might not be exactly as neat as displayed here. So it could well be possible that there is some time between 6.0 reaching maintenance phase and 6.1 being made available.

For those of you who currently do leapfrogging between releases, that’s still possible as you can see in the image. Version 7.0 in this example should reach maintenance phase before 6.0 is moved into the last phase. That enables you to skip 6.1. Personally I would not leapfrog releases, especially since upgrading ACI isn’t as involved as upgrading other switches used to be.

Cisco Software Downloads

When downloading the new software you’ll quickly be able to see whether a release is a Feature release (as indicated by the (F) behind the version number) or a Maintenance release (An (M) will be listed behind the number).