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Why 'Unified' Is the Hot New Idea for Data Centers

On the horizon is a profound change to the current data center fabric, possibly the most significant IT shift since the widespread adoption of the LAN itself: unification of the IP and storage networks.

We know what you're thinking: Moving to a new data center architecture sounds like the kind of grand plan to shelve for happier economic times. But given the potential long-term cost and operational flexibility benefits, CIOs and their top IT architects must plan now for the impact of a unified infrastructure. The move entails more than just running storage traffic using Fibre Channel over Ethernet. It's about creating a single, unified network fabric built on 10 Gigabit Ethernet that carries any traffic in the data center, from data to voice to storage to high-performance clustering.

The problem with today's data centers is that they're "islands of virtualization," Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO) CTO Padmasree Warrior writes in a blog post, with virtualized servers, storage, and networks all managed separately. In her much-discussed post earlier this year, Warrior laid out Cisco's vision for integrating those islands. Cisco is expected to provide details on its data center unification strategy, including new products, this week .

Is Cisco right? It's mapped out an inevitable path, since the opportunity to harness virtualized IT assets for agility and automation is too great to pass up. Which vendors are at the center of that architecture, however, is a question that has a long way to play out in the market...

Get all the answers at InformationWeek