Cisco/Dell Announce Next-Gen Business Solutions

The combined solutions are designed to simplify the management of next-generation data centers with a unified networking fabric that consolidates LAN, SAN, and server cluster network environments

February 3, 2009

4 Min Read
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Cisco and Dell said they will collaborate on next-generation IT solutions that help customers simplify data center infrastructure by pooling storage, computing, and networking resources to more rapidly support business applications in virtual data center environments. According to the agreement, Dell will add Cisco's Nexus 5020 switches to its PowerEdge server and EqualLogic, PowerVault, and Dell/EMC storage solutions. In addition, Dell has qualified the Catalyst 4900 Top-of-Rack Switches (ToR) for its EqualLogic Storage Area Networks (SAN) arrays. The combined solutions are designed to help customers simplify the management of next-generation data centers with a unified networking fabric that consolidates LAN, SAN, and server cluster network environments into a single high-speed 10-Gigabit Ethernet fabric that supports protocols such as Fibre Channel, FibreChannel over Ethernet (FCoE), and Internet Small Computer Storage Interface (iSCSI).

In an unrelated announcement, Cisco introduced EnergyWise technology for its Catalyst switch solutions. EnergyWise is designed to measure, report, and reduce the energy consumption of Internet Protocol (IP)-connected devices, such as phones, desktop PCs, laptops, and access points. Cisco also announced industry partner solutions, as well as an intelligent middleware acquisition (Richards/Zeta) that will ultimately enable the management of power consumption for entire building systems, such as lights; elevators; and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). The first phase of EnergyWise (Network Control) starts in February and will include phones, wireless access points, and video surveillance cameras. The second (IT Control) will begin this summer and support EnergyWise on PCs, laptops, and printers. The third and final phase (Building Control), which includes HVAC, lights, elevators, and fire alarm and security systems, is planned for early 2010.

Though the concept of pooling data center assets -- including server, storage, and networking resources -- via a common, unified fabric may seem redundant, it is anything but. Companies that leverage virtualization strategies and solutions are precisely the sorts of organizations that stand to reap maximum benefits from Cisco and Dells new solutions.

Some of the potential benefits, such as simplifying cabling and lowering the number of network adapters required, appear pedestrian. But these are just the sort of components with cost and complexity that can add up quickly, especially in data centers that are scaling out rapidly. Significantly reduce the numbers of cables and adapters across numerous servers, switches, and storage arrays, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

In addition, the Cisco/Dell solutions should offer customers some significant strategic benefits. Transitioning to unified network fabrics, which support highly flexible data transport options, can help organizations enhance business process continuity and data center scalability, critical issues at a time when companies of every size need to ensure they are getting the most out of their long-term IT and business investments.Overall, by simplifying the pooling of servers, storage, and networking resources via a unified network fabric, Cisco and Dell should help companies enhance both the incremental value of individual IT assets and their data centers as a whole. That is good business by any definition.

Incremental value enhancement also seems like a reasonable description of Cisco's EnergyWise technology. After all, the company's solution is designed to automate those niggling little chores -- like turning out the lights when you leave the office -- which most people too easily forget. One office light or PC left on is a minor annoyance, at best. But multiplying that across hundreds or thousands of offices, cubicles, or unused building systems results in an equation with painfully negative results.

The past two years have seen numerous vendors launch "green" data center strategies and solutions, and there is considerable value in lowering the power consumption of those and other facilities with large carbon footprints. But over time, a dripping faucet or forgotten lightbulb can also needlessly waste precious resources. In essence, by focusing EnergyWise on such mundane chores and processes, Cisco is extending its own value proposition and its concept of the Intelligent Network into areas where many of its IT infrastructure competitors are unlikely or perhaps even unable to go.

— Charles King, president and principal analyst for research firm Pund-IT Inc., focuses on business technology evolution and interpreting the effects these changes will have on vendors, their customers, and the greater IT marketplace.

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