Cisco Dives Into Hyperconvergence

HyperFlex integrates software from Springpath into the Cisco UCS platform.

Marcia Savage

March 3, 2016

3 Min Read
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Cisco made its much-rumored foray into hyperconverged infrastructure Tuesday, launching HyperFlex Systems on its UCS platform in partnership with hyperconvergence software startup Springpath.

With HyperFlex, Cisco is jumping into a hot market filled with startups like Nutanix and SimpliVity and established players like VMware. The market for hyperconverged systems, which integrate compute, storage and networking in a single commodity hardware appliance, is growing fast. IDC estimates it will reach $4.8 billion by 2019, up from $1.9 billion this year.

Last summer, there was a widely circulated report that Cisco was going to acquire Nutanix. More recently, there have been reports that Cisco would partner with Springpath on a hyperconverged appliance. Springpath was founded in 2012 by two former VMware engineers and officially launched about a year ago. Cisco said it made a significant investment in the startup, but didn’t disclose the amount.

Touted by the networking giant as “complete hyperconvergence,” HyperFlex incorporates software-defined storage on Cisco’s Unified Computing Systems platform. It’s designed to overcome the issues Cisco says are associated with the first generation of hyperconvergence products with capabilities like more efficient scaling. Storage and compute capacity can be added independently by using HyperFlex nodes or UCS blades.

HyperFlex features dynamic data distribution for high availability, continuous deduplication and compression for data optimization, and integrated management. According to Cisco, the system can be deployed in less than an hour, including the network functionality, which the company contends other hyperconverged products leave out. It includes support for VMware, and plans call for adding storage interfaces for containers and other hypervisors.

Stuart Miniman, senior analyst and principal research contributor at Wikibon, said Cisco UCS has led the first generation of converged infrastructure by partnering with nearly 30 storage companies including EMC. On the hyperconvergence front, Cisco supports SimpliVity, Maxta, and VMware VSAN on UCS, and also made an investment in Stratoscale.

An OEM move into hyperconvergence is important to its UCS strategy, but is “not the death of every other storage relationship” Cisco has, Miniman told me. “Cisco will want everyone to help it with UCS,” he said, noting that UCS is central to the company’s data center business. For its part, Cisco told me it will continue to support its partner ecosystem.

Miniman said he wouldn’t expect a Cisco hyperconvergence play to significantly change the market for hyperconverged infrastructure, also called server SAN. “There are a lot of companies moving toward this space fast,” he said. Right now, Dell is in the driver’s seat in the hyperconvergence market because it has so many partners in the space, he said.

While Wikibon is bullish on hyperconvergence’s growth prospects, he said the growth of converged infrastructure will be much greater.

Various configurations of HyperFlex are available now starting at $59,000 for a three-node cluster with one year of support.

New data center switches

Cisco also announced new Nexus 9000 data center switches that incorporate new Cisco ASIC technology. With multi-speed ports, they allow customers to add incremental bandwidth without needing to buy new switches. Cisco calls the Nexus 9200 series and the Nexus 9300EX switches the first “native” 25 Gbps top-of-rack switches, giving users the flexibility to deploying at 10 Gbps today and transition to 25 Gbps on the same switch.

The new Nexus 9000 switches also feature better visibility with the ability to track every flow throughout the network at line rate, along with improved security with cloud-scale segmentation. Intelligent buffers support lossless storage traffic.

The modular Nexus 9500 can be upgraded using the existing chassis with a 32-port 40/100 Gbps line card that runs in both ACI and NX-OS modes.

Cisco also refreshed its Nexus 3000 data center switch line based on merchant silicon with a 32-port 40/100 Gbps line card based on Broadcom Tomahawk.

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About the Author(s)

Marcia Savage

Executive Editor, Network Computing

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