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Storage Must Wait for Cisco's Data Center Vision

Cisco's Nexus switch, the core of its data center and networking fabric strategy announced today, won't support many storage customers for months to come.

Nexus, the fastest and densest Ethernet switch on the planet, will initially feature 1- and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet connectivity with support for TCP/IP-related protocols. Featuring a new operating system, Nexus will converge various traffic types into a single "virtualized control plane," with a range of traffic management, quality of service, and security capabilities.

Performance claims are impressive: An initial Nexus 7000 platform includes a 10-slot chassis capable of supporting 256 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports or 384 1-Gbit/s ports. Within six months, Cisco will add an 18-slot chassis capable of 512 10-Gbit/s ports or 768 1-Gbit/s ports. Throughput rates will reach 15 Tbit/s, Cisco says.

To tap that blazing speed for SANs, though, will take some time. Though Nexus is clearly Cisco's switch for unifying storage and networking in enterprise data centers, it won't ever support Fibre Channel directly, including 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel (a key feature of Brocade's recently announced DCX Backbone switch). Instead, Nexus is meant to unify, not replace, the layer of Ethernet and SAN switches Cisco already offers.

But customers will be on hold for 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel support on Cisco MDS SAN switches as well. MDS linecards supporting 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, and certified HBAs to support them, won't be ready until the second half of 2008.

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