Cisco Weaving A New Data Center Fabric

With improvements and additions that cut across the data center, Cisco today announced updates to its Data Center Business Advantage portfolio. This includes additions to the Nexus line of switches, the Unified Computing System and NX-OS. Cisco has also focused heavily on network fabric technology with this release, providing a response to recent fabric releases from competitors such as Juniper and Brocade.

March 30, 2011

3 Min Read
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With improvements and additions that cut across the data center, Cisco today announced updates to its Data Center Business Advantage portfolio. This includes additions to the Nexus line of switches, the Unified Computing System and NX-OS. Cisco has also focused heavily on network fabric technology with this release, providing a response to recent fabric releases from competitors such as Juniper and Brocade.

According to Cisco, the strategy for its data center fabric system is centered around three poles: the Unified Fabric for converging servers, network and storage systems to create a unified LAN/SAN environment; Unified Computing; and Unified Network Services. Along with the fabric technologies, much of the functionality provided by these Cisco products is designed to help businesses manage cloud-based and virtualized environments.

Shashi Kiran, director of marketing for Cisco Data Center Solutions at Cisco, says, "As our customers move toward more dynamic cloud-based environments where their requirements become a lot more unpredictable, it gives them the foundation to handle these aspects of application independence."

New additions to the line of Nexus switches include the Nexus 3000 and the Nexus 5548 and 5596 switches. The Nexus 3000 is a low-latency switch designed for high-frequency trading and L2 and L3 wire-rate switching for unicast and multicast transmissions. The Nexus 5548 and 5596 switches include Cisco's Unified Port technology, which makes it possible for any port on the device to be configured as Gigabit Ethernet, 10G Ethernet, Fibre Channel or Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

New additions to Cisco's fabric extender technology (FEX)--which makes it possible to build a fabric between switches, servers and virtualized infrastructures--include the Adapter FEX, VM-FEX and FEX support for the Nexus 7000. VM-FEX offers hardware-based VM switching, while the Adapter FEX makes it possible to split physical NICs into multiple logical NICs.One of the more interesting technologies in the announcement was LISP (Location/ID Separation Protocol) on the Nexus 7000. LISP is an IP routing and addressing technology that separates a host's IP identity from its location, providing improved portability and address consistency for virtual machines. As Cisco's Kiran put it, just as mobile phones separated the phone number from the location limitations of a landline, LISP makes it possible for VMs to retain their IP identity even when moving between networks.

Also now available for the Nexus 7000 and for the MDS 9500 storage switch is multihop Fibre Channel over Ethernet, which provides wire-once multiprotocol capabilities. By essentially putting an FCoE fabric between both platforms, this makes it possible to run storage traffic over the network.

Other news from Cisco's announcement include an improved Data Center Network Manager, which offers centralized management and monitoring across the LAN and SAN. This also includes integration with VMWare vCenter to provide simplified management of virtualized systems.

Most of the products and technologies included in this announcement are scheduled to ship in the second quarter of 2011. Pricing for the Nexus 3000 switch is yet to be determined;  pricing for the Nexus 5548 and 5596 switches is approximately $750 per port.

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