Cisco Revamps Data Center Infrastructure Offering With Eye On Cloud

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Cisco on Wednesday unveiled a wide range of networking and storage switches, UCS equipment, and software aimed at unifying customers' entire data center infrastructures and helping prepare them for their step up into the cloud.

Cisco also outlined several changes to its channel program the company said would make it easier for its solution provider partners to tie the new infrastructure products to complete solutions.

The new hardware and software help cement Cisco's position as the premier provider of end-to-end data center infrastructure equipment, said Omar Sultan, senior manager for Cisco's data center architecture.

"We're in a different position when compared to our competitors," Sultan said. "We have a full product portfolio with a broad vision and the ability to execute against that vision."

One of the bases of that vision is Cisco's Unified Fabric, which refers to the company's ability to provide end-to-end network convergence, Sultan said.

To help improve that convergence, Cisco introduced two new series of Nexus data center switches along with enhanced connectivity and management capabilities across a wide range of its data center networking product line.

The company unveiled the Nexus 5548UP 48-port and Nexus 5596UP 96-port data center switches with unified port capability. These two switches not only increase the port count over previous models, they also allow customers to configure every one of the ports for Gbit Ethernet, 10-Gbit Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE), or 8-Gbit Fibre Channel, Sultan said.

Cisco in the second half of 2011 plans to add its FabricPath technology to its Nexus 5000 switches. FabricPath is a scalable virtual networking technology that combines networking Layer 2 flexibility and Layer 3 scalability to allow virtual machine portability across an entire network. It is Cisco's subset of the proposed TRILL (Transparent Interconnect of Lots of Links) protocol, Sultan said.

Also new are the Cisco Nexus 3000 Series switches which provide low latency of less than 1 microsecond from port-to-port in a high-density 10-Gbit Ethernet environment. The Nexus 3000 switches are designed for high-performance computing environments running high-speed financial and other applications, he said.

For its Nexus 7000 Series switches, Cisco is adding the ability to support up to 1,500 Gbit Ethernet or 1,000 10-Gbit Ethernet ports. The company is also adding new Layer 3 VPN capabilities. The enhancements are scheduled to ship next quarter, Sultan said.

Cisco introduced two new enhancements to its fabric extender technology (FEX). FEX technology is a series of 1U appliances which let a parent Nexus switch provide a scalable unified server-access platform across a range of Ethernet and blade server environments.

The first enhancement, Adapter FEX, allows a single physical network interface card (NIC) to be split into multiple NICs, making it easier to utilize existing NICs to manage applications in virtualized environments.

The second enhancement, VM-FEX, extends the switching fabric to connect directly to server hypervisors in virtualized environments in order to consolidate virtual and physical access layers into a single point of management, Sultan said.

Cisco is also enhancing end-to-end network convergence from servers to storage with the addition of multi-hop FCoE capabilities to its Nexus 7000 and Nexus 5000 data center switches and its MDS 9500 storage switches.

Multi-hop FCoE allows up to seven "hops" or connections between the storage host and target, compared to typical FCoE technology which provides only a single hop, Sultan said. "This allows you to move your convergence point closer to the SAN," he said.

Next: Helping Prepare Data Centers For The Cloud

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