Cisco Flips Utility Switch

Cisco&s new Server Fabric Switch (SFS) line uses the InfiniBand high-speed interconnect architecture to tie servers into computing grids and to connect those grids to shared storage and networking resources. Its new VFrame 3.0 data center virtualization software manages Cisco switching, load-balancing and security products in the data center.

The switches, adapters and software, based on technology picked up through Cisco&s acquisition of Topspin Communications earlier this year, support equipment from major server and storage vendors via APIs, said Ben Eiref, product manager in the Server Virtualization Business Unit at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

“What we&re doing here is allowing you to build a mainframe-like environment out of commodity components and do it in such a way that very little management expertise is required to run it,” Eiref said.

Ron Temske, director of IP communications at Logicalis, said Cisco&s wares would ease utility computing rollouts and tie into the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., integrator&s enterprise server practices.

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Cisco vendor partners such as IBM and EMC are ramping up their own virtualization efforts, but Eiref maintained that Cisco&s virtualization efforts are not at odds with those of its partners.

Instead of connecting every server separately to IP, storage and clustering networks, Cisco is enabling servers to be cross-connected to the networks through SFS products, reducing the number of required connections and cutting costs by consolidating the numbers of server adapters, cables and switch ports required, he said.

When tied to third-party provisioning applications from vendors such as Altiris or IBM Tivoli, VFrame can dynamically boot networked storage and I/O resources and tie them to IP addresses according to established polices. For example, the technology can ensure that a company&s human resources department is connected to the three or four servers it needs at any given time, Eiref said.

Cisco&s SFS line, available now, starts at $12,000. VFrame 3.0, also shipping, lists for about $2,000 per server node for a large deployment.