Cisco's Chambers Predicts Big Future For Virtualization

Cisco Systems Tuesday rolled out a far-reaching data center virtualization strategy that includes new products and several new specializations for channel partners.

Cisco's new "Data Center 3.0" strategy, unveiled at its Networkers at Cisco Live 2007 end-user conference in Anaheim, Calif., aims to boost the efficiency of data centers by upping server utilization rates, effectively enabling customers to get more out the equipment they've already got.

The strategy calls for real-time management of virtualized server, storage and network resources, all tied in with security and application delivery.

"The role of virtualization, when you talk about where the industry is going, is huge: [it's] the ability first to be able to communicate to any server, any application, any content in your data center, and then to take that concept and drive it all the way through your home," said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco, San Jose, Calif., during a keynote address at the event. He noted at the beginning of the address that his comments should not be seen as an indicator of Cisco's financial performance during its current quarter, which ends later this week on July 28.

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Cisco's approach looks at and manages the data center as a whole rather than as individual technologies, said Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of the data center, switching and technology group at Cisco. In Cisco's view, the network is the ideal platform for the data center because it is pervasive, vendor- and device-agnostic and highly scalable, she said.

The vendor's strategy is built to take advantage of three foundational technologies: Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand, she said.

The new products include Cisco VFrame Data Center, a box that connects to the corporate Ethernet network and SAN. It provisions virtualized resources, dramatically reducing the time it takes to bring new equipment or capacity online, said Doug Gourlay, senior director of data center solutions at Cisco.

"If you need to add a Web server, today enterprises tell us that it takes best case 30 days, normal case 60 to 90 days to add," Gourlay said. With VFrame, the job can be cut down to a few minutes, he said. "When a reseller can bring a capability to a customer that the customer doesn't even know exists, that's a value-add."

VFrame is scheduled to ship in August.

NEXT: Big data center opportunities for partners

​Cisco's data center technology enables server consolidation, providing customers with tremendous cost savings not only on equipment and management but also on power consumption, said Peter Castaldi, principal at Kovarus Technical Solutions, a Cisco partner in San Francisco that also teams with data center players such as VMware, EMC, Network Appliance and Symantec.

"We're working to help customers self-fund these projects with [power company] rebates and hardware cost savings. They're also saving on the software licenses they would need for each server, the tape costs and the overall management," Castaldi said.

Many customers are also able to redeploy the servers they no longer need in the data center. In many cases, customers are using those servers to build the disaster recovery solutions they've always wanted but haven't been able to fund, Castaldi said.

In addition to VFrame, Cisco is enhancing several existing products. Among them is the latest release of its Wide Area Application Services software, which adds new security features, while new software for its Application Control Engine (ACE) adds an XML gateway. Cisco also is beefing up its MDS storage switch family with new modules and new branch-office and midrange models.

Cisco plans to fill out its Data Center 3.0 strategy with additional products over the next 24 months.

On the channel front, Cisco is building out a data center specialization strategy that focuses on network infrastructure, storage networking and application networking. The new specializations do not count toward a partners' certification status but do provide training and technology badges for partners that are building data center practices, said John Growdon, director of data center solutions for worldwide channels at Cisco, adding that additional elements of Cisco's data center channel strategy will be added over time.

"We want to focus on the technologies that have a large enough revenue streams to build a practice around, and a profitable practice at that," Growdon said. The new Advanced Data Center Networking Infrastructure Specialization focuses on Cisco's Catalyst switches and its security portfolio. It includes some components of Cisco's existing Advanced Routing and Switching specialization but adds content on large-scale data center architectures.

The Advanced Data Center Storage Networking Specialization is a revised version of Cisco's existing Storage Networking Specialization. In its new form, the specialization adds training for the vendor's latest SAN technology.

Still under development, the forthcoming Data Center Application Networking Specialization will focus on Cisco's ACE technology for load balancing and content switching.