Cisco Adds New Nexus Switches To Data Center Vision

Continuing its two-year charge into the data center, Cisco Systems on Tuesday dug its heels in deeper with additions to its Nexus family of data center networking switches, a line developed to foster consolidation and virtualization of centralized server, storage and network resources.

According to the networking giant, the newest models to be christened into its Nexus line fall into its ever-expanding Data Center 3.0 vision and seek to transform data centers and fuel the adoption of virtualization. Cisco entrenching itself in the data center gives partners a chance to grab a piece of the $14 billion data center hardware and services opportunity expected to develop in the next few years. The Data Center 3.0 initiative launched in 2007.

On Tuesday, Cisco unveiled three new data center switches, the Cisco Nexus 7018, the Cisco Nexus 5010 and the Cisco Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders, switches Cisco said are designed specifically for the requirements of next-generation data centers. All run Cisco's NX-OS data center operating system and are centrally managed through Cisco's Data Center Network Manager.

The Nexus platform, officially launched in January, offers organizations a unified fabric and lets them optimize their infrastructures for architectural shifts like virtualization, Web 2.0 applications and cloud computing. The new additions accompany the Nexus 7000 Series release in January 2007, the Nexus 5000 Series released in April and Nexus 1000V launched in September.

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According to Ram Velaga, vice president of product management for Cisco data center solutions, the new high-end Nexus 7018 joins the 7000 Series with an 18-slot chassis (compared to the 7000 Series' 10-slot chassis) that offers up to 16 input/output module slots to support up to 768 Gigabit Ethernet and 512 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GigE) ports for massive data center deployments. The 7018 doubles the capacity of the 7010 and is designed for the requirements of highly scaled 10 GigE networks in mission-critical data centers. The modular switch can deliver continuous system operation and virtualized, pervasive services.

The 7000 Series offers end-to-end data center connectivity, consolidating IP, storage and interprocess communications networks onto a single Ethernet fabric. Also, the addition of a new 48-port GigE fiber line card to the Nexus family can support mixed Gigabit and 10 GigE environments, while Virtual Port Channels (VPC) also enable higher availability, large-scale virtual machine mobility and higher bandwidth.

Velaga added that the updated Nexus 7000 Series uses power supplies with up to 90 percent efficiency and fan modules in the chassis that adjust to changing thermal characteristics, meaning less power is wasted as heat and more power becomes available for the system to use.

NEXT: Two more Nexus switches and a Catalyst update

Along with the massive 7018, Cisco on Tuesday also unveiled the Nexus 5010. An addition to the Nexus 5000 series, the 28-port one rack unit 5010 supports 10 GigE, Cisco Data Center Ethernet (DCE), Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Fibre Channel. The Nexus 5010 can consolidate traffic from LANs, SANs and server clusters into one fabric and offers half the capacity of the Nexus 5020 box.

The 5000 series takes on data center consolidation and can help customers move to a unified fabric at their own pace. Through a unified fabric, companies can simplify cabling, reduce the number of required adapters, lower costs and ultimately reduce power consumption and their carbon footprints.

Last but not least, Cisco added the Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders to its roster. The Fabric Extenders give IT managers an edge when dealing with increasing server numbers and the massive demand of bandwidth for each server. The Nexus 2148T Fabric Extenders, when connected to dual Cisco Nexus 5030 Switches, can support up to 2,496 Gigabit Ethernet servers, boosting scalability of the access layer without creating more management points within the network.

The top-of-rack Fabric Extenders, combined with the Nexus 5000 Series, offers an access-layer strategy for Gigabit Ethernet and mixed Gigabit and 10 GigE server environments, Velaga said.

"It will connect to the Nexus and Catalyst switches," Velaga said, adding the "rack and roll" design enables users to deploy it. "It downloads software and is managed as an extension of the mother ship."

Along with rolling out new switches under the Nexus umbrella, Cisco has also enhanced the Catalyst 6500 switch line, its data center staple. The updates let 6,500 users use the switch as a virtualized service node with a Nexus core to secure and accelerate applications. Other Catalyst 6500 enhancements include an In-Service-Software-Upgrade and support for long-range integrated 10 GigE optics to reduce the time needed for planned network maintenance and to facilitate virtual machine mobility across data centers.

For the channel, partners can now go into conversations and say, "'Let me enable you on a virtualized and consolidated data center,'" Velaga said.

He added that, "Opportunities where partners take a holistic data center view vs. point products boost the value of the opportunity and the value to customers."

John Ross, vice president of solutions architecture for solution provider GreenPages, said new focus on applications is driving the charge to 10 GigE. For solution providers, Cisco's Nexus updates help fuel that conversation and enable VARs to offer customers a 10 GigE path.

"We've got to stop talking about plumbing and talk about applications," he said, adding that the Nexus series and 10 GigE ultimately add performance and functionality while cutting down the number of connections needed and moving applications closer to the host.

The story now, Ross said, is consolidation and server containment through virtualization, something that is top of mind for many customers. Ross said data center network switches give solution providers the opportunity to get customers up to snuff with 10 GigE while also giving them more bandwidth with a fraction of the number of ports. That, plus 10 GigE hitting a new lower price point, creates a value proposition and the ROI story is much easier to tell.

"The promise and cost of 10 Gig makes it a standard component now," he said. "It's a quick ROI with lower cooling costs, less complexity and greater performance."