Cisco Unites Multiple Data Centers With Virtualization

The technologies include new ways to extend virtual environments across remote data centers in order to improve the dynamic allocation of resources, as well as technology to better take advantage of 10-Gbit Ethernet to improve IT performance.

The company's goal is to simplify data centers and offer customers better data center management choices, said Craig Griffin, director of product management for Cisco's Nexus 7000 product line.

"We're making it easier for customers to work across the network through virtualization," Griffin said.

The first of those new technologies is Overlay Transport Virtualization, or OTV, which makes it easier to dynamically allocate resources across multiple data centers using VMware's virtualization technology, Griffin said.

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With OTV, customers can connect data centers together with a few mouse clicks in as little as five minutes across their existing WAN to enable Ethernet LAN traffic to work across those data centers, Griffin said.

While OTV will eventually work with different types of networks, its initial implementation will be to extend LAN traffic across multiple data centers. This will make it easier to provide disaster recovery to remote sites, as well as extend VMware virtualization environments across multiple sites using such functions as VMotion, which allows virtual servers to migrate between physical hosts, Griffin said.

"Today, with VMotion, customers can move virtual servers from one host server on the LAN to another on the same LAN," he said. "With OTV, customers can do VMotion between data centers."

OTV will also help customers with Microsoft Exchange or with clustered applications, Griffin said. "They will be able to pool resources across data centers to take advantage of available resources wherever they are," he said.

OTV utilizes existing data center connectivity, including dark fiber, which enables solution providers to help existing customers easily take advantage of the technology, Griffin said.

OTV is slated to be available as a software upgrade to Cisco's Nexus 7000 switches in April.

Cisco on Monday also unveiled a plug-in for its ACE (Application Control Engine) to VMware's vCenter virtualization management dashboard.

The plug-in makes it possible for customers to provision ACE virtual load-balancing images with vCenter, as well as to activate and suspend ACE instances through vCenter, said Craig Huitema, director of data center solutions at Cisco.

Also new from Cisco are its Catalyst 10GBASE-T modules, which are devices that plug into its Catalyst data center switches to make them compatible with 10GBASE-T. 10GBASE-T is a protocol that allows 10-Gbit Ethernet to operate over copper cables instead of the more expensive optical fiber cables currently used.

The adoption of 10GBASE-T lays the groundwork for an expansion in data center performance, Huitema said.

"Over the next few quarters, Intel will start embedding 10GBASE-T in its motherboards and servers," he said. "This will leverage customers' existing Gbit Ethernet cabling."

A 16-port 10GBASE-T module for the Catalyst 6500 switch will list for about $22,500, while an 8-port module for the Catalyst 4900 will list for about $3,500, Huitema said. Both are slated to be released in May. Modules for Cisco's Nexus switches are expected to be available in the second half of 2010, he said.

Cisco also introduced new I/O modules for its Nexus 7000 switches that allow "pay-as-you-grow scalability to up to 1 million router entities.

Also new are enhancements to Cisco's Wide Area Applications Services (WAAS) that let it recognize and optimize for cloud-based and SaaS applications.