Partners Applaud Cisco's Launch Of 'Incredible' New Line Of Nexus Switches, Software

Partners say Cisco has future-proofed its new line of Nexus switches, powered by its Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) innovation, allowing customers to transition from 10/40 Gbps to 25/100 Gbps at the same price with no rip-and-replace needed.

The switches, unveiled at Cisco Partner Summit 2016 on Tuesday, look to be "incredible," one partner exec said.

"It allows us to go back to our customers and be in a position to talk about scalability in terms of network speeds without needing to have a rip-and-replace conversation -- that's key," said Vinu Thomas, chief technology officer of Presidio, a New York-based top Cisco partner. "These newer switches are incredible, in the fact that they're able to help our customer transition from what has been traditionally 10/40-gig networks to almost a 100-gig network at the same price. … Cisco is thinking about future-proofing network infrastructure investments that customers make and [customers] want that."

[Related: Cisco's Switching, Data Center Businesses Feeling The Heat While Security Surges]

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The networking giant's new Nexus 9000 data center switches offers real-time visibility across the entire network, enhanced security through segmentation, intelligent buffering and future-proofing for the transition to hyper-converged infrastructure, according to Thomas Scheibe, senior director of product management of Cisco's ACI.

"They're the first products to have the new ASIC in them," said Scheibe. "We build into these switches the ability to have a convergence for storage and IP traffic as well as different types of storage traffic while at the same time optimizing the application performance going over that network."

The new 9000 switches can support over a million containers per rack and have the ability to scale up to 10 times in IP addresses and end points at cloud scale, according to the company.

The Nexus 9200 series and Nexus 9300EX switches are the industry's first native 25 Gbps-capable switches that deliver 25/50/100 Gbps speeds at the cost of 10/40 Gbps, according to Scheibe. The Nexus 9500 now offers an upgrade to high-density 100 Gbps infrastructure with the existing chassis and 36 ports of 100 Gbps in a single rack unit.

Cisco is also enhancing its NX-OS for the 9200, 9300 and 9500 series switches with innovations such as segment routing, DevOps automation, in-service software upgrade and microburst detection -- which gives customers traffic control, operational flexibility, visibility and security for the data center.

"It can support both ACI and NX-OS at the same time, and that was what our customers were asking for for a long time," said Scheibe.

In Cisco's most recent quarterly earnings report, the San Jose, Calif.-based network leader saw dips in both its switching business and data center sales. Partners say the new switches will help Cisco get back on a positive trajectory in the data center.

Anoj Willy, vice president of product development at Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based Cisco Gold partner, said the vendor is widening the gap between itself and other networking competitors with these new switches because of the combination of innovative software and hardware.

"There are few companies out there who married hardware and software together better than Cisco, … which is enabling them to [be] flexible on that price point. To say, 'Hey, I can give you something faster and it's going to be harder for you to get to those speeds [elsewhere], because now you're going to have to buy commodity boxes and figure out far more efficient software -- we have both the hardware and the software,' " said Willy. "So they have two levers to pull to say 'Hey, ... we can bring value in with price.' "

The networking giant also released a new Nexus Fabric Manager, which automates the complete fabric life cycle management with a simple point-and-click Web interface, according to Cisco. The fabric offers automated configuration snapshots and rollbacks, while it can also build and self-manage a VXLAN-based (Virtual Extensible LAN) fabric.

Scheibe said an IT manager can fully deploy a VXLAN-based fabric in just three steps, complete with zero-touch provisioning, and can upgrade all fabric switches to a new software release with only a few clicks.

"There's is an opportunity for channel partners to expand whatever practice they have today around monitoring, troubleshooting based on flow-based capabilities and switch infrastructure to actually make this a fabric-wide capability," said Scheibe.

Presidio's Thomas said the new Nexus 9000 switches are a "home run across the board."

"You're going to be in a position to have one common set of APIs, one common set of DevOps, and one common set of programmability across the entire fabric, which is very unique to Cisco," said Thomas. "[Customers] will never need a new switch to support what the old switch understands. … It's a phenomenal product play from Cisco in terms of being in a position to offer newer switches that essentially offer better, faster speed, and then being able to keep the ACI platform and all the programmability uniform across all the product lines."

Cisco also launched at Partner Summit on Tuesday new Nexus 3000 switches that deliver 25/50/100 Gbps on a merchant silicon-based platform. The Nexus 3000 comes in two flavors: the Broadcom Tomahawk and the Broadcom Trident 2+, both with ASIC.

Scheibe said Cisco is the "largest" white-box, bright box networking player in the market because of its Nexus 3000 lines of switches.

"I don't think customers are ready, or long-term ready, to follow a white-box model where they have to deal with the integration themselves," said Scheibe. "If you look at performance and price point with Nexus 3K, 9200, it's pretty hard to argue [against]."

Although pricing was not available for the switches, Scheibe said the Nexus 3000 and the Nexus 9200 are priced equivalent to each other. Additionally, software enhancements have been added to enable ACI support for Cisco Nexus 7000 switches to protect technology investments.

Scheibe said the new switching lines aren't relevant just for large cloud providers and large enterprise data centers, but also for commercial and enterprise accounts.

"It's going to be the whole range of commercial enterprises as well as the commercial accounts that have no data centers," he said. "We're expecting larges sales in the channel given those targets."

Cisco says there will be sales, design and field engineering training available to channel partners as well as deployment workshops around the new switches. Partners will not need any new certifications to support the new lines, according to Cisco.