Cisco Advances Unified Fabric, Compute With New Data Center Strategy

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Cisco has shed its Data Center 3.0 strategy in favor of a new architectural framework called Data Center Business Advantage as the company continues to grow its vision for unified fabrics and the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).

The technological underpinnings of the Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) Data Center Business Advantage are essentially the same as those found under the Data Center 3.0 strategy, but with some enhancements to its unified computing and unified fabric products as well as a new set of Unified Network Services.

On the unified fabric front, Cisco today unveiled the newest member of its Nexus 5500 Series of converged network switches, the Nexus 5548

The 1U-high, 10Gbps 48-port 5548 switch brings double the port density over previous generation 1U models for up to 960Gbps throughput and offers 32, 1/10Gbps fixed SFP+ unified Ethernet/FCoE ports and one expansion slot.

The most notable enhancement Cisco has rolled out for the Nexus family is Unified Port technology, which, according to Kash Shaikh, senior manager of market management for Cisco’s Data Center Solutions unit, takes the guess work out of network design by allowing switch ports to be dynamically allocated as lossless Ethernet or Fibre Channel.

Positioned as a single, high density and performance platform for the consolidation of LANs and storage, the Nexus 5548 with unified ports supports any transport over an Ethernet-based fabric, including Layer 2, Layer 3, and storage traffic (iSCSI, NAS, FC, RoE, and IBoE).

The switch also supports Cisco’s FabricPath technology for improved scalability.

A recently released feature for the Nexus’ NX-OS operating system, FabricPath is Cisco’s implementation of the emerging Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) standard. Cisco claims FabricPath offers greater scalability and bandwidth than the spanning tree protocol it is designed to replace, making it ideal for large-scale virtualization and cloud computing deployments.

Though unified ports will only be supported initially on expansion modules for the Nexus 5548, Shaikh said a Nexus model with fixed port support will ship in the near future.

Beyond the new Nexus switch, Cisco has added a slew of products to its arsenal, including a compact blade for the UCS and a set of Unified Network Services delivered in both physical and virtual form factors.

The products that fall under Cisco’s Unified Network Services offerings have been built to simplify management, provisioning and workload portability across network, compute and cloud environments, according to Omar Sultan, a marketing manager with Cisco’s Data Center Solutions group, and are critical pieces of the Cisco Data Center Business Advantage strategy.

“We are moving beyond the technology and talking about how customers can link IT to specific business results like better profitability and better business models,” Sultan said.

The first piece of the Unified Network Services offering is the Cisco Virtual Security Gateway (VSG) – a virtual appliance designed to provide security policies at the virtual machine (VM) level within and across VLANS and shared compute infrastructures in the data center. The VSG is implemented as software on the Nexus 1000V to provide policy-based controls and activity monitoring based on VM context.

The second Unified Network Services product is a virtual version of the Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) WAN optimization appliance. The virtual Wide Area Application Services (vWAAS) is a virtual appliance that runs on the VMware ESX/ESXi hypervisor and Cisco UCS or other x86 based servers and accelerates network traffic over distances.

Rounding out the product blitz, Cisco debuted the UCS B230 M1 Blade Server, which delivers increased memory (32 DIMM slots for up to 512GB), performance (two Intel Xeon 7500 or 6500 Nehalem EX processors) and density (dual port converged I/O adapter for 20Gbps throughput) in a compact, half-width blade server.

The new UCS blade also features two optional solid state disk (SSD) slots and is aimed at UCS customers with transaction-intensive database workloads, server virtualization and desktop virtualization applications, according to Paul Durzan, director of hardware platform marketing at Cisco.

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Kevin Komiega
Kevin Komiega
Kevin Komiega is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor.

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