Cisco Makes Ethernet, Fibre Channel Play Nice

On the heels of Brocade’s new data center switching platform, Cisco has unveiled its own effort to unite Ethernet and storage traffic.

The Nexus 7000 will replace Cisco’s 20 year-old Catalyst switching platform, offering massive scalability, a new operating system, a new management interface and the first inclusion of Cisco’s Trusted Security (TrustSec) architecture. At the top end, one Nexus 7000 chassis can support up to 512 10-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) Ethernet connections.

“People have been waiting for this platform for a while — it’s the center of our Data Center 3.0 architecture,” said Bill Lulofs, a data center marketing manager at Cisco. “We’ve spent a lot of money in research and development over the last few years, with 1,500 patents around the technologies associated with it. Nexus is a new name for a new family of unified fabric and unified I/O in the data center.”

The Nexus 7000 is powered by the new Cisco NX-OS operating system, which includes elements of Cisco’s IOS and SAN-OS operating systems. IOS currently is Cisco’s core operating system for switches and routers, while SAN-OS is used in Cisco’s SAN switching portfolio.

With NX-OS in the Nexus 7000, Cisco plans on building out unified fabric architecture for delivery of all types of traffic, including traditional Ethernet as well as Fibre Channel storage traffic.

Lulofs said the Nexus 7000 will support the emerging Fibre Channel Over Ethernet (FCoE) standard moving forward. FCoE is not yet finalized, but Lulofs said he expect the first FCoE deployments to come next year. The platform will also support NAS.

Not just about scale and unified fabric, the Nexus 7000 also offers improved performance too. Among the key enhancements is a feature called “stateful process restart,” which allows the Nexus 7000 to automatically route around outages, whether intentional or accidental.

In addition, Cisco has chosen the Nexus 7000 to be the first device within its portfolio to fully support the new TrustSec security initiative. With TrustSec, a network can manage policy and identity across both applications and the network itself. The Nexus 7000 will also support network access control (NAC).

While the Nexus 7000 is an Ethernet-focused platform, Lulofs noted that Cisco still has demand for InfiniBand for ultra-low latency requirements from customers.

That said, for many, Ethernet is the fabric that Cisco is choosing as the unifying fabric for the Nexus.

“As we go forward, we think that Ethernet in the core for I/O and transport flexibility, and I/O consolidation makes this unified fabric platform the right spot to put it in,” Lulofs said.

Cisco is pricing the Nexus 7000 series at around $75,000 to start, with general availability expected later this year.

Article courtesy of

Sean Michael Kerner
Sean Michael Kerner
Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.
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