Cisco upgrades data center portfolio

Cisco launched an overhaul of its data center portfolio including switches, servers and storage networking protocols and data center management software.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Cisco on Wednesday launched an overhaul of its data center portfolio including switches, servers and storage networking protocols and data center management software.

These various parts add up to Cisco's fabric vision for data centers where the network, computing power, policies and management are all blended together to rapidly scale. Cisco is aiming for data centers that can be used inside a private cloud computing system or to offer services.

Many technology vendors---HP, Juniper, IBM and others---are talking data center architecture. Cisco's approach starts with the network and delves into servers. Cisco's Omar Sultan, senior manager for data center architecture, said the company's strategy revolves around a fabric that's standards based and flexible. "One size fits all doesn't work in the data center," said Sultan.

For Cisco, this mass rollout indicates that the company's play for the data center has moved beyond the PowerPoint stage. In 2009, Cisco launched its big play for the data center with its Unified Computing System. That set off a chain reaction in the industry that turned Cisco from partner to foe in some camps. For instance, Hewlett-Packard bought 3Com and went after Cisco's networking business with some success.

In any case, Cisco is to the point where it is garnering interest among data center architects and has a bevy of reference customers such as Terremark, which was bought by Verizon, and Coca Cola.

With that backdrop, Cisco bolstered its data center lineup with the following gears and technologies. Prices range from $40,000 to $95,000 for high-end switches available in June:

  • Switches: The Cisco Nexus 5548UP and Nexus 5596UP switches accommodate 48 and 96 ports as well as 1GB and 10GB Ethernet, fibre channel and fibre channel over Ethernet. The switches also support 802.1Qbh, a standard that Cisco has proposed.
  • A ultra low latency switch: The Nexus 3000, which is designed for high-frequency trading and other specialized uses.

  • Fabric extender technology (FEX): FEX technology is used to connect switches to Cisco's servers. This technology is supposed to cut cabling time. FEX technology is being used for bandwidth segmentation, virtualization and networking.
  • Multi-hop fibre channel over Ethernet: This technology aims to link server and storage gear with Nexus 7000 switches and the MDS 9500 storage switching platform.

In addition, Cisco has enhanced its portfolio across the board and now provides nine form factors for its UCS system. A new Data Center Network Manager dashboard, available in the second quarter, is designed to manage cloud infrastructures.

A switch dubbed C260 M2 is designed for big data implementations, notably Hadoop.

The financial impact of these Cisco switches may be notable. Cisco has seen its profit margins fall amid competition from the likes of Juniper, HP and the company's older gear.

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