Monday, January 28, 2008

Cisco - Data Center Infrastructure Transformation

If you work in a data center or follow the industry, you certainly can not avoid Cisco. Even if you somehow managed to avoid Cisco gear in your network there is a good chance you use something that they have since acquired. In 2007 they had 11 acquisitions, including the big one -- Webex . Cisco has engineered some amazing products, bought the rest and orchestrated a $146 Billion company. The San Jose Mercury News has a nice article on how the company has reinvented itself and other information on the collaboration strategies they are rolling out.

Fundamental to the data center space was the July 2007 announcement about "Data Center 3.0" (I then declared Data Center 3.5 ) Cisco's Data Center 3.0 strategy is a collection of products to manage network and other data center assets. There was the Vframe , the DC Assurance Program , and numerous acquisitions, including Securent . In this month alone they have demonstrated Visual Networking at CES , extended their Application Network Services portfolio , and made an investment in (market leader in femtocell technologies) . On top of all this, CEO John Chambers was on the panel for the World Economic Forum a little while back titled Corporate Global Citizenship in the 21st Century (YouTube link ). Hey John -- I can't even fathom your schedule, but how about a blog like Jonathan Schwartz does from you?

DC 3.0 is about enhancing business resiliency and agility(remember--the keyword/buzword from the Garnter conference? ) Now there is the Infrastructure Transformation stage of their Data Center 3.0 strategy. The DC Networks blog (Douglas Gourlay) hinted at this several weeks back . Today Cisco releases the details on the infrastructure transformation stage, and exeution of the DC 3.0 strategy. The 4 cornerstones of this announcement are:

  1. Unified Fabric - convergence to a single network (Storage,Ethernet,IP and HPC traffic)
  2. A new switching platform, Cisco Nexus - Multi-terabit platform for the most stringent availability needs.
  3. NX-OS - multi-protocol, Data Center-class operating system.
  4. DC Network Manager - end-to-end systems visibility.

The new Data Center-class switch - the Cisco Nexus 7000 series is a powerhouse that delivers a number of things: first, it is a zero service disruption design; second, it is capable of handling 40GbE/100GbE; and third, it has a 15 Terabit switching capacity. Cisco usually touts 'investment protection' in their switch line and I have to imagine that the 6500 series switches will have 40GbE and 100GbE cards in the future. The Nexus 7000 delivers investment protection through fabric modules (46Gps per slot) that support GbE, 10GbE, 40GbE and 100GbE modules. Another impressive feature is "integrated lights-out management". This means there is a separate network in place for applying changes, so as you remotely connect and make changes to a switch you don't have to worry about applying changes and being in the dark because you have restarted the network you were connected on. In a nutshell - it's their latest revision in the switch line that delivers support for the future, transport flexibility and efficient physical and power design.

The new Nexus 7000 series I/O modules are either a 32 port 10GbE card or a 48 port 10/100/1000 card. One of the cool new features of these cards is Cisco TrustSec. TrustSec was announced on December 5, 2007 and was promised to be available across the switching platform. It will be interesting to see the first labs run the 7000 series through testing to see what, if any overhead there is on the TrustSec product. The claim is that it is "wire-rate encryption" on a hop by hop basis.

Nexus (NX-OS) represents a new operating system to converge ethernet and SAN network protocols. This convergence and a zero service disruption design are its most impressive features. With NX-OS planned outages cause pre-emptive reconvergence around the device in a maintenance window. Think of it at as proactive, real-time ITIL Change Management. Pardon the marketing terms, but.... it provides a "virtualized control plane and scalable design", and it "sets a new standard for usability".

Other details being released today include:
  • Data Center Network Manager - Complete infrastructure visibility and ease of configuration, troubleshooting and management.
  • Catalyst 4900M Switch - high density uplinks, GbE and 10GbE Host and NAS
  • Catalyst Blade Switch 3100 - coming in May 2008

Cisco will hold a Webcast today to discuss the changes and continued execution of the DC 3.0 strategy.

As a side note I started poking around in Second Life again recently....Cisco has a pretty cool plot inside of Second Life. They have a wealth of information about the company and products, as well as hold events regularly about various things . Their efforts here, the Telepresence offering and John Chambers saying "collaboration" every tenth word means that there are exciting times for this branch of Cisco coming. IDC thinks pretty highly of the collaboration group at Cisco as well:
"IDC predicts that Cisco (CSCO) will take the platform that they acquired with Webex, beyond just Web conferencing and other "collaboration" applications, to become an online platform for a wide range of business applications and services. "
Cisco holds their Q2 Financial results conference call in a little over a week.

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