Cisco FabricPath; Office for Mac

By eWEEK Labs  |  Posted 2010-11-30 Print this article Print

Cisco FabricPath

In 2010 Cisco turned on yet another new feature in the Nexus 7000 platform that basically eliminates the ancient and universally deployed spanning tree protocol from network designs, thus enabling much larger Layer 2 networking domains within the data center. The FabricPath Switching System is the foundation of a push by Cisco to combine NX-OS software features with the hardware capabilities of the Nexus 7000 F1 series module to build the next generation of high-performance network systems.

Make no mistake, unlike incremental feature changes Cisco previously released for the Nexus 7000 platform including OTV (Overlay Transport Virtualization), FabricPath is a much bigger jump up in terms of bandwidth, network performance and virtualization feature support. At the same time, Cisco went out of its way to ensure that FabricPath-enabled Nexus devices and software features wouldn't interfere with existing network implementations. Thus, while FabricPath is a radical departure from network designs built around the spanning tree protocol, it should be on the "evaluate now" track for large data center managers.

When used together, FabricPath-enabled modules will benefit organizations that want to implement workload mobility such as VMware vMotion in a much larger resource pool, while also gaining significant bandwidth and N+1 redundancy and fast network convergence after a link failure.

I did not test this particular feature but saw it play out in Cisco-related reviews that I wrote in 2010. During prerelease conversations with Cisco engineers that included a demonstration of the first-generation release, I noticed the performance numbers were pretty astounding. FabricPath-enabled modules use active-active links between devices-losing the line blocking that spanning tree required-and instead use ECMP (equal-cost multipath) to direct traffic.

Taking on the legacy limitations of spanning tree earned FabricPath a place among the best products of 2010.

-Cameron Sturdevant

Microsoft Office for Mac

Microsoft Office for Mac took a wrong turn with the 2008 release. I remember looking at that version of MacOffice and deciding that I was going to live without it. I don't regret my choice, and my inner 3-year-old's temper tantrum was rewarded this year, when the company released Office for Mac 2011, with a Mac version of Outlook and the return of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) support to Apple desktops and notebooks.

The core applications of the suite-Excel, PowerPoint and Word-are almost completely gotcha-free when it comes to sharing files with colleagues who use Office for Windows, and are such solid tools at this stage of their maturity that Microsoft will have to do something pretty spectacular in the next release. Outlook still needs some work in areas such as mailbox import and export, but it's a vast improvement on the Entourage mail client from preceding releases of Office for Mac.

Although Office for Mac is supposed to take its feature cues from the Windows release, Office 2011 went beyond that boundary to take advantage of some of the Mac platform's 3D visualization tools and media support functions. Perhaps the most notable of these are the 3D layer views of PowerPoint slides and Word documents, but the developers on Microsoft's Mac team outdid themselves in a number of areas by understanding the Mac interface and leveraging it rather than imposing their will upon it.

-P. J. Connolly


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