Cisco Refreshes Data Center Hardware, Software Lineup

Cisco refreshes much of its data center hardware and software lineup led by a new server and a revamped operating system. Cisco also introduced several new storage switches and something it's calling a "fabric extender."

Cisco Systems has been making a large deal about converged data center hardware infrastructures for more than two years with its Unified Computing System, as increased functionality gets wedged into smaller components and servers and routers-and as Cisco got into the server business.

Now the world's biggest IT networking company and newbie data center systems maker is using the convergence headline to explain its 2011 data center software strategy, which becomes physical in the company's Data Center Business Advantage portfolio.

Cisco on March 30 launched a flotilla of new hardware products, including an application/networking server, several storage switches, something called a "fabric extender," management tools and a data center management appliance-data center items that refresh a good deal of Cisco's product lineup.

That's not all. Cisco also updated its data center operating system, Cisco NX-OS, to run all these new machines.

In fact, the list of new items is so long and detailed that it would be fallacious to try to describe them all here. Thus, we'll do something we don't often do here at eWEEK: refer you to the Cisco product announcement for all the details.

The most important new items are the new server, switches and the operating system.

The new Unified Computing System C260 M2 Rack-Mount Server crams even more computing, networking, storage access and virtualization resources into a single box for the rack, Data Center Product Marketing Manager Omar Sultan told eWEEK. This is the box that will run the Cisco OS and contain all the network and storage management tools, among other things.

Cisco also announced that it is now offering end-to-end "fabric-type" connectivity from server to storage with new director-class, "multihop" Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) in its larger-scale Nexus 7000 and MDS 9500 storage-area network switches. This is already available in its Nexus 5000 switch.

What Is 'Multihop'?

In the Fibre Channel world, a "hop" is what happens when data moves from switch to switch and the domain IDs change (each switch has its own IP domain). Thus, the new Cisco switches can handle many "hops" as needed to get the data from where it is to where it is supposed to go within the fabric.

The idea of a data center "fabric" can be viewed in a few ways. Most IT people see this as similar to the physical image the word presents: a pliable yet connected structure that can sort of wrap around pools of enterprise data to protect them as they go through the processes they need to endure.
It also can mean that parts of a data center are able to spin up and slow down as workload fluctuates to maintain the best and most economical use of energy for power and cooling.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...