First, it was servers connecting PCs to create the Internet. Then servers began being clustered and corralled to enable application-service providers, grid systems and clouds to connect with personal devices.
Now, clouds themselves are interacting with each other. Having seen this progression coming for a long time, networking giant Cisco Systems on Feb. 5 introduced several new high-speed, cloud-to-cloud-capable network fabric devices designed to handle all that heavy-duty traffic in hybrid clouds.
This is all about hybrid clouds and software-defined networking, where much more of the intelligence in the system is housed in the networking software and hardware, rather than in servers and storage controllers.
Software-Defined Networks, Hybrid Clouds
These new Cisco products include a high-density, 40G-bit Layer 2/3 fixed switch; new hybrid cloud management software; and new scale-out capabilities for the Cisco Open Network Environment platform, thanks to a new extensible controller.
Specifically, this wave of data center hardware and software includes a handful of 40G-bit Nexus 6000 Series switches, Cisco Nexus 1000V InterCloud management software for connecting private enterprise and service-provider clouds, and a network-programmable controller as part of the expanded Cisco ONE portfolio.
"These are primarily aimed at hybrid cloud deployments [because these are where most of the expansion currently is], but we also see these being used across to private clouds and to provider public clouds," David Yen, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Data Center Group, told eWEEK.
"This allows the customer to maximize their productivity—not only from these resources they own, but from new resources they could bring.
Unified Data Center Strategy
The new product set is part of Cisco's Unified Data Center strategy, which it introduced along with the Unified Computing System back in March 2009. Along with partners EMC (storage), NetApp (storage), VMware (virtualization software), BMC, Microsoft, Intel and several others, Cisco came up with its own mostly preconfigured data center system for compute, storage and networking that it has been selling well in the last four years.
Cisco's unified data center strategy features open networking, programmability and software-defined networking for all places in the network—including data center, campus, cloud and service- provider deployments.
Key new products in Cisco's latest release include the following:
Nexus 6000 Series: This is the industry's first 96-port, line-rate 40G-bit fixed-form-factor switch with Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and 1-microsecond latency across all ports. It interconnects via service modules with several other Cisco switches, such as the Nexus 7000 Series; it also has 40G-bit uplink extensions to its Nexus 5000 and 2000 product lines. It also runs Cisco's NX-OS with an integrated layer 2 and 3 feature set.
The two new Nexus 6000 models are the Nexus 6004, a high-density switch with up to 96 ports of line-rate 40GE (384 ports of line-rate 10GE) in a compact 4 RU (rack unit) form factor; and the Nexus 6001, which offers line-rate 48 ports of GE/10GE fixed ports with 4 ports of 40GE (or 16 ports of 10GE) uplinks in 1 RU form factor.
Nexus 7000 Series Network Analysis Module: This is Cisco's new frontline data center blade switch. The NAM brings application awareness and performance analytics to the Cisco Nexus 7000.
Nexus 1000V InterCloud: This orchestrates control of hybrid clouds by extending corporate enterprise environments into the provider cloud. The Nexus 1000V InterCloud preserves existing networking capabilities and L4-7 services while bringing improved manageability of the enterprise into the provider cloud. The solution offers a choice of provider clouds and operates in a hypervisor-agnostic manner.
Virtual Network Management Center InterCloud: This offers new capabilities, including a single policy point for network services across both enterprise and provider domains; the ability to manage virtual machine lifecycle across multiple hypervisors in an enterprise cloud; and the ability to manage multiple provider clouds via APIs.
Cisco ONE Software Controller: This manages a highly available, scalable and extensible architecture. Cisco positions it as "the industry's first multiprotocol interface with One Platform Kit (onePK) and Openflow." In addition, the ONE Controller will interact with Cisco networking applications, such as Custom Forwarding and Network Tapping.
Other new products and services include expanded platform support for Cisco's onePK developer environment with Nexus 3000, Nexus 7000 and ASR 9000; new packages for overlay networks, including Nexus 1000V support for VXLAN Gateway; Nexus 1000V support for Hyper-V and integration with Microsoft System Center VM Manager; a virtual Network Analysis Module (vNAM) for network analysis and monitoring of virtualized and cloud workloads; and expanded platform support for OpenFlow with Nexus 3000, Nexus 7000, ASR 9000 and Catalyst 6500.
These new products will be available by the second quarter, Yen said.