I stopped in at the Cisco's main San Jose campus a couple times in 2011 to get a demonstration of the Nexus 7000 family of chassis and NX-OS software that runs these behemoths. The hardware is impressive and the software is strategic in that it seeks to unify datacenter operations without dashing already deployed network resources.
With that said, Juniper, Brocade, HP and a small fleet of smaller players also unleashed networking fabrics in the last couple of years. As I wrote in May, Juniper's QFabric and a host hierarchy-flattening, latency-reducing offerings from Brocade, Arista and others made it clear that network managers have a lot to think about when designing the next generation of networks. At the beginning of the year Cisco had two shipping models, the Nexus 7010 and 7018. In August, the smaller Nexus 7009--a successor of sorts for the Catalyst 6509--model became available. The 14RU (rack unit), 24-inch deep 7009 is designed for smaller data centers. The unit can be mounted in a 2-post set up and uses side-to-side cooling air flow. The unit lists for around $20,000 and with supervisor and I/O cards comes out to about $44,000.
I saw all three models in Cisco's test labs. The Nexus 7009 can use Fabric 2 switch modules and deliver up to 550Gb per second in switching bandwidth per module, which is significantly more than the 230Gb per second that is supplied when using Fabric 1 modules.
The network chassis are impressive when it comes to capacity and the software sets the stage for strategic network design. In 2012 it will be interesting to see how the hardware and fabric offerings coming Cisco and its competitors will shake out in terms of real world implementation.