Cisco Systems at its Partner Summit on April 8 continued to flesh out its Data Center 3.0 vision by adding a second, fixed-configuration Nexus Series Layer 2 switch also aimed at consolidating multiple networking technologies in the data center.
Just over two months after the late January launch of Cisco’s modular Nexus 7000 Series chassis switch with the new NX-OS operating system, Cisco added a 40-port version aimed at consolidating LAN, Fibre Channel and iSCSI-based SANs onto a common Ethernet fabric.
“We’ve historically had two different networking technologies in the data center-three with Infiniband. The right answer is one. The Nexus 5000 lets us begin to think about Ethernet as the data center fabric enabling server I/O, SAN I/O and low-latency high performance LAN technology,” said Bryan Doerr, chief technology officer at service provider SAVVIS, which is beta testing the new Nexus Series 5000.
Unlike the internally developed Nexus 7000 Series, the new Nexus 5000 Series was developed by startup Nuova Systems, in which Cisco had an 80 percent ownership stake. Cisco also announced at the Partner Summit that it plans to acquire the remaining 20 percent of Nuova Systems it does not already own.
The Nexus 5000 is an access layer switch designed to aggregate servers using 10 Gigabit Ethernet. It can connect to existing Cisco Nexus 7000 or Catalyst 6500 LANs in the data center and connect to Fibre Channel SANs via the Cisco MDS 9000 SAN switch.
It adds to that new standards-based FCOE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet), Data Center Ethernet and support for virtualization technologies.
“It’s important this [FCOE] technology has come out of standardization. There will be a wide range of partners supporting it in the coming months,” said Soni Jiandani, vice president of marketing at Nuova.
The benefit to customers, Jiandani said, is that “a single wire can carry Ethernet and Fibre Channel from a server into the unified fabric, so there are fewer cables, adapters and access layers required. Customers can use existing 10 Gigabit Ethernet.”
Jiandani is one of four former high-level Cisco executives who founded Nuova Systems. Among the other Cisco alumni co-founders are CEO Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain and Luca Cafiero.
Cisco invested $70 million in Nuova Systems
The Nexus 5000 Series switch will provide an aggregate switching capacity of 1.12TB per second, compared to the Nexus 7000’s 15TB per second.
The Nexus 5000 offers the potential for a better fit for SAVVIS compared to the Nexus 7000, said Doerr. “We have been looking for good complement to our existing Cisco core (Catalyst 6500) Layer 2 switch in the data center. The Nexus 7000 has a different appeal for a different market. The 5000 because of its integration of management planes is a real advantage,” he said.
That advantage is in reducing the amount of knowledge and expertise required to configure and support different network interface technologies. FCOE as supported by the Nexus 5000 allows us to start reducing those by giving us one interface to the server, instead of Fibre Channel and Ethernet out of the server, now we have one interface that support Fibre Channel protocols and Ethernet network I/O protocols,” said Doerr.
Cisco had initially invested $70 million in Nuova Systems, but the full payout with the remaining 20 percent acquisition could climb to as much as $678 million over the next several years.
The amount will depend on the success of the product and be paid out over three payment periods. Nuova will operate as an independent subsidiary, with Mazzola, Jain and Cafiero reporting directly to Cisco CEO John Chambers. The acquisition is expected to close in Cisco’s fourth fiscal quarter of 2008.
Cisco’s strategy in helping to fund Nuova’s development follows a similar tack Cisco took in funding a startup that ultimately provided the company with a SAN switch, noted industry analyst Zeus Kerravala at the Yankee Group.
“They create spin off with former Cisco execs with no obligation, no risk. This was no surprise that they acquired the rest of Nuova. It’s a forgone conclusion they would acquire them. This product was destined to be a Cisco product from the moment they opened shop,” he said.
The Cisco Nexus 5000 Series is due in May and will start at $36,000.