Cisco Upgrades Catalyst, Nexus Switches for 40, 100 Gigabit Ethernet Support

Cisco is upgrading key switches to enable them to better handle the demand for faster networks brought on by such trends as cloud, BYOD and video.

Cisco Systems is bringing 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet capabilities to two key switch lines, offering data center administrators a path to faster network speeds as traffic ramps up and more workloads get moved into the cloud.

At the Cisco Live event in London Feb. 1, Cisco officials announced they are adding 40 Gigabit Ethernet support to the Catalyst 6500 switches, and 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet capabilities to the Nexus 7000 switch family. The moves come as data centers find themselves in the middle of a rapidly changing landscape that is being remolded by cloud computing, the rise of video, mobility and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) push in the enterprise, and the move to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

"Across the data center landscape, we are seeing a series of megatrends," Shashi Kiran, director of marketing for Cisco's Data Center Solutions group, said in an interview with eWEEK, also noting the push for greater energy efficiency.

The enhanced speed support was the key part of a larger rollout of switching news Cisco is making out of Cisco Live. The networking giant also is unveiling the last addition to its Nexus 3000 switch line, greater scalability in its Nexus 1000V, and new network virtualization and management capabilities.

The news also comes after Cisco officials spent the past year refocusing their efforts on the company's core businesses, including the switching business, which has been under attack for several years from a growing cadre of competitors, including Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks and Huawei.

The growing support for 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet will help keep Cisco ahead of those competitors, Kiran said. Already data centers are making the move from 1 to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Market research firm The Dell'Oro Group reported in November 2011 that 10 Gigabit Ethernet controller and adapter port shipments for servers grew 47 percent in the third quarter over the same period in 2010. In addition, analysts from Crehan Research have said there are about 25 million ports for 10 Gigabit Ethernet data center and server-class ports installed worldwide, compared with 170 million ports for 1 Gigabit Ethernet. They expect that 10 Gigabit Ethernet will increase to 37 percent of Ethernet port shipments in 2012.

Cisco owns about 73 percent of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch market, Kiran said. The demand for even faster switches will grow as such data-intensive workloads, including cloud, desktop virtualization and big data, take even greater hold in the data center. The switches will be important for clearing up bandwidth bottlenecks, Kiran said.

He said Cisco's Nexus 7000 M2-Series two-port 100 Gigabit Ethernet module will offer up to 32 ports for the Nexus 7000. The Nexus 7000 M2-Series six-port 40 Gigabit Ethernet module will offer 96 ports.

The Catalyst 6500 Series 40 Gigabit Ethernet Interface Module will give data center administrators greater flexibility as they look to deal with the changes in their environments. Each of the module's slots can be converted to four ports of 10 Gigabit Ethernet with a FourX adapter, enabling businesses to deal with 10 Gigabit Ethernet demands now and be ready for 40 Gigabit Ethernet in the future.

And that future is coming, Kiran said. For now, primarily early adopters will embrace 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet, but both will become mainstream over time.

Other enhancements to the Catalyst portfolio include higher bandwidth and port density support in the Catalyst 6500 E Series chassis, and the introduction of the Catalyst 4500-X fixed aggregation switch, for campus networks that might have limited space.

Cisco also introduced the Nexus 3064-X switch, which is aimed at environments that demand low latency, such as financial services. It can support 1, 10 and 40 Gigabit Ethernet, Kiran said. In addition, the Nexus 1000V now supports Cisco's Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) technology, which will allow for greater scaling in the number of LAN segments created over cloud networks. The Nexus 1000V will scale to more than 10,000 ports in the future, and the Nexus 1010-X Virtual Services Appliance will be a dedicated hardware platform for virtualized services.

The networking vendor also is offering the Easy Virtual Network to make network virtualization easier on the Catalyst 6500 and 450 and the ASR1000 platforms. New features in the NX-OS software will bring greater flexibility to the Nexus offerings, including PowerOn Auto-Provisioning and Pytheon scripting. Cisco's Data Center Network Manager management software can now be hosted as a virtual service blade on the Nexus 1010 appliance.