Cisco Focusing More New Products on Multiprotocol Connectivity

Cisco has been focusing its attention on making switches, routers and servers in its UCS that can connect to enterprise data storage by virtually any means possible -- at the same time, if necessary. These protocols are standard Fibre Channel, FICON for mainframes, FCIP [long-distance replication for remote locations], NAS-iSCSI, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

Cisco Systems, which introduced the concept of the Unified Computing System back in March, offered more detail Sept. 29 about its strategy for selling the data center of the future. The company is now calling this initiative Data Center 3.0, and -- as one might imagine -- it has definite ideas about how these new data centers should be planned, constructed, stocked, operated and maintained.
The world's largest IT networking company is finding out that potential customers, many of whom already have various legacy systems containing big investments in various types of cabled and IP connectivity, aren't anxious to scrape away those investments just yet to replace them with entirely new hardware and software.
So, Cisco has been focusing its attention on making switches, routers and servers in its UCS that can connect to enterprise data storage by virtually any means possible -- at the same time, if necessary. These protocols are standard Fibre Channel, FICON for mainframes, FCIP (long-distance replication for remote locations), NAS-iSCSI, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet.
FCoE is generally considered the wave of the future but is still several years away from standard utilization.
Running this connectivity through servers, applications, networking and storage will be Cisco's own NX-OS operating system, using Nexus blade switches that connect all parts of the system in a unified fabric-type deployment. NX-OS also works as a single operating system for both LANs (local area networks) and SANs (storage area networks), making it a great deal simpler for admins to run.
Cisco is positioning the UCS networking core as a kind of Swiss Army knife for future data center development, because it claims to be able to connect previously unconnectible nodes and sections of enterprises IT systems.
"We see the MDS 9000 [the new multi-protocol fabric manager] as the 'storage expert' for the united fabric-type data center," Bob Nusbaum, vice president and general manager of the Data Center Switching Technology Group, told eWEEK. "It has 16 ports in a single line card and built for SAN infrastructure."
The MDS connectors work alongside the Nexus blade switches, the EMC and NetApp storage arrays and the UCS software supplied by BMC, VMware and Microsoft to comprise this futuristic new fabric that will run these next-generation data centers.
When it was unveiled last spring, the Cisco UCS was described as consisting of a new data center architecture, with new Cisco-branded blade servers and a new set of management software and services -- all powered by Intel's quad-core Nehalem Xeon processors. Cisco partners, such as BMC, EMC, NetApp, VMware, Microsoft and Accenture, were to supply all the non-Cisco components.
Cisco revealed the largest-yet deployment (a total of 16 UCS systems combined into one) of this new data center at the VMworld 2009 conference in San Francisco several weeks ago.
"Even with the rise of the UCS, we still expect [conventional] SANs to continue to grow," Rajiv Ramaswami, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Data Center Switching Technology Group, told eWEEK. "So our data center products provide for that as needed. This is not going to be a quick changeover [within the industry as a whole], by any means.
"But customers who currently have SANs and are looking to move to the UCS approach will be able to start small if they choose, buy parts of the system incrementally, add to storage as needed, and grow as their business grows. It's all going to fit together going forward. Flexibility is the key."
The new Nexus 7000 blade switch can manage up to 15TB of storage; the 4000 will handle up to 220TB. They utilize 10GB-per-second data speeds and can handle the four most important data center duties: Ethernet access, high-performance (high-transactional) computing applications, unified fabrics and virtual server environments.
"It's really a super switch," Ramaswami said.
In development at Cisco, according to Ramaswami:

  • 16 GBps Fibre Channel for MDS Fabric Manager
  • Intelligent services for multiprotocol storage networks
  • Extension of the company's fabric and blade switch portfolio
  • 8GB Fibre Channel expansion module for the Nexus 5000

Finally, Ramaswami said he wanted to put to rest rumors that Cisco is abandoning its investment in Fibre Channel development in favor of FCoE.
"While we believe that the future of data center connectivity is indeed FCoE, a great many of our customers are invested in Fibre Channel, and we will continue to support that protocol for a long time to come," Ramaswami said.
The new data center components are available now. For more information, go here.
Cisco announces new developer program
The San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant also announced Sept. 29 that it is launching a new program for developers that provides an easier route to market through Cisco's channel partners.
The community-based Cisco Developer Network (CDN) program works with developers by providing them with more open access to Cisco technologies and expanded and enhanced resources to support their development and business cycles, Cisco said.
This is a strategic shift for Cisco. The integration of the developer community with Cisco Industry Solutions Partner Network (ISPN) enables channel partners to identify pre-qualified applications created by CDN members that make it easier to address their customers' business requirements.
Channel partners who collaborate with qualified CDN members with pre-qualified applications and who register their business solutions with Cisco are eligible for Solution Incentive Program (ISP) discounts, the highest partner incentive, Cisco said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...