The products are designed to improve the efficiency and flexibility of customers' traditional and virtualized data center environments, Cisco says. Cisco refers to the strategy as its Unified Networking Services plan.
In addition to the new Nexus 5500 10G switch, Unified Networking Services includes a firewall integrated with Cisco's Nexus 1000v virtual switch; a virtual version of the Cisco WAN acceleration appliance that runs under VMware hypervisors on Cisco servers; extensions to the Nexus 2000 fabric extender line; a new 32-port 10G module for the Nexus 7000 switch; upgraded Nexus 1000v virtual switch software; and hardware and software extensions to the Catalyst 6500 switch to support higher density, greater scale and higher availability.
“All of these are necessary components of the evolution of the data center,” says Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala. “As more services become virtualized and mobilized, all of the appliances that sit around it get virtualized as well.”
Indeed, that's just what Cisco is doing with some of this announcement. First came the virtual switch with the Nexus 1000v in 2008; now all of the ancillary appliances around it — WAN accelerators, firewalls and so on — are being virtualized as software enhancements to that virtual switch.
10G Ethernet Nexus switch
But virtual switches still cannot do everything a physical switch can do… yet. So Cisco unveiled the Nexus 5500, which is designed to enable any-transport over Ethernet — Layer 2 and Layer 3, as well as storage traffic, including iSCSI, NAS, FibreChannel, RDMA over Ethernet and InfiniBand over Ethernet.
The Nexus 5500 also has a feature called Unified Ports that allows a user to configure 16 of the switch's 48 10G ports as either lossless Ethernet or FibreChannel. This is intended to allow those entrenched in FibreChannel to gradually move to FibreChannel-over-Ethernet for a converged Ethernet switching fabric in the data center.
Cisco says that within six months it will ship a 96-port version of the 5500 in which all ports are Unified Ports.
“Now the customer doesn't have to choose in advance whether they want to have FCoE, NAS, iSCSi or FibreChannel,” Kerravala says. “They can just buy the switch and move the ports over at whatever pace you want. It helps companies evolve vs. having to make a hard cutover.”
Virtual appliances from Cisco
Next on the data center docket are the virtual appliances for the Nexus 1000v virtual switch. The Cisco Virtual Security Gateway is a software-based firewall designed to secure virtualized data centers and multi-tenant cloud environments by filtering packets.
Virtual WAAS (vWAAS) is software designed to virtualize the Cisco WAAS WAN acceleration appliance. Running on VMware's ESX/ESXi hypervisor and the Cisco Unified Computing System servers, vWAAS is designed to accelerate application delivery from private and virtual private cloud infrastructures. It supports on-demand orchestration on a per-application basis using policy-based configuration in Nexus 1000v, Cisco says. It is also interoperable with physical WAAS appliances and router-integrated modules, the company says.
Cisco also extended its line of Nexus fabric extenders, devices designed to broaden the reach of Nexus 5000 and 7000 switch fabrics closer to the server rack for greater scalability. The fabric extenders support Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet and/or 10G Ethernet ports.
The 24-port Nexus 2224TP FEX extender is designed for customers with low server density per rack. The 48-port Nexus 2248TP FEX connects to the Nexus 7000 core switch, enabling large-scale server-to-switch connectivity. The FEX architecture supported by each extender enables them to be configured for both end-of-row and top-of-rack deployments.
Also for the Nexus 7000, Cisco unveiled a higher density 10G Ethernet XL module for the switch. XL modules are I/O modules that support IPv4 and IPv6 routing tables of up to 1 million entries with expanded capacity for access control lists and quality-of-service attributes. The new XL modules for the Nexus 7000 sport 32 10G Ethernet ports, four times the density of the previous 10G XL module for the switch.
Cisco Catalyst switch upgrades
For the venerable Catalyst 6500 — which many believe will be eventually succeeded by the Nexus 7000 line — Cisco unveiled a chassis designed to take the switch into the 2Tbps realm. The Catalyst 6513-E will support higher density and scalability, and all of the existing I/O modules for the 6500 line, including a new 16-port 10GBASE-T card for the switch.
New Catalyst 6500 software — release 12.2(33)SXI4 — supports a feature called VSS (Virtual Switching System) Quad-Sup Uplink Forwarding, which enables users to put four supervisors in the dual-chassis Catalyst 6500 Virtual Switching System to increase uplink bandwidth and improve network availability.
More software enhancements include an upgrade for the Nexus 1000v designed to enable scalable deployment of virtual networks services and QoS to virtual machines; and a new version of software for the Catalyst 4900 designed to improve data center resiliency and energy efficiency.
Cisco also expanded its professional services offerings to include planning, design, testing and validation of Nexus and WAAS deployments; and application and management migration, transition and integration with the Unified Computing System.