Cisco Updates Data Center Networking Gear

New Nexus 3000 and 5548 switches debut as Cisco extends networking technologies including LISP and 802.1Qbh.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Mar 30, 2011
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Cisco is advancing its datacenter networking fabric with new hardware and software updates. Among the new products is a low-latency Nexus 3000 switch as well as a new Unified Computing System (UCS) model.

Cisco is also expanding its NX-OS operating system with new and emerging standards including LISP (Locator ID Separation Protocol ) and 802.1Qbh Bridge Port Extension standards.

"We're in a different point in our lifecycle than a lot of our competitors that only have a single rack switch and are still building out their vision," Omar Sultan, senior manager for datacenter architecture at Cisco told InternetNews.com. "We're actually at the point now where we're rolling out second generation platforms and we're starting to roll out platforms for very specific use-cases."

One of the those specific use cases is being addressed by the new Nexus 3000 switching platform. The Nexus 3000 is tailored for high frequency trading environments that require ultra-low latency.

Sultan explained that the Nexus 3000 achieves the low latency by having a simplified operating system without additional convergence features.

"If you're doing things like Fibre Channel where you need a lossless architecture, you need a different feature set," Sultan said. "If you don’t have to do those things, then you can take a different approach with a switch and that's what allows us to drop the latency even lower."

The new Nexus 5548 and 5596 switches are an evolution of the Nexus 5000, which first debuted in 2008. With the Nexus 5548 and 5596, Cisco is including unified ports to fully enable data center convergence. With unified ports, any port can be provisioned as either a 1 GbE, 10 GbE, Fibre Channel or Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) port. The Nexus 5596 provides 96 ports while the 5548 provide 48 ports.

The Nexus 5548 and 5596 also support the in-development 802.1Qbh Bridge Port Extension Standard. 802.1Qbh is an extension of Cisco's VN-Link technology for virtualization aware networking.

"We've gone and made the technology more open and more accessible to customers," Sultan said.

Sultan noted that Cisco's Nexus will also support the rival 802.1Qbg Edge Virtual Bridging standard which is being used by HP, Blade and other networking vendors. Both 802.1Qbg and 802.1Qbh help virtual machine traffic flow across a network with the correct port profile information.

Cisco is also expanding its support for LISP (Locator ID Separation Protocol) on the Nexus switches. Sultan noted that LISP is a new approach for network routing that decouples host IP identity from host location enabling global IP address portability.

While the Nexus represents Cisco's next generation switching platform, Cisco is also helping to bring its older Catalyst 6500 switches forward as well. The new ES40 module for the Catalyst 6500 provides 40 gigabit capabilities to the switching platform.

Cisco's UCS servers are also getting a boost with the new UCS C260 M2 rack mount server. The new UCS model will incorporate Intel's next generation Westmere EX chips.

Overall management of a converged network is being improved with the news Data Center Network Manager (DCNM), which can manage up to 150,000 ports.

"DCNM enables a single pane of glass view and lets you consolidate the view on your entire network infrastructure, including storage, virtualization and network elements," Sultan said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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