Cisco's InfiniBand Primed For The Grid

The networking giant has digested and reinvigorated switches and virtualization software from its Topspin purchase.

By Clint Boulton | Posted Sep 28, 2005
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Thanks to its purchase of Topspin earlier this year, Cisco Systems is now selling gear that will help customers power their utility or on-demand computing systems.

The San Jose, Calif., networking giant has integrated and updated the former Topspin's InfiniBand-based Server Fabric Switch (SFS) portfolio and new VFrame 3.0 virtualization software to lure customers to its data center computing portfolio.

The SFS portfolio, which includes server switches host channel adapters, leverages InfiniBand (define)technology to transfer data from computing server to server on a grid, said Stu Aaron, a Cisco vice president.

Customers can expand the scope of their computing control using the SFS line's new Ethernet and Fibre Channel gateway technology, which connects server grids with local area network (LAN) and storage area network (SAN) resources, via Cisco Catalyst switches or Cisco MDS 9000 storage networking switches.

Provisioning compute resources across all of those appliances requires software equal to the task. Cisco is offering VFrame to deploy, virtualize and manage services on switching, data network, load balancing, and security products.

VFrame affixes policies to different areas of the network, giving Cisco customers and partners one console from which to provision data center gear. The software supports Windows and Linux applications.

Cisco's goal is to help customers use their computing resources better, provision tasks faster and nip downtime in the bud, Aaron said. These characteristics are the hallmarks of utility computing, where IT administrators control how much computing power they draw.

"This gives Cisco a strong entry intro the utility computing space that was previously only perceived to be the domain of the server vendors," said Aaron, who joined Cisco in the Topspin deal.

Aaron was referring to vendors like Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and other manufacturers who are looking for as big a piece of the multi-billion-dollar pie for modern computing provisions. But while those giants are clashing for market share, Aaron said Cisco's acquired technology will help round out portfolios from systems vendors.

Moreover, Aaron said software like VFrame complements virtualization products from VMware, sitting below the operating system while VMware's applications operate above the OS. VMware would provision an application OS image to a virtual machine; VFrame would deliver all of the security, I/O, storage, etc. required to deliver the application services.

Cisco's endorsement of the Topsin's technology could help move InfiniBand, a promising technology often overshadowed by faster Gigabit Ethernet, further into the mainstream, according to IDC analyst Vernon Turner.

"Combining InfiniBand with the virtualization capabilities of VFrame, Cisco has essentially delivered an open utility computing infrastructure that allows customers to get the benefits of on-demand computing with their individual server and storage platforms of choice."

This year has seen Cisco on its biggest acquisition spree since the heady dot-com days of 1999-2000.

Seeking to cultivate new revenue streams after exhausting much of the new hardware infrastructure opportunities, the company has expanded into new markets with purchases such as Topspin and wide-area file service companies like FineGround Networks and Actona Technologies.

That hasn't precluded the concern from innovating. Purchasing Topspin, with its VFrame virtualization software, shows that company has recognized the value of software that drives the network.

But VFrame could also be used to drive Cisco's application-oriented networking (AON) software and blades. These products help messages flow unfettered across a network.

Article courtesy of internetnews.com

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