Cisco Updating Nexus for SDN and UCS with Whiptail Flash

In September of 2013, Cisco announced that it was acquiring flash storage vendor Whiptail. Now, in January of 2014, Cisco is revealing what it is doing with that technology. Cisco is announcing its new UCS Invicta line of servers and new Nexus switching gear as it refreshes its data center portfolio for the SDN and Application Centric Infrastructure era.

Cisco first announced the Nexus data center switching portfolio back in 2008 and has grown it steadily in terms of new platforms and usage ever since. Shashi Kiran, senior director of data center, cloud and open networking at Cisco, told Enterprise Networking Planet that Cisco now has over 55,000 NX-OS (Nexus Operating System) customers.

Now Cisco is expanding the Nexus portfolio with new switches, including the Nexus 7706, which Kiran said is for small core and data aggregation deployments. The Nexus 7706 is a 9 RU, 21 Tbps switching platform. Cisco plans to also leverage the 7706 as an interconnect for the Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) initiative. Previously known as Insieme, Cisco ACI was formally announced in November.

Cisco is also expanding the Nexus 5600 series with the 5672 and 56128 top-of-rack switches, which now include VXLAN support in hardware.

Additionally, Cisco is now announcing a new Unified Port module for the Nexus 6004 platform. Kiran explained that with Unified Ports, Ethernet and native Fibre Channel storage traffic ports can co-exist on one switching platform. Cisco first introduced the Nexus 6004 in February 2013 as a high-density platform capable of supporting up to 384 ports of 10 GbE. Unified Port capability previously only existed on the Nexus 5500 series of switches.

The Nexus 3100 product line is also being expanded on from the initial offering first introduced in September of 2013. The Nexus 3100 is a top-of-rack switching platform targeted at low-latency environments like high-frequency trading. The new 3172TQ uses merchant silicon instead of Cisco custom silicon, providing a more generic platform for broader use-cases.


Another component of Cisco’s virtualization and SDN efforts comes from the OpenDaylight project, which leverages the Cisco ONE SDN controller. OpenDaylight is a multi-stakeholder effort building an open-source SDN platform.

Kiran said that Cisco has a productized version, XNC, now gearing up for its version 1.5 release.

“XNC is a commercial derivative of the OpenDaylight initiative,” Kiran said. “Cisco has spent cycles on making it robust and production-ready and will obviously also keep in sync with OpenDaylight releases.”

UCS Invicta

While networking still remains the bulk of Cisco’s business, its UCS server business has grown rapidly in recent years and is now growing again.

The new Cisco UCS Invicta product line is made of of storage assets Cisco gained through its acquisition of Whiptail last year.

Cisco UCS product manager Todd Brannon explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that Invicta is a new class of solid state storage systems that complement existing UCS B and C compute systems.

As opposed to the way that Oracle leverages Flash storage in its engineered Exa-class systems, Cisco is not using the flash as extension of the DRAM memory footprint. The initial set of Invicta systems are intended to be used for fast i/o data storage and transfer capabilities.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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