Cisco Unifies Network Services With New Data Center Architecture

Networking giant Cisco today is unveiling two components of what it positions as a new architectural approach for delivering virtual network services across an enterprise IT infrastructure.

Called Cisco Unified Network Services, the new offerings join Cisco’s (NASDAQ: CSCO) existing efforts to improve the flexibility and manageability of increasingly complex enterprise data center networks: unified fabric, which melds Fibre Channel and Ethernet, and the Unified Computing System (UCS), a server system.

Alongside the Unified Network Services launch today, Cisco is also bulking up its product lineup with new UCS servers and Nexus switch models.

With Cisco Unified Network Services, the goal is to deliver service consistency and responsiveness while providing flexibility and choice for enterprises, Shashi Kiran, director for data center virtualization marketing at Cisco, told

“For us, the vision of Unified Network Services in the data center is very simple,” Kiran said. “We want to be able to take any network service, deliver it in any form factor — virtual, physical, it shouldn’t matter — and for any platform, whether it’s an enterprise network or a cloud platform, and to do it in a consistent way.”

One of the two new Unified Network Services offerings is the Cisco virtual security gateway, which is a zone-based firewall that can enable admins to separate different areas of an enterprise network. The gateway can provide policy granularity on a per-virtual-machine basis, where security policies can be dynamically allocated even as the virtual machines move around the network, Kiran said.

“There is a lot of workload mobility happening with virtualization, and with this solution, we’re in a position to keep the security profiles and policies consistent in dynamic environments,” he said.

The other Unified Network Service being launched by Cisco is Virtual Wide-Area Application Services (vWAAS). With vWAAS, Cisco is providing a virtualized version of its WAN optimization and acceleration solution that to date has typically been deployed as a physical module. The vWAAS differs from a WAAS deployment on a Cisco ISR G2 router in that it is optimized for virtual machine traffic, and can be provisioned based on traffic flowing on a per-virtual machine basis.

“The vWAAS really is optimized for cloud-based environments, ” Kiran said.

The market for virtual WAN optimization and acceleration is a competitive one already with solutions from multiple vendors already in the market.

Nexus 5500

Cisco’s unified fabric and UCS efforts also received refreshes today. For unified fabric, Cisco announced an update to its Cisco 5000 switch family with the new Nexus 5500 series.

The key new enhancement on the Nexus 5500 is its unified port feature, which expands on the delivery of unified fabric.

“Unified ports provides additional flexibility for the convergence of LAN and storage at the access layer,” Kash Shaikh, senior manager of market management for Cisco’s Data Center Solutions unit, told “Any unified port can be dynamically configured as an Ethernet port or as a Fibre Channel port.”

The new Nexus 5500 switches will also provides twice the density of Cisco’s Nexus 5000 series. Cisco now offers a 1U 48-port model, and Shaikh noted that a 2U 96-port model is coming soon as well, courtesy of new ASICs and other improved hardware developed by Cisco.

Unified Computing System B230 M1 Update and Migration Services

Cisco is also announcing a new model of its Unified Computing System (UCS) this week with the B230 M1, powered by Intel Xeon 6500/7500 Nehalem-series CPUs. The B230 update follows earlier UCS enhancements earlier this year, with new Intel Westmere-powered UCS blades.

In addition to the new UCS hardware, Cisco is also formally announcing new migration services to help enable enterprises to leverage the UCS platform. Cisco spokesperson Rashesh Jethi explained that Cisco uses a combination of custom-built and industry-standard software to map how an enterprise currently deploys its existing applications, and then uses that information to help develop a migration plan from physical infrastructure to a UCS virtualized setup.

“The most common thread we see in our migrations is about understanding application dependencies,” Jethi said.”A lot of times, customers underestimate the number of applications they have,. So I think the first issue is the discovery and understanding of how many applications they have and what the dependencies are in terms of application, Web and database servers.”


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

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