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Cisco data center fabric – vision, evolution, benefits

Among all the IT domains, perhaps the most action is in the data center, and by extension, in the cloud. Virtualization has taken root, and delivered a lot of operational efficiency. It has provided some interesting challenges as well. Virtual Machine (VM) mobility is one.  Tracking workloads as they move between servers, within and across data centers is more fun than most people imagined. So, how does one take this dynamic environment, and leverage it to fulfill requirements such as:

  • Delivering anything as a service – handling heterogeneous workloads for any application
  • Dealing with VM mobility – optimizing resource allocation across any location
  • Offering dynamic response – responding to real-time requirements at any scale

How does one solve these emerging challenges to achieve the next levels of productivity and efficiency?

For quite some time, Cisco has believed in the promise of “going beyond silos” (Yeah, that’s the campaign we launched as well, for those of you who saw the recent ads). But awareness campaigns apart, the concept is pretty simple – how do we take some of the traditional silos in the data center like the network, compute, storage and application services and bring them together – holistically – to deliver better efficiency, resource utilization, simplicity and cost benefits.

Fundamentally, this is the promise of Cisco’s data center fabric approach – it delivers on the vision of a high-performance, shared infrastructure, that brings together the network, compute, storage access elements, and L4-7 application services into a tightly integrated resource. It is open, integrated, flexible, scalable, resilient and secure.  And it is built off a vision that Cisco has been executing for 3+ years now on the foundation of Unified Fabric, Unified Network Services and Unified Computing. This foundation will form the bedrock for customers looking to move towards cloud-based models exploring application independence, location freedom and massive scale.

Speaking of customers, this concept of leveraging fabric-based architecture to deliver on industry-leading transitions has helped our customers with simplification, cost reduction and higher return on Investment. And it has helped Cisco hit several milestones- over 10,000+ NX-OS customers in a little over three years, over 4000 UCS customers in less than two years, 7 million+ Nexus ports shipped, 6 million+ MDS ports shipped, 33% FCoE attach rate – the numbers are staggering but not surprising given the 59%+ annual data center growth rate.

It is also not surprising that when Gartner polled attendees at its recent Gartner Data Center conference about perception of vendor delivery of a fabric-based strategy, respondents listed Cisco first (see figure 2). John already said that in the context of our Unified Fabric thrust, but hey, it’s worth repeating.

And so the momentum continues…Today, we’re announcing several new innovations that take the vision of the data center fabric to the next level:

  • End-to-end convergence, with industry’s highest-performance director class SAN platforms, with multi-hop FCoE and converged management
  • New Top-of-rack switches that deliver flexibility, performance and scale
  • NX-OS enhancements to deliver location independence, L3 MPLS and more!
  • Fabric extensibility in the LAN and across the WAN
  • Fabric  compute platforms with new UCS servers
  • And more!

If you have anything to do with data centers (or clouds), take a peek under the hood of Cisco’s data center fabric. You’ll continue to be pleasantly surprised.

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