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Re-defining Fabric Scale: Thinking Beyond the “Box”

Today we are making a significant announcement with several new innovations across our data center and switching portfolio that showcase how our customers can build large scale-up and scale-out data center networks.  While the press release does a great job (thanks Lee!) of highlighting all the innovations across the Nexus Unified Fabric portfolio and the new ASA 1000v, two aspects of the announcement stand out quite prominently:

  1. Cisco is delivering the highest density 10GbE modular switching platform in the industry
  2. Cisco is delivering the most scalable fabric in the industry and, by extension -- on the planet! (we’re told planet sounds much cooler)

No. 1 above is fairly straightforward. With our new 2nd-generation F2 line card and Fabric 2 module, at 768 ports of 10GbE line-rate switching ports running NX-OS, the flagship Nexus 7018 in a fully-loaded configuration is simply the epitome of switch scale.

No.2 is where things get interesting, because we’re no longer thinking about just the “box” but rather, how we can weave different elements across the data center into a holistic “fabric”.  This systems-based approach focuses on multi-dimensional scale transcending the box and even the data center LAN, to span between data centers, while providing feature-rich fabric capabilities.  At 12,000+ 10GbE nodes supported as part of one Fabricpath-enabled system, and with the ability to support Fabric Extender (FEX) technology (plus L2 and L3 capabilities), this approach re-defines fabric scalability at 2X the scale and half the cost point of the next best claim in the industry. More important, it achieves this in an evolutionary manner for our 19,000+ NX-OS customers, offering investment protection for brownfield deployments while raising the bar for greenfield environments!

The Nexus platforms have been around for 3+ years, and over 500 customers have deployed FabricPath on the Nexus 7000 alone since its introduction about an year ago. It is a proven technology. With Fabricpath now coming onto the Nexus 5500 platforms, the momentum is likely to spike up with a mix of both size and scale. Like I said, things get interesting.

To make it more fun, our technical experts from the product teams have taken a data-driven approach and compared Cisco’s new innovations and our box and system-scale with others in the industry.

They looked at a couple of representative examples -- the first being, what it would take any other vendor to build a non-blocking 768-port 10GbE “switch”, with capabilities similar to what the Nexus 7000 could provide in a single chassis. The second example takes a look at what it takes to build a “fabric” with Cisco leveraging its Nexus portfolio and NX-OS to build that.

Take a look and let us know what you think. It is useful to note that most vendors in the industry today have no fabric capabilities to speak of, and the few that are attempting a systems approach, have really limited to no customer traction thus far. Our customers and key analysts tell us that Cisco has a multi-year innovation lead in this space, even as Cisco continues to focus on bringing the network, compute, storage and application services together with integrated management to drive productivity and efficiency across traditional IT and organizational silos.

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Cisco is First Partner to Announce Oracle NoSQL Database Solution on Cisco UCS

At the recently concluded Oracle OpenWorld 2011, Cisco announced a comprehensive “Oracle NoSQL Database” Solution on Cisco UCS that helps organizations deploy Big Data solutions quickly, with configurations that scale easily and predictably as demand dictates. Cisco UCS is the first platform partner certified for “Oracle NoSQL Database” and we are very excited about that.

The Cisco solution for Oracle NoSQL database is fully tested, certified and designed to meet your scalability requirements with a modular, easy-to-deploy Cisco UCS  infrastructure that accelerates time-to-value and reduces risk.

Oracle NoSQL Database is a new product from Oracle – a distributed, highly-available key-value storage platform for large-volume, latency-sensitive applications or web services. It is built based on Oracle Berkeley DB Java Edition High Availability storage engine. It can provide fast, reliable, distributed storage to applications that need to integrate with extract, transform, and load (ETL) processing.

The  Joint Ciso-Oracle solution on Cisco UCS platform offers enterprise robustness and stability with the Oracle NoSQL database as the underlying storage engine . The solution is based on the proven data center architecture using Cisco UCS™ C-Series Rack-Mount Servers powered by Intel® Xeon® processors. Customers can choose to deploy Cisco UCS C200 M2 or Cisco UCS C210 M2 servers depending on their business needs. Cisco Nexus® switches support the high-bandwidth and low-latency needs of Big Data solutions, improving infrastructure agility and scalability at lower costs, without arbitrary restrictions.

Check the Oracle NoSQL Database on Cisco UCS Solution presentation for additional details.

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Cisco and OpenFlow

October 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm PST

With acolytes of open networking flocking to the Open Networking Summit this week, folks have been pinging me on what Cisco has been doing on this front recently.  So, if we look at open networking in general, we were pleased to have made some significant contributions to the Diablo release of OpenStack--for more details on that, check out this post by my cohort, James Urquhart.

On the OpenFlow front, I went to the source--our lead smart guy on our OpenFlow efforts--David Meyer.  David is a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco Systems, where he works on future directions for Internet technologies such as OpenFlow and Software Defined Networking.

Omar Sultan:  So, David, what is new with Cisco and OpenFlow since we joined in the Open Networking Foundation earlier this year?
David Meyer: Well, probably the most notable news is that we have announced that we will be providing OpenFlow support on our Nexus switches.

OS: Wow--that will surprise a lot of people--folks are gong to wonder why we would want to do this--its counter-intuitive…
DM: Not really--Cisco had always embraced disruption--we don’t always get it right on the first shot, but we usually get it in the end.  Take server virtualization as an example--while we may not have been first off the line, we now have the broadest and strongest portfolio of virtualization networking technologies in the market.  Critics only saw the short-term impact to our switching revenue (less ports sold) but we saw the transformational value of virtualization. We see SDN in a similar light--as the next evolution of networking and we see OF as an excellent mechanism to drive maturation of both the technology and the underlying thinking.

OS: Do I sense a bit of hedging about OpenFlow in its current state in that last response?
DM: Well, we believe that the OpenFlow specification needs to be fleshed out a bit more before its truly production ready--that’s why I am here.


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STP is not the problem, but FabricPath will fix it!

Few years ago, in order to interact with the audience, I started a Cisco Live presentation involving some Spanning Tree design with three questions:

  • Who hates the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP)?
    This one is easy. You could sell ice blocks to an Eskimo based on the ubiquitous hatred for STP. Here, I got a good 90% of the hands in the air.
  • Who has a good understanding of STP?
    More personal question, but this is Cisco Live, with networking experts all over the place. Some 60-70% hands were raised.
  • Who thinks that the root bridge can block a port?
    Audience stunned! Some were shaking their head, with a negative expression, the others suddenly realized they had an urgent email to check or looked away. Among the more than 100 attendees, only one person in the front was frantically raising his hand. Too bad for him, there was no prize.

I drew two conclusions from this:

  • First, giving the impression that you’re thinking your audience is made of idiots is not good for your session evaluation.

FabricPath, Dilbert-style

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Unified Fabric : Cisco Technology Executives Are Answering Your Questions

October 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm PST

On October 25 at 9:00 am PST/ 12:00 pm EST , join a very special webcast  “Evolutionary Fabric. Revolutionary Scale “ with customers, analysts and Cisco executives and experts for conversations about the benefits of Cisco Unified Fabric .

I asked the other day our favorite bloggers Omar Sultan, Brian Gracely and Shashi Kiran to tell me why they think this webcast is important for our customers

“There is a lot going on in the data center these days – There is a continue expansion of virtualization , we see broader adoption of cloud and we see emerging trends, big data being the newest and trendiest of the hot data center topics – So there are folks out there who will tell you, you know what each of these needs special equipment, they have unique requirements , your regular infrastructure will not be able to handle these requirements So what we do believe is that each of these requirements, big data, cloud have their own specific needs , we truly don’t believe that you need purpose built hardware , at least if your infrastructure is built the right way “ Omar Sultan

So this webcast is really about learning how Cisco’s fabric-based approach delivers architectural flexibility across physical, virtual and cloud environments for any application.

For Brian Gracely the equation is simple to remember  : Cisco Unified FABRIC is Fast, Agile, Best of breed, Resiliant, Innovative, Cisco-based

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