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Meet the Cisco Nexus 1010


One of the products that generated a fair number of questions with last week’s announcement was our Nexus 1010.  Since I got a number of very similar questions, let me answer them all here at once.

So, lets start with a quick recap.  The Nexus 1000 switch architecture is modeled after a modular switch such as our Catalyst 6500 or Nexus 7000–the N1K series does, in fact, run NX-OS like the rest of the Cisco Nexus and Cisco MDS families.  Like a modular switch, we have virtualized line cards we call Virtual Ethernet Modules (VEM) which is the software that replaces the vSwitch in a vSphere host.  We also have virtualized supervisor modules calledm strangely enough, Virtual Supervisor Modules that provide management and control plane functions (they don’t get involved in packet forwarding).  Prior to the Nexus 1010, the VSM software has run as a virtual appliance on a handy server in the data center.

We developed the N1010 in response to a couple of specific customer requests.  


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A new look at SAN Fabric Switching: Performance, Flexibility and VALUE

 In the past, SAN Fabric switches filled a particular niche, offering stripped-down functionality to serve basic connectivity needs, while only director-class products offered greater performance and flexibility. Pure connectivity solutions, without scalability and performance options, are not acceptable in those environments any more. 

“Performance and flexibility are two key aspects we look for in a SAN switch as we consolidate our storage infrastructure.   Full fabric features as well as high 8 Gbps per port performance of the MDS 9148 are ideal to accommodate our bandwidth intensive virtualized server environment.”  – Samnang In, IT Analyst, City of St Paul, MN

 With the introduction of Cisco MDS 9148 Fabric Switch, we’ve raised the bar for SAN Fabric solutions by providing a feature-rich, high performance (8-Gbps line rate) switch which scales non-disruptively in eight-port increments from 16 to 48 ports, all at an entry-level price point.  

The MDS 9148 offers similar value to director-class switches with enterprise features including VSANs, security, non-disruptive firmware updates, and NPV, providing mid-market customers with the versatility and capability needed to grow their businesses. 

Most importantly, not only does the “pay-as-you-grow” model reduce the initial investment, all advanced features continue to be delivered as part of Cisco’s standard SAN package, not as upgrades or separate licenses which add significant incremental costs to competitive solutions. 

To clarify, this Cisco solution is not only for mid-market customers.  Due to its redundancy (including dual power and dual fans), scalability and line rate performance, the MDS 9148 switch is an ideal candidate for deployment in top-of-rack architectures and departmental SANs at larger organizations as well.  The MDS 9148 is powered by NX-OS, a common OS that spans the MDS, Nexus and UCS 6100 families of products. Having a common OS among both storage and Ethernet switches decreases IT’s learning curve and enables greater staff flexibility in large IT organizations.

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Intel and Cisco collaboration in data center goes deeper

Over the past two weeks, related to the Intel launches of Xeon Series 5600 and Xeon series 7500 processors, we announced new UCS platforms. Omar Sultan and Harris Sussman blogged recently on these announcements bringing up front amazing benchmark results (Making the Jump to Light Speed).

These results were obviously the fruit of a very intense collaboration between Intel and Cisco, reflecting again the partnership spirit which drives the innovation at Cisco
As a quick footnote to this statement, one of the strong features of the UCS platform is definitely the openess of the management tool -On April 6th , we announced the  full integration of UCS Manager with all the major provisioning tools in use today such as BMC, CA, EMC, HP, IBM Microsoft, Symantec, VMware – This collaboration with a broad partner eco-system around UCS, is again a great source of innovation for the market – Stay tuned for more information from Omar and I on this topic in the following weeks-

 I had recently the opportunity to videotape some of the key stakeholders from Intel and Cisco, starting with Intel VP Kirk Skaugen and Cisco VP David Lawler, talking about the benefits for the customers of this collaboration

In this short video, David Lawler explains how Intel new processors and Cisco breakthrough innovations (ie Lossless fabric, extended memory, virtual interface card..) allow the company coming from a clean slate, to deliver a complete  portfolio of 2 and 4 sockets servers, blade servers and rack mount servers type, ready to address virtually all the applications deployment needs.

The same day David Lawler met Shubho Nag, Xeon 7500 Product development Team manager at Intel, to talk more and with the passion of engineers about the collaboration between the two companies, and get some insights on some of the developments and the choices made  to achieve the current results produced by the Cisco UCS B440 M1 and UCS C460 M1

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Any server, any application and anywhere in the data center?

Yes, this is indeed flexibility of the breakthrough innovative architecture that easily adapts to any combination of server form factors, any server vendor, any scale, any speed & any traffic type. All delivered through a cost-effective & comprehensive set of server access layer solution that greatly simplifies IT operations  —  the newly refreshed line of Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders (FEX).

Before I go into details around the new FEX’s I’d like to provide some background around the innovative FEX architecture. The breakthrough FEX architecture is a part of our Data Center 3.0 vision which is designed to deliver breakthrough solutions allowing IT managers to overcome the constraints imposed by existing technologies and traditional thinking.

About a year back we introduced the first instantiation of FEX architecture, the Nexus 2148. With in less than one year on the market, this innovative FEX product has surpassed an important 1 Million GbE ports milestone validating the industry’s unique and innovative Cisco Nexus data center unified server access layer architecture. Over 2000 customers including St. Josephs Healthcare, TFS, Salem Hospital, Schneider Electric, Alibaba group, Lawrence Livermore and many more customers are already realizing the solid benefits of this architecture across Enterprise, Public Sector, Service Provider and Commercial segments, in all theatres around the globe.

So what’s unique about the FEX architecture?

Traditional top-of-rack data center architecture offers a good start in simplifying cabling. Modular system or end-of-row architecture is easier to manage..

The Cisco FEX architecture delivers the best of both of these worlds, FEX act as a virtual or remote module (aka line card) of the parent switch they connect to, the Nexus 5000  providing a single point of management for up to 12 FEXs. Along with the cabling simplicity of a top-of-rack deployment model, what you get is a virtual modular system. 


And for the record, in the Q2FY10 earnings call, our CEO John Chambers mentioned that Nexus 5000 revenue shipments grew 450% YoY. Within a short period of time, the introduction of FEX along with Nexus 5000 has revolutionized data center designs and enabled data center architects to reduce cost, gain new design flexibility while also simplifying cabling infrastructure and management complexity.

Well you just don’t have to take my word for it, let’s look at the real world experiences of IT organizations that have realized breakthrough business results from Nexus FEX architecture

•           St. Joseph Health System deployed server access layer solution using Cisco Nexus 2000 technology and funded new data center switches from the savings on cabling alone: rather than spending an estimated $1.3 million on cabling, their cost with the unified access layer was a mere $190,000, an 85 percent savings. St. Joseph estimated its space savings at 80 percent, and its power savings at 25 percent. For the full success story, click here.

 •           NetApp reduced their network edge costs by 40 percent by deploying a cost-effective access layer based on Cisco Nexus 5000 Series Switches and Cisco Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extenders. The cloud computing environment they deployed using this unified access layer requires rapid scalability, and their Cisco Nexus technology-based environment provided them exactly that. For the full story, click here.

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Making the Jump to Light Speed

by Harris Sussman,  Cisco Data Center Solutions – Unified Computing System


Many of you will likely recall the following dialog from the original Star Wars film (1977), where the Millennium Falcon (Han’s Solo’s space ship) is speeding away from the Death Star:

Obi-Wan: How long before you can make the jump to light speed?
Han Solo: It’ll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer. 
Luke: Are you kidding? At the rate they’re gaining?
Han Solo: Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!

 Well, sorry I’ve dated those that remember, and for those having no idea what I’m talking about, check out the movie. I refer to this movie and scene in particular, because it reminds me about how advanced this film was at the time. In fact, the film was so progressive, the term “jump to light speed” is regularly used in peoples daily vernacular.

 When I look back and realize Cisco just announced the Unified Computing System a year ago, and ponder the test results gleaned from our new Intel Xeon 5600 and 7500 Series based blade server and rack server products, the term “make the jump to light speed” certainly seems fitting.

 Three weeks ago, Cisco announced historical results with our new Intel Xeon 5600 Series based blade server and rack server products captured in the table below.

Additionally, Cisco recently delivered test results demonstrating the scalability of our unique Extended Memory product, the B250 M2 using the Xeon Series 5600 processor. The following graph highlights how optimized the UCS B Series is for virtualization consolidation using a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 workload.

In a Cisco UCS B250 M2 Extended Memory Blade Server with vSphere, the Intel Xeon Processor X5680, and 384 GB of RAM handled 15 more virtual machines (VMs) than did the Cisco UCS B200 M2 Blade Server with vSphere, the Intel Xeon Processor X5680, and 96 GB of RAM, for a total of 115.38 percent more VMs. Please review detailed results at the Unified Computing System at Work page.

Just last week, Cisco announced 2 new Intel Xeon Series 7500 Processor based, 4-socket Blade and Rack Server products, the UCS B440 M1 and UCS C460 M1. The new Xeon 7500 Series boasts the biggest performance jump in Xeon history with new scalable performance, flexible virtualization and advanced reliability.

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