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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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Multipurpose, Multi-role, Multi-Cisco. The New RTP Datacenter is ready for anything

With the opening of the new Cisco Datacenter in RTP, I thought it would be cool to reach out to a few of the guys responsible for the design and ask them a few questions. So, I got together with Jag Kahlon (Cisco IT Architect) and John Banner (Cisco IT Network Engineer) for a quick chat.

Me: What were the primary objectives for the new datacenter?

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The Napkin Dialogues: FCoE vs. QCN

July 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm PST

While at Cisco Live I had the pleasure of meeting several people who were curious about Multihop FCoE but had the unfortunate experience of getting too much misinformation from several sources (yes, including some of Cisco’s competition, but even some partners!). Some had already seen my article on FCoE and TRILL and wanted to know if I could help explain the relationship between FCoE and QCN (Quantized Congestion Notification), one of the documents in the IEEE DCB standard revision.

Even though we have a very good, short white paper on the subject, this is one of those subjects that as soon as people ask about it we break out the white boarding, or in the case of being at Cisco Live, the napkins. There are just some things that pictures help explain better.

Because of this, I’m going to try something different with this blog. It may work, or I may fall flat on my face; I suppose we shall find out. Read More »

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DCI Use Case: Capacity Expansion

Hi,

Today I want to bring up DCI use case that I’ve been thinking about: capacity expansion.  As you know, the purpose of DCI is to connect two or more Data Centers together so that they share resources and deliver services.  The capacity expansion use case is when you have temporary traffic bursts, cloud bursts, either planned or unplanned, maintenance windows, migrations or really any temporary service event that requires additional service capacity.

To start addressing the challenge of meeting these planned and unplanned cloud burst and capacity expansion requirements, check out the new ACE + OTV feature called Dynamic Workload Scaling announced recently.

Figure 1:

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What Cisco’s New Data Center Switching Announcements Mean for Service Providers

Cisco’s foundation for delivering the service provider Cloud is our Unified Service Delivery (USD) solution, featuring tightly integrated, data center and IP NGN technologies to deliver a virtualized end-to-end infrastructure for cloud services. We thought it would be useful to share some new capabilities that Cisco has added recently to the solution:

MPLS in the Data Center: To streamline the end to end operation across the data center and IP NGN,  Cisco announced, last week, that Nexus 7000 supports Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) for Layer 3 virtual private networks (VPNs). This allows MPLS to be deployed  at the data center core/aggregation layer  rather than terminating at the data center edge. This capability enables Service Providers to greatly simplify L3 segmentation, especially for multi-tenant cloud offerings, depending on their scale and service needs.

Another key to the delivery of a data center built for Cloud requirements of scale, virtualization and multi-tenancy has been the use of a Unified Fabric. Unified Fabric provides the flexibility of high performance, highly available networks to support the needs of both LAN and SAN on a consolidated fabric. Cisco’s Unified Fabric announcements last week bring new capabilities which extend our already robust offerings to further build out a Service Provider Cloud foundation.

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