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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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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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Confused by Cloud Complexity? New Cisco Webinar Series

Far too often, technology transitions are highlighted by the new bells and whistles. This is great for advertising, where “NEW” is the allure. But it frequently leaves IT organizations wondering how they can transition from their current environments to the added business value that these technology transitions enable. In the 1st Part of this webinar series we explored why companies need to be aware of Cloud Computing and the types of problems it can solve for their business. The 2nd webinar in the series (“Overcoming Rigidity and Complexity“) will look at ways to manage the transition to Cloud Computing.

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Others make promises. We deliver.

It is great when the chief sales guy feels pretty good about the innovation a company delivers enough to blog about it. It gets even better when customers feel good about the innovation and value that a company like Cisco brings, to get up in front of the camera and share the benefits they are deriving.

Such customer confidence comes from trust. In the case of Cisco, we have earned this trust over decades, providing our customers not just with the best networking technology but by providing the right support model, the lowest TCO  and simply the best investment protection in the industry.

This has been borne out many times even as we’ve led numerous industry transitions - from enabling the ubiquity of Ethernet and IP; driving the voice, video and data inflection points, and the more recent trends around data center, virtualization and cloud.

Speaking of inflection points - over the past three years - we are leading perhaps the biggest networking transition in history, as we introduce the Nexus switching and NX-OS platforms into the data center and make it a foundational element for fabric-based infrastructure. In just over three years, we have over 19,000 NX-OS based customers with a sustained #1 market leadership across a variety of categories including revenue and port share. As the chart below depicts, we’re nearly 3X the 10GbE revenue of all our competitors combined! The 10GbE port shipments are equally strong compared to the rest of the industry.

Needless to say, all this has made the job for our competition much harder; to keep up with Cisco’s pace of innovation  has not been an easy task.

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There’s no 1-tier network… Do you have a problem with that?

I’m not a car person and I don’t worry too much about what’s under the hood. That means that I’m just a car user, I only want to turn the ignition key and drive. In the Data Center world, the server team is typically a user of the network. Server guys don’t want to know how the network is implemented. They just want their VLANs to extend to the whole network so that they can connect their devices with no constraint, without having to worry about high availability, risk containment, link provisioning… network stuff. That’s precisely what FabricPath is designed to offer them: a network that looks like a single switch, the simplest networking entity. This “Fabric” offers efficient any-to-any connectivity with high bandwidth and low latency, all without having to understand how it works.

User view, a single switch

Figure 1

Of course, this user perspective is an abstraction. The following Figure 2 represents an example of the physical topology of the network, a Clos fabric, typical in Data Center environments. Note that this could just as well be a ring, a star, or even a network distributed across two sites. FabricPath turns an arbitrary topology into a Fabric and does not lock you into a particular model.

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