Read today’s data center news and it’s all about software innovation, Cloud, SDN, Internet of Everything, Big Data, applications…etc. One would think that the days of hardware innovation are long gone. That’s far from the truth! Software and cloud may be the water cooler topics of today, but they depend on a highly reliable, high performance and efficient hardware infrastructure to run on. So, make no mistake, the pace of hardware innovations is alive and well and is just as important a topic in today’s conversation.
Just over a year ago, Cisco introduced the Nexus 9000 Series switches. It’s industry leading performance and highest densities along with several other industry leading features were well published. However, you might have missed a key industry first design feature in the Nexus 9500 that will change how modular chassis are designed in the future. Here’s a short video (50sec) that gets you right to the heart of the innovation.
In most modular switch designs, a backplane or midplane provides connectivity between the line cards and fabric modules. The Nexus 9500 Series is the industry-first switching platform that eliminates the need for a midplane in a modular chassis design (figure 1).
Figure 1. Nexus 9500 Midplane-free Chassis Design
With a precise alignment mechanism, the Nexus 9500 Series switch line cards and fabric modules directly attach to each other with connecting pins. Line cards and fabric modules have an orthogonal orientations (connected at right angles) in the chassis so that each fabric module is connected to all line cards and vice versa.
Eliminating the need for a midplane provides several advantages over modular platforms with a midplane:
Power and Cooling Efficiency: The midplane obstructs the front to back cooling airflow requiring cut-outs in the midplane or airflow redirection, resulting in reduced cooling efficiency. Without a midplane blocking the airflow path, the Nexus 9500 chassis design delivers optimized cooling efficiency, providing up to 15% higher efficiency, thus requiring less or smaller fans. This also allows for higher density and compact chassis designs.
Increased MTBF: Without a midplane, the switch has less components that can fail, increasing the overall MTBF. Also, with a midplane design, if you bend a pin on the midplane connector while inserting a module, the entire switch must be taken out of commission to replace that midplane or swapped out with a new chassis. With the Nexus 9500, if a fabric connector pin gets bent, the damaged module can be replaced without taking the chassis out of service.
Unrestricted Scale: Midplane chassis designs typically have an inherent performance limitation since they are based on current available technology, thus limiting its future scale. Midplanes are generally designed to support a couple next generation modules and fabrics, beyond which a chassis upgrade is required. By eliminating the midplane, the Cisco Nexus 9500 Series alleviates the performance restriction introduced by a midplane, allowing it to scale multiple generations of modules/fabrics saving capex and datacenter disruption.
For more about the Nexus 9000 Series innovations and benefits, please visit www.cisco.com/go/nexus9000