Cisco unveils latest Nexus data center switch

New fabric, 10G modules boots capacity to 15 terabits

Cisco this week unveiled a raft of networking enhancements and extensions designed to scale data centers to securely support increasing amounts of data.

As expected, Cisco rolled out the second generation of its Nexus 7000 switching platform, which scales the line to 15 terabits. Cisco also unveiled a new nine-slot Nexus 7000 chassis, as expected, as well as a 16-port 40Gbps Ethernet switch in its Nexus 3000 line for high-performance trading environments. (Watch a slideshow version of these products.)

100G Ethernet coming to a Cisco rack near you?

Also, Cisco rolled out a 48-port 100/1000Mbps Nexus 3000 Ethernet switch, fabric extensions to the Nexus 5500 top-of-rack switch, and a virtual firewall to help secure multi-tenant and cloud environments.

The new and enhanced products allow the Nexus 7000 line to significantly scale 10G Ethernet density to support increasingly virtualized data centers that may support two and three times as many virtual machines as physical servers. Cisco says that by 2013, there will be 56 exabytes, or about 12.8 billion online movies, crossing the Internet per month.

To accommodate that, Cisco says the newly enhanced Nexus 7000 and 5500 can now support 12,000 physical servers at 10G each, double that of rival Juniper's QFabric line, and Alcatel-Lucent's OmniSwitch 6850E and 6900 switches.

"The scale is huge," says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. "Twelve thousand servers is a pretty good sized fabric."

The second-generation Nexus 7000 is encompassed in a new switching fabric for the product, called Fabric 2. Fabric 2 allows the switch to scale to 550G per slot, more than twice that of the 230G per slot capacity of Fabric 1. This allows an 18-slot Nexus 7018 core switch to support 768 line-rate 10G ports -- when equipped with a new 48-port 10G line card, which was also expected and announced -- at a price if $1,200 per port and a power draw of less than 10 watts.

Cisco says competitors Juniper, Brocade, Arista and HP would have to cluster between 10 and 70 switches in at least twice the rack unit space in order to achieve this density.

The previous 10G density limit for the Nexus 7000 under Fabric 1, with 32-port 10G line cards, was 512 10G ports in the Nexus 7018. In the new nine-slot Nexus 7009, which is targeted at smaller network cores and space-constrained environments, Fabric 2 and the 48-port 10G cards support 336 line-rate 10G ports. Cisco says the new Nexus 7009 can support for all currently shipping Nexus 7000 I/O modules, supervisor and power supplies.

For the top-of-rack, Cisco added its FabricPath data center switching software to the Nexus 5500 switch. FabricPath is a feature of the Nexus switch NX-OS operating system that is intended to enable users to build large, non-blocking data center fabrics with multiple active paths to accommodate increasing "east-west" traffic flows across multiple server racks.

This, along with the addition of Cisco's adapter FEX and VM-FEX technologies for VM switching on NICs and physical switches, allows the Nexus 5500 to support thousands of virtual machines and manage them as a single point of management, Cisco says.

Also in fabric switching, Cisco unveiled a new Nexus fabric extender with 32MB of buffer memory. The Nexus 2248TP-E is designed to support streaming video and audio, bursty traffic and large amounts of data.

The 2248TP-E sports 48 100/1000Mbps Ethernet ports and four 10G SFP+ Ethernet ports. Fabric extenders like the 2248TP-E are designed to stretch the Nexus 7000's FabricPath capabilities closer to servers.

The new Nexus 3000 series switches include the 16-port 40G Ethernet Nexus 3016 and the 48-port 100/1000Mbps Ethernet Nexus 3048. The switches, along with the 64-port Nexus 3064 10G switch, which began shipping in April, are intended to scale densities for low-latency, high-frequency trading environments.

To secure the virtualized data center, Cisco rolled out the ASA 1000V, a version of its ASA firewall that runs on the Nexus 1000V virtual switch software. ASA 1000V extends firewalling capabilities to the multi-tenant edge. Cisco says it complements the zone-based security of the company's Virtual Security Gateway, and both can be managed from Cisco's Virtual Network Management Center.

Last, Cisco added "advanced" VPLS capabilities to its Catalyst 6500 switch to enable it to interconnect data centers at Layer 2. This extension features enhanced redundancy and load balancing, among other capabilities.

Cisco also added IPv6 across its Application Control Engine product line through a new 5.1 software release. Cisco also unveiled service offerings -- Network Automation Operation and Unified Fabric Optimization -- to automate network management tasks and help customers tune their existing infrastructures to support the company's Unified Fabric data center networking architecture.

Fabric 2 is available now, as is the Nexus 7009. Fabric 2 will support the Nexus 18- and 10-slot chassis later this month, Cisco said. FabricPath and FEX support in the Nexus 5500 will be available later this quarter.

The Nexus 3048 is also available now, and the Nexus 3016 will be available later this month. Per port pricing for the 3016 is $5,000, excluding QSFP optics for the 40G ports.

With all of these data center and cloud fabrics from all leading vendors, it's time to show what they can do, Kerravala says.

"They need referenceable case studies to quantify the value," he says. "The industry is currently missing a way of evaluating fabrics. The company that can demonstrate quantifiable value has a leg up."

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