Cisco sets data center blast

Cisco touts new Nexus switches, enhancements to Catalyst line and software for controlling energy consumption

Cisco Tuesday unveiled vital extensions to its data center arsenal with additions to the Nexus switching line and enhancements to its Catalyst products, including software designed to let the switches control the energy consumption of attached devices.

Cisco Tuesday unveiled vital extensions to its data center arsenal with additions to the Nexus switching line and enhancements to its Catalyst products, including software designed to let the switches control the energy consumption of attached devices (see related slideshow).

The Cisco data center splash comes a day after HP brought its ProCurve networking family into the data center fray in an effort to combine networking and IT into a stronger, more comprehensive arsenal with which to battle Cisco. HP ProCurve launched its first data center-optimized switches and a server module for existing switches that integrates application processing into the ProCurve 8200 and 5400 switches.

HP’s move is in anticipation of Cisco unveiling a blade server, code-named ‘California,’ with integrated switching and virtualization at mid-year.

But for now, Cisco is fortifying its data center switches. For the Nexus line, Cisco is rolling out the Nexus 7018, Nexus 5010, and Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders. They and the existing Nexus switches are designed to let IT organizations construct a unified switching fabric combining Ethernet and FibreChannel, and optimized for virtualization, Web 2.0 applications, and cloud computing.

The Nexus 7018 joins the Nexus 7000 Series with an 18-Slot Chassis that provides up to 16 I/O module slots supporting up to 512 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports – twice the density of the Nexus 7010, which debuted a year ago.

A new 48-port Gigabit Ethernet fiber line card lets Nexus users build mixed Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet environments. A new Virtual Port Channels (VPC) capability is designed to enable higher availability, large-scale virtual machine mobility, and higher bandwidth, Cisco says.

The Nexus 7018 and 7010 also now use power supplies with up to 90% efficiency with fan modules that adjust to compensate for changing thermal characteristics, Cisco says. This translates into less power wasted as heat and more available for the system to use, according to the company.

The Nexus 5010 is a 28-port, 1RU switch supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Cisco’s version of a lossless Data Center Ethernet (DCE), FibreChannel over Ethernet (FCoE), and FibreChannel. These features enable it to consolidate traffic from local-area networks, storage-area networks and server clusters onto a single unified fabric, Cisco says.

The Nexus 2000 Series Fabric Extender is intended to support an increasing number of servers and increased demand for bandwidth from each server. The Nexus 2148T Fabric Extender connect to dual Cisco Nexus 5020 Switches and are designed to improve scalability by supporting up to 2,496 Gigabit Ethernet servers.

Enhancements for the Catalyst 6500 line include an In-Service-Software-Upgrade and support for long range integrated 10GbE optics to reduce the time needed for planned network maintenance and facilitate virtual machine mobility across data centers. The switch’s Virtual Switching System software allows it to function as a virtual service node to a Nexus core network, Cisco says.

The Catalyst switches will also be getting some new IOS software that allows them to control the energy usage of attached devices. Called EnergyWise, the software was developed under the code-name ‘Big Bang’ and is included in IOS release 12.2(50).

EnergyWise is designed to proactively measure, report and reduce the energy consumption of IP devices such as phones, laptops and access points. The software includes application programming interfaces to Cisco third-party partner packages that will enable the management of power consumption for entire building systems such as lights, elevators and air conditioning/heating, Cisco says.

“By attaching more things to the network it allows you to make better decisions around energy,” says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group. “This can be extended to security as well – you can turn cameras on in certain areas. So there’s a lot of benefits for it.”

Kerravala says Cisco’s EnergyWise initiative is unique – no other network vendor has developed a product for managing energy consumption across network and IT platforms, and building control systems.

Cisco EnergyWise will roll-out in three phases. In the first phase, Cisco EnergyWise will be supported on Catalyst switches and manage the energy consumption of networked IP devices such as phones, video surveillance cameras and wireless access points.

In the next phase, there will be expanded industry support of EnergyWise on IT devices such as personal computers, laptops and printers. In the final phase, Cisco EnergyWise will be extended to management of building system assets such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, elevators, lights, employee badge access systems, fire alarm systems and security systems.

Cisco has teamed with Schneider Electric for building utility management, SolarWinds for network monitoring and Verdiem for monitoring PC power. Cisco has also developed a so-called EnergyWise Business Value Calculator, an application that shows customers projected cost and Greenhouse Gas emission savings from EnergyWise and other Cisco products, such as TelePresence, WebEx and Unified Communications. Cisco said it also introduced adaptive power management functionality in its Wireless Control System to save power by enabling customers to turn off redundant radios during off-hours.

Cisco EnergyWise is a free software upgrade to existing Catalyst switches and will be available in February. It will support fixed configuration switches initially, with chassis-based systems – the Catalyst 4500 being the first – to follow on later.

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