Cisco's Data Center 3.0 stresses virtualization, automation

Cisco outlines vision for the new data center.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Cisco this week unveiled its next-generation data center strategy along with a range of products to support that vision.

Called Data Center 3.0, the plan is intended to enable customers to better utilize their data center resources, build less expensive storage-area networks and enhance data security. Among other features, it involves melding disparate data center networking technologies – Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand – into a single fabric for connecting and virtualization network elements.

Cisco launched Data Center 3.0 at its Networkers user conference here. It comes on the heels of HP’s $1.6 billion acquisition of data center automation vendor Opsware. HP says Opsware will enable it to offer its customers a "comprehensive and fully integrated solution for IT automation."

Whereas Cisco’s Data Center 1.0 and 2.0 strategies focused on data center consolidation, 3.0 targets virtualization and automation, says Jayshree Ullal, Cisco senior vice president of the Datacenter, Switching and Security Technology Group.

“This is an important day for Cisco,” Ullal says of the Data Center 3.0 launch.

The fabric is intended to provide real-time, dynamic orchestration of infrastructure services from shared pools of virtualized server, storage and network resources, Cisco says. Data Center 3.0 is also aimed at optimizing application performance, service levels, efficiency and collaboration, Cisco says.

Cisco plans to flesh out its Data Center 3.0 vision over the next two years. But the company rolled out a raft of new products this week to help kick it off.

Among them are:

VFrame Data Center: A hardware and software platform for provisioning resources together as virtual services. VFrame DC is the embodiment of the Data Center 3.0 single orchestration fabric for linking compute, networking and storage infrastructures. VFrame DC includes a policy engine for automating resource changes in response to infrastructure outages and performance changes, which can be controlled by external monitoring systems through an “open” Web services application programming interface (API). (Read more about the VFrame offering.)

"Trusted WAN Optimization" Software: Part of Cisco’s Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) software, this release is designed to offer secure WAN acceleration and application performance management. The software encrypts data stored on Cisco WAAS devices and enables IT departments to deploy WAN optimization across their organizations while preserving branch security, Cisco says.

Enhanced Cisco ACE XML Gateway Software: This release is designed to provide customers with better management, visibility, and performance of their XML applications and Web 2.0 services secured by Cisco’s ACE XML Gateway.

18/4 Multiservice Module: This provides 18 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports and four Gigabit Ethernet IP storage services ports for Cisco’s MDS 9500 and 9200 SAN switches. It can be used to offer virtual SANs (VSANs), inter-VSAN routing, Fibre Channel over IP remote SAN extension, iSCSI connectivity to Ethernet-attached servers, and other applications designed to optimize WAN resources for backup and replication.

MDS 9222i Multiservice Modular Switch: Designed for departmental and remote branch-office SANs and optimized for SAN extension, distributed fabric services, and multiprotocol connectivity for both open and mainframe environments. The MDS 9222i provides 18 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports, four Gigabit Ethernet IP storage services ports, and a modular expansion slot to host switching and services modules.

MDS 9134 Multilayer Fabric Switch: Designed for midrange to large enterprises, the MDS 9134 provides 4Gbps and 10Gbps ports in a one-rack-unit form factor. It can expand from 24 to 32 ports and optionally activate two 10Gbps ports, and provide VSAN, quality of service, FICON protocol integration, and security for departmental and enterprise SANs, Cisco says.

Data Mobility Manager: A software feature for the MDS 9000 Stoarge Services Module that transfers block data across heterogeneous storage volumes and distances, whether the host is online or offline.

Storage Media Encryption: Offers management of data encryption across multiple types of heterogeneous SAN-attached storage devices: disks, tape drives, and virtual tape libraries.

N-Port Virtualizer: Designed to ease deployment and management of large scale SAN-attached Blade Server environments. This reduces the number of Fibre Channel Domain IDs used, which improves SAN scalability, minimizes interoperability issues with the core SAN, and simplifies management, Cisco says. NPV is available on HP and IBM blade switches and on Cisco MDS 9124 and MDS 9134 Fabric Switches.

Smart Call Home: A connected service feature available through Cisco SMARTnet that provides proactive, detailed diagnostics and real-time alerts on core network devices. Smart Call Home will be initially available on the Cisco Catalyst 6500 series switches and will be offered on other Cisco products over time.

Data Center Assurance Program: A data center testing program that validates network and systems architectures for LAN, SAN, business continuity, optical internetworking, application networking services, global load balancing, and WAAS.

Also as part of its Data Center 3.0 initiative, Cisco said it is building its data center channel specialization strategy around three technology groups: network infrastructure, storage networking and application networking.

Users, while not yet kicking the VFrame DC tires, indicate that Cisco’s vision aligns with their own.

“(Virtualization) is a way (users) get to see information at any point in time,” says Evan Jafa, CTO at First America Corp. “We look at everything as a service rather than individual disciplines or technology stacks.”

Virtualization still requires end-to-end management and “full visibility,” Jafa adds.

Panalpina Group North America needed to consolidate six major data centers and two minor ones into one site to reduce the number of servers and cost, says Corporate Vice President Armin Heinlein.

“Every new application required a new server and fall back server,” he says. “We saw all of these investment requests and we needed to do something.”

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