Cisco announces third-generation data center

Cisco's Data Center 3.0 strategy goes ahead

Cisco has announced a platform to provision server, storage and network resources as virtualized services in the data center. It is part of its Data Center 3.0 strategy, one aimed at the real-time, dynamic orchestration of infrastructure services from shared pools of virtualized server, storage and network resources, while optimizing application service-levels, efficiency and collaboration.

Virtualization enables the more efficient use of physical resources, the dynamic switching or mapping of application services from one physical resource to another, and the easy addition of more physical resources in response to outages or resource need changes.

In all Cisco made seven server, storage and networking announcements:

The VFrame Data Center virtualizes server and storage connections and can be policy-driven. It consists of a high-availability appliance, an intuitive Java-based software application with Graphical User Interface, and a Web services API that are used by server, storage, and network operations teams to provision and reuse infrastructure components. VFrame DC is designed to orchestrate virtualized resources such as networks (eg, virtual storage area networks [VSANs], VLANs, and virtualized firewalls), servers (eg, hypervisors, virtual machine technologies and blade servers), and storage (eg, network-hosted storage virtualization).

However, it cannot manage storage controller-based storage virtualization such as Hitachi Data Systems' TagmaStore or NetApp V-Series.

Jayshree Ullal, a senior Cisco VP, said: "VFrame Data Center offers unprecedented orchestration within the data center network, for dynamically re-programming server, storage and network resources into agile application services."

IDC's director of data center networks, Lucinda Borovick, said: "This (Cisco) approach has the potential to deliver more efficient application provisioning, reduce costs, and increase IT productivity."

Cisco's N-Port Virtualizer (NPV) is software for managing SAN-attached blade servers today. NPV enables a blade switch to present itself as a Fiber Channel host bus adapter (HBA) to the SAN, reducing the number of Fiber Channel domain IDs used. In effect, multiple blade servers use one domain ID.

The next announcements concern switch capacity upgrades.

The 9222i multi-layer fabric switch, a modular device and the successor to Cisco's existing 9216i, offers 18 4-Gbit/s Fiber Channel (FC) ports and four separate Gigabit Ethernet ports, compared to its predecessor's 16 2-Gbit/s FC ports and two standard Gigabit Ethernet slots.

The MDS 9134 is a FC fabric switch, a 1U-high rack device, with 32 4-Gbit/s ports and two 10-Gbit/s Fiber Channel ports.

Cisco made two announcements concerning the security of data in flight. Its Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) technology has disk encryption now standard and a Storage Media Encryption (SME) function encrypts data moving across the network. It can encrypt any port on the switch.

Lastly, there is a Data Mobility Manager (DMM) for transferring block data across a SAN. It is a fabric-based data migration product that transfers block data nondisruptively across heterogeneous storage volumes and across distances, whether the host is online or offline. There are no host components to deploy, saving licensing costs and host CPU and bandwidth cycles.

John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco, not unnaturally would like customers to take a network-centric view of data center services: "Because the network is uniquely positioned to be the platform for the data center, we are investing in innovations to help our customers transform their data centers for improved efficiency and increased business productivity."

Server and storage vendors less dependent on network hosting of data center resource management software may prefer customers to restrict their ranking of network services to the equivalent of unintelligent plumbing.

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