Cisco switch consolidates functions in the data center

Cisco says switch should reduce by 30 to 50 percent the cost of data center cabling and cooling costs, as well as staff oversight

Cisco Systems announced the Nexus 5000 series of server access switches this week for use in data centers to consolidate storage, networking and virtualization functions.

The switch unifies Fibre Channel over Ethernet with Data Center Ethernet and virtualization capabilities, which should reduce by 30 to 50 percent the cost of data center cabling and cooling costs, as well as staff oversight, Cisco officials said via a Webcast from the Cisco Partner Summit in Honolulu.

The first new switch in the series, the Nexus 5020, will be available in May for US$900 a port. The switch starts with a base configuration of 40 ports, each running 10 Gigabit Ethernet, that can be expanded to 56 ports with the insertion of two out of three available modules, said Dante Malagrino, director of data center product marketing, in a separate interview. One of the three other modules comes with eight Fibre Channel ports.

Cisco said it is working with a long list of partners, including Dell, EMC, VMware and Intel, which are providing a variety of products that integrate with the Nexus 5000 switches for virtualization, storage software or even cable connectors.

Malagrino said the storage software licenses will be sold separately, and pricing was unavailable.

In addition to reducing the total footprint of devices in the data center, thereby lowering cable and cooling costs, Malagrino said IT managers will be able to use existing management tools for oversight, including Cisco's traditional IOS management software or its newer Data Center Network Manager product, as well as its Cisco Fabric Manager tool for storage management.

Cisco has been in the process of announcing new products to integrate functions with the data center for a year, and announced the Cisco Nexus 7000 in January. The new Nexus 5000 switches will interoperate with the Nexus 7000 or the Cisco Catalyst 6500. In addition, the Nexus 5000 can connect to storage area network devices in the Cisco MDS 9000 series.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said the Nexus 5000 is the "first product that actually addresses the ... convergence of networks and computing." The switching series will separate Cisco from other networking vendors, he added.

"I've been waiting for other data center network vendors to articulate a strategy like this and the only other one that has begun is Brocade. This should also be part of Foundry and Juniper's strategy," he said.

The Nexus 5000 Series came out of a collaboration between Cisco and Nuova Systems, of which Cisco owns 80%. Cisco said it plans to acquire the remaining 20 percent of Nuova by the end of June. The networking company has invested US$70 million in Nuova, Cisco officials said.

Separately, at Computerworld 's Storage Networking World conference in Orlando, Intel today said its full portfolio of 10GbE server adapters will feature Fibre Channel over Ethernet support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux by July and Windows later in the second quarter. The chip maker also unveiled its new 10 Gigabit AF DA Dual Port Server Adapter. The device provides twin axial cable connections for up to 10 meters between servers and a top-of-rack switch.

Tom Swinford, general manager of Intel's LAN Access Division, said the new direct-attach Intel server adapter can reduce power consumption and cut costs in virtualized data centers by minimizing slot-constrained server environments choking on excess cables and adapters.

"With virtualization, we're often seeing there will be 6 to 8 gigabit adapters in servers," Swinford said. Multiple switch vendors will launch products this year to support Intel's new adapter, he noted. The product will be available next month at a cost of US$799.

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