Cisco made announcements this week that demonstrate its commitment to more aggressively pursue its cloud vision. Clearly, the company is not aspiring to be a cloud provider like Amazon or Google. Rather, it aims to provide the groundwork for converged data centers, where network and storage traffic share the same fabric, workloads can move across data center boundaries with ease, and organizations can grab hosted and cloud-based resources with equal simplicity.
On Wednesday, the company unveiled a host of enhancements to its Data Center Business Advantage portfolio, ultimately aimed at allowing multiple data centers and cloud services to be connected across a common intelligent fabric. The announcement came one day after Cisco revealed plans to acquire newScale, a provider of software that delivers a self-service portal for IT organizations to select and deploy cloud services in a near on-tap manner.
The cloudiness is baked in
Improvements to Cisco's DCBA line are extensive, affecting such product lines as the Nexus 7000, 5000, and 3000 switch families; the Unified Computing System; the Data Center Network Manager; and NX-OS, dubbed a data center operating system that spans the company's data center portfolio. Among the underlying themes is unifying disparate data center resources and cloud services into a single, flexible, scalable fabric.
Highlights on the cloud front, meanwhile, include additions to Cisco's FEX (fabric extender) portfolio, the secret sauce that enables customers to interconnect Cisco Nexus switches, Cisco's UCS servers, adapters, and virtual machines into a single, modular fabric. The new Adapter FEX boosts bandwidth segmentation to make better uses of NIC resources that are transparent to applications. VM-FEX extends switching fabric to server hypervisors, enabling IT managers to consolidate virtual and physical access layers with higher performance, and turns the parent Nexus access layer into a single point of management that extends all the way to VMs. Additionally, Cisco has added FEX support to the high-end Nexus 7000 family.
Speaking of the Nexus 7000, Cisco also introduced multihop FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) functionality to the switch platform, as well as the MDS 9500 storage switching platform. NX-OS also now offers support for multihop FCoE. The technology, already in place in the Nexus 5000, supports all storage traffic, including Fibre Channel, FCoE, iSCSI, and NAS, a potential boon for complex 10-Gigabit Ethernet environments.
Also new to the Nexus 7000 -- and clearly targeted at cloud environments -- is support for MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) for layer 3 VPNs, intended to boost security within cloud-based architectures. Additionally, Cisco announced forthcoming support for its homegrown LISP (Location/ID Separation Protocol) technology. Available in Q2, LISP decouples host IP identity from host location, meaning that IP addresses seamlessly and securely follow hosts as they move from one routing domain to another, whether in a virtualized or physical environment. This means an organization could move hosts from one server farm to another, or even one data center to another, without having to change host IP addresses.
Cloud service catalog
Cisco's acquisition of newScale fits in to the company's vision of providing the building blocks for cloud-based environments: The company offers a suite with which IT departments can list, access, provision, and retire IT services.
The implications of newScale in a cloud environment are intriguing. Theoretically, an admin could peruse a laundry list of storage resources, for example, and choose the pool, be it hosted in-house or by a third party, that best fit the requirements of a particular task. The same could be done for data crunching, software -- or ideally any IT service that can be hosted anywhere.
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