Cisco Nexus 1010 brings the virtual back to the physical

New Cisco device allows network administrators to manage the Nexus 1000V as they would a standard Cisco switch

When Cisco first announced a third-party virtual switch for VMware environments, the Cisco Nexus 1000V, it was well received and generated a lot of interest and anticipation from the virtualization community at large. The Nexus 1000V was designed with VMware vSphere 4 in mind, and it was created to help administrators simplify virtualization and network services management for cloud environments.

The virtual switch contains two software components: a Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM), which contains the Cisco CLI, configuration, and high-level features, and the Virtual Ethernet Module (VEM), which acts as a Line Card and runs in each virtualized server to handle packet forwarding and other localized functions.

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The Nexus 1000V bears the distinction of being the first switching device sold by Cisco that wasn't a piece of physical hardware. To date, this device has remained virtual. However, at a time when many physical devices are being turned into virtual appliances, Cisco may be finding out that network administrators aren't necessarily as fond of the virtual device as they of those devices that can be touched.

In some organizations, the virtualization administrator is an all-encompassing role in the virtual datacenter. Not only do they administer the virtualization layer, they also manage the physical servers, the storage, and the network. Other organizations may be more siloed in their approach where some or all of these roles remain separated from one another. In this scenario, administrators that have sole responsibility of managing the network may not actually trust the virtual environment. For example, when networking migrated over to embedded virtual switches within the hypervisor, some network admins felt as though they lost a bit of their control and visibility into this new virtual environment.

It's been almost one year since the general availability of the Nexus 1000V, and now Cisco is announcing the Nexus 1010, perhaps in part to address the very nature of the visibility and control needs of the traditional network administrator. The new device will host up to four Nexus 1000V Virtual Supervisor Modules, which means that a single device can handle up to 256 ESX host servers. Network administrators can manage the Nexus 1000V supervisor like a standard Cisco switch, with all the same 1000V features and without any interaction with the virtual infrastructure.

The new device also supports network analysis down to the virtual machine layer, giving the network administrator granular visibility into the virtual workload. In addition to giving the network administrator something to touch, other benefits of the Nexus 1010 include helping to offload VSM installation and management to the network team, and removing the need for additional VMware ESX licensing for the VSM.

Nexus 1010 Architecture
The Nexus 1010 Virtual Services Appliance is based on the UCS C200 physical appliance. It's a 1U device that is composed of two Intel X5650 2.66GHz, six-core processors, four 4GB RDIMMs for memory, two 500GB SATA-II hard drives, a Broadcom Quadport GbE 5709 NIC, and a single serial port.

According to Cisco, the Nexus 1010 will also serve as a launching pad for future virtualized services modules, such as the Network Analysis Module (NAM) or firewall, available as separate purchases. The first of these to market will be the NAM, featuring traffic analysis and reporting, application response time analysis, and VM-level interface statistics. One of the key benefits to this module is its ability to monitor virtual machines uninterrupted by VMware VMotion operations.

The current price tag is expected to be $24,995 per appliance. Buy before the end of the year and Cisco will sweeten the deal with 32 licenses for the Nexus 1000V.

This article, "Cisco Nexus 1010 brings the virtual back to the physical," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Marshall's Virtualization Report blog and follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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