Re-defining Fabric Scale: Thinking Beyond the “Box”

Today we are making a significant announcement with several new innovations across our data center and switching portfolio that showcase how our customers can build large scale-up and scale-out data center networks.  While the press release does a great job (thanks Lee!) of highlighting all the innovations across the Nexus Unified Fabric portfolio and the new ASA 1000v, two aspects of the announcement stand out quite prominently:

  1. Cisco is delivering the highest density 10GbE modular switching platform in the industry
  2. Cisco is delivering the most scalable fabric in the industry and, by extension – on the planet! (we’re told planet sounds much cooler)

No. 1 above is fairly straightforward. With our new 2nd-generation F2 line card and Fabric 2 module, at 768 ports of 10GbE line-rate switching ports running NX-OS, the flagship Nexus 7018 in a fully-loaded configuration is simply the epitome of switch scale.

No.2 is where things get interesting, because we’re no longer thinking about just the “box” but rather, how we can weave different elements across the data center into a holistic “fabric”.  This systems-based approach focuses on multi-dimensional scale transcending the box and even the data center LAN, to span between data centers, while providing feature-rich fabric capabilities.  At 12,000+ 10GbE nodes supported as part of one Fabricpath-enabled system, and with the ability to support Fabric Extender (FEX) technology (plus L2 and L3 capabilities), this approach re-defines fabric scalability at 2X the scale and half the cost point of the next best claim in the industry. More important, it achieves this in an evolutionary manner for our 19,000+ NX-OS customers, offering investment protection for brownfield deployments while raising the bar for greenfield environments!

The Nexus platforms have been around for 3+ years, and  over 500 customers have deployed FabricPath on the Nexus 7000 alone since its introduction about an year ago. It is a proven technology. With Fabricpath now coming onto the Nexus 5500 platforms, the momentum is likely to spike up with a mix of both size and scale. Like I said, things get interesting.

To make it more fun, our technical experts from the product teams have taken a data-driven approach and compared Cisco’s new innovations and our box and system-scale with others in the industry.

They looked at a couple of representative examples – the first being, what it would take any other vendor to build a non-blocking 768-port 10GbE “switch”, with capabilities similar to what the Nexus 7000 could provide in a single chassis. The second example takes a look at what it takes to build a “fabric” with Cisco leveraging its Nexus portfolio and NX-OS to build that.

Take a look and let us know what you think. It is useful to note that most vendors in the industry today have no fabric capabilities to speak of, and the few that are attempting a systems approach, have really limited to no customer traction thus far. Our customers and key analysts tell us that Cisco has a multi-year innovation lead in this space, even as Cisco continues to focus on bringing the network, compute, storage and application services together with integrated management to drive productivity and efficiency across traditional IT and organizational silos.

 

We often get asked – “So, who needs this kind of scale”? Today, we’re seeing a variety of customers asking for L2 or L3 scale across diverse deployment scenarios. Baidu is one such example. They chose the Nexus 7000 platform with the second generation capabilities for their global search business. Check out what Rackforce has to say. Where possible, we will continue to highlight several others that have chosen the Nexus portfolio and reaping the benefits of fabric scale and fabric extensibility.

Ultimately, customers desire architectural flexibility. The underlying infrastructure they invest in has to be adaptable enough to accommodate heterogeneous workloads and diverse business requirements – whether they’re focused on traditional enterprise, Web 2.0, Big Data, Cloud/Service Provider or specialized applications like high-frequency trading or high-performance computing. Upgrading or re-purposing the infrastructure every time they encounter a new workload or a new business requirement is not an option. It is also fair to state that most customers won’t overhaul their entire infrastructure at one go, but rather selectively choose which clusters they want to optimize in an evolutionary way.

Delivering architectural flexibility has been the hallmark of Cisco’s Unified Fabric approach, and the latest innovations are yet another example of giving our customers the power to choose.  Fortunately with this, we have been able to get both mind share as well as market share, and frankly, the results speak for themselves.

So, with sincere gratitude, a big THANK YOU to our customers, channel partners and our ecosystem partners for the tremendous success they have helped drive in the 3+ years since the Nexus portfolio was introduced.

This space will continue to be both disruptive and interesting, and we promise to keep you abreast of the happenings. There will be more blogs to follow on fabric extensibility, security and services. So, stay tuned and don’t forget to mark your calendars and register for our webinar “Evolutionary Fabric, Revolutionary Scale” on October 25th, 2011. You’ll hear from customers, partners, analysts and  some of Cisco’s top technology executives on how all this comes together. Register here now

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