Cisco unveils the Nexus 7000, its biggest switch ever

Virtualization capabilities for data centers are its main draw

Cisco Systems Monday announced the biggest switch by far in its history, the Nexus 7000, which is designed for mission-critical data center use.

Starting at US$75,000 (AU$84,349), the Nexus 7000 will ship in the second quarter with a new advanced operating system, the Nexus Operating System (NX-OS), said Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Cisco's data center, switching and services unit.

Cisco also announced a new Trusted Security architecture and an expansion to the Catalyst family of switches, which have helped the company corral 70% of the global switching market.

More than 1,500 patents were used in creating the Nexus platform, which cost Cisco more than US$1 billion in research and development, Ullal said in an interview.

The Nexus 7000 will deliver up to 15Tbit/sec. of switching capacity in a single chassis, with 512 ports for 10Gbit/sec. Ethernet, she said. In the future, Cisco will deliver 40Gbit/sec. and 100Gbit/sec. ports.

The single platform is designed to provide all the servers in a data center with access to all networking and storage resources, helping to fulfill Cisco's Data Center 3.0 vision for data center consolidation and virtualization, which it announced last July, Ullal said.

Doug East, high-performance computing manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said in a statement that the Nexus 7000 has great potential for scientific computing. With its scalability, enhanced security and virtualization and its 10Gbit/sec. Ethernet ports, East said the Nexus 7000 could be applicable for Lawrence Livermore.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research, said the Nexus 7000 "sets a new bar" and will serve well in data centers with virtualized pools of computing resources, whether they be processing, memory or storage.

"Cisco has built a box that meets data center needs today and one that will allow for enterprises to implement a larger virtualization vision," he said. Cisco's competitors don't come close to the Nexus 7000, he said, because it provides network and computing innovations together.

The NX-OS combines advanced virtualization capabilities in a single operations system that has a familiar IOS interface, Cisco said in a statement. Failures in a network can be detected and NX-OS will then enable a restart without an overall service disruption.

The virtualization also allows hosting providers or multiple administrators to partition functions so that each administrator can work in his own switching environment.

Nexus 7000 also incorporates Cisco Trusted Security for the first time to integrate identity- and role-based security across data centers. Also, a new Data Center Network Manager is designed to give administrators visual information that will improve efficiency and awareness.

Cisco also unveiled a 16-port 10 Gigabit Ethernet module for the Catalyst 6500 Series Switch, which can help reduce power consumption by up to 50% per port, Cisco said. Pricing was not disclosed; the new module ships in the second quarter.

Cisco also touted a new Catalyst 6509 Enhanced Vertical Chassis, which will support 80Gbit/sec. speeds per slot, sells for US$9,995 and is available now. It announced a new Catalyst 4900M Series two-rack unit switch for rack-server aggregation. And it introduced a new Catalyst Blade Switch, which will be made available through Dell Computer and possibly other companies to allow up to eight switches to be managed as one virtual switch.

Pricing and availability for both products was not announced.

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